Match Report

Money v Glory

There is one thing footballers crave more than money and that is glory. So, stories about Arnautovic moving to China have to be taken with a pinch of salt. There is no history of a player at the peak of his form moving to Asia. I suppose, his brother and agent, Danijel, has to be seen earning his crust. But his statements could end up badly misfiring.

I listened to a West Ham fan ranting and raving on You Tube, where every second word began with f. It is understandable when we have been through the debacle with Payet, where the player effectively went on strike and had no respect for the contract he had signed, the club or the fans. It demonstrated moral cowardice of the worst sort.

But, if the club receives a sensible offer for a player, then it is all part of the modern game. If, for example, Chelsea offered £50 million, we would have little to complain about, although it would be better if this was deferred until the end of the season. It is rumoured David Sullivan has set a target of £60 million.

So, as we face Arsenal, I felt the main point of interest was how Arnautovic would play. Could all this have kicked off because he came off against Birmingham? Surely not.

Talking about glory, we who attended today can say and will always remember when Declan Rice scored his first goal. His performance was absolutely brilliant and he is now the glue that holds the West Ham defence together.

And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

These words from Henry V seem appropriate today. It seems like a watershed moment when we transformed ourselves into a band of brothers, who were able to neutralise Arsenal for most of the game.

We have five brilliant players – Fabianski, Diop, Rice, Anderson and Arnautovic. But the others who played today cannot be faulted for effort. Antonio also seemed to discover his correct position and if he could actually get a ball on target when he cuts inside, he too would join the list.

So, from now on, it is onwards and upwards. Finally, I can write these words without keeping my fingers crossed behind my back.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Arsenal 0. What A Good Day.

There is a 500 pound gorilla in the room. And I’m going to get it out of the way. Because I want to. And yes, it will make roughly half of you mad. I shall deal.

Marko. His brother says he wants to chase trophies in China. I know nothing about these trophies, and short of some of the greatest food available on the planet I see no reason a footballer would want to move there.

Ohhhhhh yeeaaaaahhhh. Money. Lots of money. Well, if money and soup dumplings are what float your boat, who am I to judge? I myself love soup dumplings, and I could always use more dough.

You all know the supposed offer. In the end, the most relevant point is this; if accepted, West Ham would profit roughly 3.9 million pounds. That would represent an 18% profit in 18 months. This much I can tell you. If you owned anything, whether it was a stock or a bond or a stamp and you showed an 18% growth in value in 18 months, you should be pleased. Especially if there was a decent chance that commodity would begin to depreciate sooner than later. Your financial advisor would put a sell tag on it straight away. I understand this is football, not Wall Street. But they are equally ruthless.

Even with the offer said to be on order, show the man and his brother the door.

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Arsenal.

We hardly ever beat those guys. And often going into a match, we think we have a chance. They have injuries, they are soft in the middle, all sorts of things. And then we lose. Other than the drama surrounding Arnautovic, the inclusion of Nasri in the starting eleven was intriguing. He showed glimpses of what he is capable of against Birmingham. Some pundits and podcasters lauded him to the heavens. I didn’t see it that way, but that doesn’t mean I saw it correctly. Well, he set up the winner today so I’m thinking maybe I was wrong.

The first moment of excitement came in the 6th minute when Antonio went on a run down the right, somehow kept the ball in play, and rolled a pass to Noble at the top of the Arsenal eighteen yard box. A few more touch passes around the area and Noble had space and a look at goal. But his shot was feather soft and rolled easily into the arms of Leno. Moments later Lacazette attempted a volley from 25 yards out that was closer than it looked to be at first. While I may have had a tough time waking up, the match started to.

Arsenal asked their first question of Fabianski in the 13th minute when Iwobi sent a through ball for Lacazette to run onto. The one time imaginary target for West Ham ran through the West Ham defense and got a hard shot off that Fabianski blocked but did not hold onto. Thankfully the rebound was too high for Lacazette to handle and he sent it over the bar.

Arsenal threatened again in the 22nd minute when Kolasinac broke down the right and got behind the West Ham defense. He tried to send a low cross into the box for Lacazette but Rice was there to intercept and clear the danger. Moments later West Ham won a corner, but Cresswell’s delivery was too high for anyone of human height to handle.

The Hammers had a decent spell of possession halfway through the first forty five minutes. Nasri and Arnautovic worked well together to open up space for the former Gunner but the dream of scoring against his former club curled high and wide. Then Arnautovic looked ready to slam a shot but Sokratis put in a world class tackle to thwart the Austrian. Minutes later Noble sent a long ball for Arnautovic. After fighting off Mustafi for the ball, he laid it off for Nasri. The newest Hammer showed great presence of mind to wait for Anderson to run into the box, and as he arrived the ball was there. Unfortunately for the home side, his low shot just missed.

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Funny moment here on NBC. Arlo White quoted Arnautovic’s brother, saying Marko should be allowed to go to China to fight for titles.

“Oh stop it” was the reply from Graeme Le Saux. I laughed pretty hard.

The do-over is something rarely seen outside of the playground or school yard. But in the last minute of the first half, Zabaleta won a corner. Anderson stepped up to take it, and totally flubbed it. But Moss saw tussling in the box and ordered Anderson to take it again. The do-over was much better, and Rice got under it. But he tried to direct his header into the corner, and it went wide. A touch with his forhead would have likely at least hit the target. Youthful exuberance got the best of him.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Arsenal 0

West Ham started the second half on the front foot. Anderson won a free kick 25 yards from goal. Cresswell’s delivery whipped into the box and Mustafi had no choice but to send it out for a corner. The visitors handled that set piece, but they couldn’t get the ball out of danger. Noble intercepted a clearance and got the ball wide to Anderson. The record signing ran to the end line and passed to Nasri in the box. Like in the first half with Anderson, Nasri showed that patience can be more than a virtue. It can be a weapon. A little roll to Rice, and the young man guided the ball behind Leno for his first ever EPL goal.

