Arsenal rise to fourth spot in the Premier League last night following a 2-0 victory over London rivals West Ham. Gabriel Martinelli’s early goal followed by substitute Emile Smith-Rowe’s 87th minute strike was enough to send the Gunners momentarily at least, into a Champions League spot, with the Hammers reduced to ten men following the dismissal of Vladimir Coufal.
Aubameyang Relieved of Captaincy Duties
Heading into the game there was more talk of events outside of the fixture itself. Arsenal’s decision to strip Pierre Emerick Aubameyang of the captaincy and the growing Covid crisis currently embedding football – with numerous cancellations in the Premier League – dominated the build-up.
The hosts knew a win would leapfrog them above their visitors and into fourth, so Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta put faith in the same starting eleven that ran out comfortable winners over Southampton on Saturday, with Alexandre Lacazette retaining the captain’s armband. West Ham manager David Moyes made one change from their 0-0 draw with Burnley on Sunday with Pablo Fornals replacing Said Benrahma as the Hammers looked to consolidate their place in the Champions League positions.
The first half was played at a high intensity and every loose ball was keenly contested. It did however lack any real quality in the final third, with little by way of opportunities created. Kieran Tierney rattled the crossbar from long range, and Martinelli then missed from a yard out following Fabianski’s save from Lacazette. Pablo Fornals went closest for the Hammers in the first half with his curled effort from the edge of the box narrowly passing the post.
Martinelli opened the scoring early in the second half, latching on to a through-ball from skipper Lacazette to place his finish coolly into the corner of the net. Following the goal, Arsenal upped the pressure. The visitors were reduced to ten men when Coufal was judged to have brought down Lacazette in the box, affording him his second yellow card and awarding Arsenal with a chance to double their lead from the spot. VAR didn’t interfere in what looked to be a soft enough call from referee Anthony Taylor. Coufal looked to have won the ball initially, but it was his follow through over the ball that was ultimately his undoing. Lacazette stepped up but had his penalty superbly saved by fromer Arsenal goalkeeper Fabianski.
The save briefly brought West Ham to life and threatening period followed for the ten men. Bowen went closest during this period, curling an effort that Ramsdale did well to parry away. Their energy quickly dissipated as Arsenal doubled their lead. They secured all three points late in the game when Bukayo Saka played in the in-form Emile Smith-Rowe, who hammered it home from the edge of the box.
A Significant Moment for Arsenal
The result sees Arsenal move into the top four at the expense of West Ham in fifth. Manchester United follow just two points behind; their game with Brentford was postponed due to Covid. It’s been an impressive turnaround from Mikel Arteta’s side who sat rock bottom of the table with three defeats from their three opening games of the season, scoring no goals and conceding nine. They have enjoyed back-to-back clean sheet victories, something that will certainly please Arteta. It’s also five wins in a row at the Emirates for Arsenal. Next up for the Gunners is a trip to Elland Road where they will look to take advantage of a depleted and fragile Leeds United side who conceded seven against Manchester City on Tuesday night.
It’s yet more disappointment for David Moyes at the Emirates who has yet to taste victory in the stadium in 18 attempts. It’s also a worrying run of results for the West Ham manager who, despite recent impressive victories over Chelsea and Liverpool, they have won one of their last six league games. They will need to address this trend when bottom of the table Norwich City visit the London Stadium on Saturday. They end the night sitting in fifth spot with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur both breathing down their neck – with games in hand.