West Ham 0-3 Arsenal: in chalkboards
Arsenal registered a thoroughly comfortable victory over West Ham amid rumours it was Avram Grant’s last game in charge.
Arsenal returned to the front six that many consider their strongest, with Andrei Arshavin on the bench. Emmanuel Eboue continued to deputise for Bacary Sagna, whilst the centre-back pairing remained the same as in the midweek defeat to Ipswich.
Grant was without Scott Parker and made three further changes, starting with a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 shape. Zavon Hines came into the side on the left wing, whilst Wayne Bridge made his debut at left-back.
Bridge’s debut will have to go down as one of the worst in Premier League history. He was responsible for the first goal (standing off Theo Walcott and letting him cross), the second goal (playing Arsenal onside, then letting Walcott beat him to the ball in the six yard box) and the third goal (conceding a penalty after a trip on Walcott).
His mistakes were the most obvious but West Ham were poor across the pitch – letting Arsenal play around them in midfield and becoming dragged out of shape with simple movement too often. The midfield trio was further weakened when Mark Noble was injured after twenty minutes, with Luis Boa Morte coming on instead. He, Jonathan Spector and Radoslav Kovac alternated positions in the centre of midfield, seemingly taking it in turns to become the holding midfielder, but too often they were all caught out too high up the pitch and Arsenal exploited the space in behind.
In a way that’s not surprising – with Grant’s time seemingly up, there were clearly issues with motivation. That factor, and Arsenal’s clear dominance means that a normal tactical write-up would struggle to go into any great depth. But, in keeping with the promised matches from this weekend, here’s four chalkboards about four key features of the game.
1. You don’t need a chalkboard to show how badly played, but he lost all four of the tackles he attempted. That doesn’t even include the penalty (which is recorded as a ‘foul’ rather than a ‘tackle’) or either of the first two goals, were Bridge was so slow to react that no tackle was attempted.
2. West Ham made little attempt to press Arsenal’s defenders at goal-kicks, and therefore Wojciech Szczesny was able to play out to the back and Arsenal were able to build attacks from their defence. Stopping Arsenal high up the pitch is one of the crucial aspects of stopping their passing game, and by failing to do so, West Ham were always likely to be passed off the pitch.
3. The Theo Walcott-Samir Nasri combination on the flanks works well. Arsenal’s attacks can become too narrow when two wide players both look to come inside, but whilst Nasri always ends up in the centre of the pitch, Walcott keeps width more on the right and helps stretch the opposition defence.
4. Arsenal are frequently accused of overplaying when they get the ball into the final third, but they have attempted more shots from outside the box than any other team in the league this season. Against West Ham, nine attempts came from long range: