Arsenal dismantled West Ham at the London Stadium, pumping six past David Moyes’ side. The Gunners exploded for four goals in 15 minutes to close out the first half and cruised home in the second, adding two more. It was as dominant and complete a performance as Mikel Arteta’s side have put together all season. West Ham, on the other hand, looked remarkably poor, in large part because Arsenal were so good.
It was West Ham’s worst home loss in 61 years, Arsenal’s largest away victory ever in the PL, and the superlatives / records go on and on. It was a beatdown, a hammering, plain and simple. Arsenal are flying high. They’re off to their best league start in a calendar year (4 consecutive wins) since 1935. They have arguably the best defense in the league (West Ham didn’t have a touch in the Arsenal box in the first half) and since November, they’ve created the most open play xG in the Premier League.
The Gunners are also lethal on set pieces, a proficiency on full display this afternoon. William Saliba scored the opener from a Declan Rice corner, with excellent work from Ben White to subtly, legally block Alphonse Areola, stop him from trying to claim the corner, and leave him in no man’s land. Gabriel scored the Arsenal third from a Declan Rice free kick, heading home after Kai Havertz’s movement forced Ben Johnson to drop deep and break West Ham’s line, playing multiple attackers onside.
The set piece goals sandwiched a Bukayo Saka penalty. The Arsenal winger was brilliantly put in by a 40-yard long ball from Leandro Trossard. He touched the ball beyond Alphonse Areola, who took him down. Honestly, the West Ham keeper was lucky it was just a yellow card and not a red. His clumsy outstretched leg to take Saka down came late and could easily have been deemed not an attempt to play the ball. Not that it mattered. The converted penalty was his 50th goal for the club.
Leandro Trossard added a fourth just before the half, brilliantly curling the ball into the top corner after Martin Ødegaard deftly put him in with an outside-of-the-foot pass. The Arsenal captain was magnificent on the day and easily could have been Man of the Match. It’s tough to sort out the cause and effect, but he’s looked a different player since getting some rest and starting to play a bit deeper. He became the first player in any of the seven biggest leagues in Europe to create 50 chances this season, and he managed that feat while looking “off” for some portion of the first half of the campaign. It’s pretty clear he wasn’t fully fit for a decent stretch, and now that he is, he’s balling out.
Bukayo Saka got his brace in the second half, cutting inside and finishing emphatically into the near corner. It looked like a training ground move, in part because Saka is just that good and in part because West Ham’s defense was that poor. Declan Rice added a sixth in the second half, scoring from Steph Curry range. It was just that kind of day for Arsenal — Ødegaard and Trossard stepped towards the rolling ball, both stopped, thinking the other would take it, and it rolled to Rice who blasted it into the corner. Two assists and a goal against your former club isn’t a bad return.
Ethan Nwaneri came on for 10-15 minutes towards the end of the half, which was excellent to see. He looked good, albeit against opponents who were playing out the string. He may have it, y’all. Get excited.
Some, myself included, might have liked to see Reuell Walters instead of Cedric, but there are a long list of possible reasons that didn’t happen. Cedric has been a good soldier and is well-liked by his teammates, I’m sure they appreciated him getting some time. It would have been quite the message to send Cedric to bring on all the fit, outfield senior players except for him. There is some small chance Cedric has to play meaningful minutes this season, like if he’s the last defensive option on the bench late in a game and somebody gets injured. I’d much rather he come on than Walters should it come to that.
It’s a luxury to be able to write an entire paragraph about Cedric vs. Reuell Walters. That’s only made possible by Arsenal absolutely obliterating West Ham today. This side seems to have found their form. It feels like they’re building momentum heading into the business end of the season. Get excited.