That was the performance we’d been longing for from Arsenal. The Gunners played West Ham off the park on the way to a 2-0 victory, a scoreline that flatters David Moyes’ side. On another day, it easily could have been 3 or 4-nil. The win lifts Arsenal into fourth place, turns the goal difference for the season from red to black, and (temporarily) gives the Gunners the best home record in the league.
Arsenal did everything but score in the first half. They only managed 3 shots on target in the first 40 minutes despite controlling the action, but they fired 6 shots in a closing flurry to end the half with 9 total, one of their best hauls on the season. They also had two penalty shouts not given. One when either Masuaku or Diop (I can’t remember which) stepped between an on-the-ball Bukayo Saka and his shooting foot, causing him to kick the back of the defender’s leg and go down. The second when Craig Dawson, on a yellow card, flung himself at Alexandre Lacazette in an attempt to block a shot, missed the ball, clattered into the Arsenal attacker and scissored his legs.
The Gunners came out with the same energy to start the second half and were immediately rewarded. A nice display of patience from Gabriel Magalhaes allowed Alexandre Lacazette to find a pocket of space in the middle and the ball went into the middle of the pitch instead of outside. Lacazette hit a perfectly weighted and placed through ball to Gabriel Martinelli, who calmly finished into the far corner on the dead run. It was a lovely goal — shades of Thierry Henry on the finish. Picking out the bottom corner on the dead run isn’t easy, and Martinelli made it look like a training exercise. He was magnificent on the evening, and I don’t see him losing his place anytime soon. At least not if he keeps playing like he has been the last few matches.
Arsenal should have put the game away about 20 minutes later, but Alexandre Lacazette had his penalty kick saved. It was pretty well taken but an even better save from Lukasz Fabianski. The Gunners have missed three consecutive penalties for the first time since 1993, which isn’t great. Regardless, Arsenal were up a man from the incident because Vladimír Coufal picked up his second yellow of the match to give away the penalty. The commentators and the pundits thought the award and the card were harsh because Coufal got a touch on the ball as he slid through Lacazette. But they’ve all ignored the other bit of the tackle — the studs up, raised boot, and the simple fact that you cannot clean out an opponent with a sliding challenge, regardless of whether you touch the ball.
It was a physical match, and Arsenal were up for the challenge. They did not back down one inch and gave as good as they got. Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes were particularly good on the evening against Michail Antonio, who frequently knocks opposing centerbacks around with his strength. Antonio was visibly frustrated and that frustration showed when he came flying in at Aaron Ramsdale, studs up at knee height and may have just knicked the Arsenal keeper on the foot, too. David Moyes even moved Antonio wide right to try and get him going, but both Gabriel Martinelli and Kieran Tierney defended well.
For all of Arsenal’s dominance and being up a man, they left it quite late to seal the points. Although to be fair, the Gunners did quite well to limit West Ham’s chances. The match was put beyond reach in the 87th minute when dogged defending from Tomiyasu and Bukayo Saka won the ball off Saïd Benrahma to spark an Arsenal break. Saka found Emile Smith Rowe just over the halfway line, and ESR did the rest himself. He carried the ball to the edge of the area, drifted left, and shot back to the right, rooting Fabianski to the spot.
As the headline says, it was a comprehensive win from Arsenal. I don’t think anybody put in worse than a 6 out of 10 performance. And I’ve got to say, it was a disappointing, lackluster performance from West Ham (which, of course, I’ll gleefully take). I’ve seen them play much better, and I expected them to put up more of a fight in a big match. They didn’t. They were thoroughly uninspiring.
Arsenal move into fourth in the table. They’ve got Leeds United and Norwich up next in the Premier League, two matches they should win. Time to consolidate that table position.