Arsenal ended their winless slump in all competitions after coming back from a goal down to beat West Ham United 3-1 at the London Stadium on Monday night. Gabriel Martinelli made his first Premier League start after starring for the club in the Carabao Cup and the Europa League, with a 10-minute period of sheer class sealing the win.
While the young Brazilian marked his debut with a second-half equaliser, Nicolas Pepe scored his second Premier League goal, and first from open play, and then assisted skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the third. A
After a dull start to life as interim manager, Fredrik Ljungberg made some crucial changes to his side, reverting to a traditional 4-2-3-1, and slotting Mesut Ozil in his favourite position behind the striker. However, their defensive woes continued, with the new defensive pairing of Calum Chambers and Sokratis Papastathopoulos conceding yet another goal, allowing defender Angelo Obgonna to open the scoring from yet another set-piece.
Although those 10 minutes of brilliance from the Arsenal side might have clinched them a victory, their performance was below par for majority of the game. Unlike against Brighton, where the side were wasteful without the ball, this time the team were unable to engage the attacking four.
For the first half hour, Arsenal had 85% of possession but with zero touches in the opponent’s box. West Ham’s philosophy was to soak the pressure and hit on the counter, much like most of Arsenal’s opponents. The first half saw Arsenal play without purpose and give away possession in crucial areas.
Injuries to key full-backs, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney was another issue for the Swede. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was recalled to the side just 20 minutes before the game after Bellerin suffered a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, an unfit Sead Kolasinac was forced off the bench after Tierney injured his shoulder. West Ham put in some hard tackles on the Gunners, not allowing the away side any real momentum.
However, injuries and rough tackles are no excuses, with Arsenal lacking any sort of intent while defending. West Ham managed more shots with just 35% possession, with four on target. Arsenal’s player of the month for November, Bernd Leno put up another fine show to keep his side in the game. He seems like the only defensive personnel with purpose on the field. Their idea of playing from the back backfired yet again, and this is the biggest issue which has to be tackled by either Ljungberg or whoever takes over the reins.
Arsenal might have won the game but that was because they played like a team belonging to the ‘elite six’ between the 60th and 70th minutes. Their next game is against champions Manchester City in a seemingly tough holiday schedule for the Gunners. The team will have to work on their underlying problems which cannot be masked by their victory. The Gunners need to work harder on the pitch to get the Arsenal fans back to the Emirates Stadium.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Adrian Dennis