It wasn’t pretty, but three points are three points. A late Eddie Nketiah winner dug an Arsenal win out of what was a sloppy, uninspiring performance from the Gunners. Credit to West Ham, part of the Gunners looking off was down to their organization and discipline, they played well and almost got the draw. For a while, the Hammers actually looked the more likely side to find a second. But in the end, they were undone by two moments of individual brilliance from Arsenal.
Alexandre Lacazette opened the scoring in the first half with an absolute rocket of a header off a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cutback chip. The goal was really made by Bukayo Saka, though. The youngster found space between the lines, was picked out by Granit Xhaka, and slipped in Aubameyang with a lovely through ball. It was a heck of a nice chip from Aubameyang, to be fair.
West Ham equalized right at the end of the first half on a perfectly executed counter. From an Arsenal perspective, Granit Xhaka and Sead Kolasinac looked to have a bit of miscommunication / spacing problem that saw them not get tight on anybody, and Rob Holding got beat to the ball by Michail Antonio. But it was well worked from the Hammers, and on the balance of the first half, the even scoreline was probably a fair one.
Arsenal started the second half better and had clearly been instructed to play the ball over the top to Aubameyang down the left. They found some joy with it but weren’t able to muster any quality shots (sidenote: the low shot output today and in the past remains a real concern for Arsenal’s attack). As mentioned, West Ham looked the better side and more likely to score for a good portion of the second half. Then came the second moment of magic from the Gunners.
Bukayo Saka got on the ball in a very similar area to that from which he created the first goal. After taking a few dribbles infield, he slipped a reverse ball off the outside of his left foot to Dani Ceballos (who somehow had cropped up well forward). Ceballos was in and played it across to Eddie Nketiah who deposited it into the empty net. Ceballos and Nketiah go from a kerfuffle in warmups before the Fulham match to combining for a late winner the next week. You love to see it.
Good teams find ways to win games like this — games where they aren’t firing on all cylinders (or any cylinders as the case may be). I’m sure Mikel Arteta has identified what needs work and will make the necessary changes. As the title says, bad performance, good result. File it away and don’t belabor it.
Gabriel was massive today. He’s physical, his positioning is good, and he hits a nice pass as well. After a rusty first half, Dani Ceballos was quite good in the second. I continue to be impressed with his defensive work. On the other side of things, Sead Kolasinac, who was a late replacement for Kieran Tierney, was not good. Kolasinac doesn’t have the quality for Arsenal right now. Alexandre Lacazette looked plodding today. Granit Xhaka and Willian were both a bit off with their passes, too. Credit to Bernd Leno for trying to take command of the area more than in the past. He managed a few good punches, but he’s still got plenty of work to do.
It wasn’t a clean, precise game anywhere on the pitch from the Gunners. They’ve got plenty of work to do as they head into a brutal stretch of matches. They’ve got Leicester in the Carabao Cup on the 22nd, Then Liverpool, Sheffield United, Manchester City, Leicester, Manchester United. Getting the full points from Fulham and West Ham was important, and they managed it.