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West Ham 1
Arsenal 0

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The Hammers kept up the pressure with a superb run into the box by Anderson. After dribbling around close to 132 Arsenal defenders, he won a corner. Then Noble was mistaken for the ball near the corner flag by Lacazette, a mistake which earned the Arsenal striker a foul and Anderson another free kick. It was a good display for football and fortitude by West Ham.

Arsenal created a half chance in the 63rd minute when Maitland-Niles won a tussle with Anderson near the corner flag and was able to send the ball into the box for Ramsey. After trying to create some space, the soon to be Juventus player crossed to Aubameyang but his header went over the bar. Moments later Kolasinac broke down the left and rolled the ball into the box for the onrushing Aubameyang, but Cresswell tracked back and did just enough to force the Arsenal forward to rush his shot and send it over the bar. A few minutes later, Iwobi just missed with a low shot from the left side of the box. Arsenal were knocking.

The conventional wisdom is that you don’t make a substitution before you defend a corner. Granted, Andy Carroll is very good defensively on set pieces. Thankfully, West Ham didn’t have to defend at all when AC and Snodgrass came on. The corner flew out before it ever hit the ground.

As the match entered its final ten minutes, the TV presenters here said that Arsenal had won eight points this season in the final ten minutes of a match, the most in the Premier League. Pellegrini probably heard that and made the sensible switch of Obiang for Antonio. Still, Arsenal being Arsenal, the threat was there and very real.

As the fourth official showed three minutes of stoppage time, I wondered a few things. First, where did those minutes come from? Second, what happened to the final ten minutes of the half? I had written nothing. Not because nothing happened. I just watched football. West Ham were doing a fantastic job of closing out a match they would never have closed out in most years. But from back to front, let’s be clear.

We Were The Better Side.

Period.

Final Score
West Ham 1
Arsenal 0

The announced attendance was close to 60,000. We played a possession and pressing style of football. We won against an Arsenal team undergoing its own rebirth. Pellegrini has crafted the beginning of what I hope will be a West Ham team that will give us more days like today.

A good day for sure.


Match Report

Ten Things We Learned From West Ham 1 Arsenal 0

When we get to the end of the season I suspect we may look back on this game as highly significant. It wasn’t just the result that mattered, it was the way the whole team played as a unit. There wasn’t a weak performance. As Alan Smith said in the commentary, every player put in a 7/10 performance or better.

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I don’t recall Fabianski having a save to make or any Arsenal shots that were on target. Given Lacazette and Aubamerang both started, that tells you something about our defensive performance. Normally, when West Ham are 1-0 up we all sit there thinking we are bound to let in a goal in the last few minutes. Today, that never looked on the cards.

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Declan Rice was given Man of the Match. This was not surprising given his all round performance and spectacular goal, but I thought Felipe Anderson had his best game in a West Ham shirt so far. He was all over the pitch in the first half and not only did he go on several mazy runs, which delighted the crowd, he also put in a real defensive shift too.

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The third player I want to highlight is Aaron Cresswell. In the last few games he seems to have got back to full fitness and his form of old. He was superb in his first season at the club but has been beset by injuries for the last two years. He combines well with Anderson and there was one block he put in when Lacazette (I think) was through on goal which was exquisitely timed.

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So, what did we learn?

1. The Noble-Rice partnership gets better all the time. With Rice there, Noble has found a new lease of life in getting forward and his passing today was outstanding.
2. Michail Antonio put in a great all round performance. He was strong on the wing but also knew what he had to do defensively.
3. Fabianski wasn’t really troubled during the game, and that is testament to the strong performance of the back four.
4. Diop and Ogbonna seem to be developing an understanding, which is so important. They were the unsung heroes of this game.
5. Zabaleta had a good game, especially getting forward. Even though Iwobe was the best Arsenal player, it was rare that he had the beating of Zabaleta down the Arsenal left.
6. Arnautovic didn’t look like scoring but he played an important part and was excellent in holding up the play and distributing the ball. It looks as if this was the last game he will play at the London Stadium given his waving when he was subbed. He also went straight down the tunnel at the end, without joining in the celebrations.
7. Andy Carroll came on for 20 minutes and did exactly what you’d want Andy Carroll to do when you’re 1-0 up. He looked sharp and put a real shift in. Arsenal didn’t know what to do with him.
8. Samir Nasri looked excellent. He combined so well with Felipe Anderson it was a joy to behold. He also nearly got a goal.
9. Robert Snodgrass was unlucky to be dropped for this game, but when he came on he also did exactly what you’d want him to do.
10. We didn’t allow Arsenal to do what we know they are capable of. The tactics for the game were spot on.

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“We played with the mentality of a big team,” said Manuel Pellegrini. And he’s right. At no time did we look outclassed. If anything we looked the classier side. I was especially delighted with the way we approached the last ten minutes. Arsenal have got more points in the last ten minutes this season than any other Premier League side. We didn’t panic. We didn’t play for time. We just played our game and there was some lovely one touch football played.

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This was a great day for West Ham. It puts us up to eighth, temporarily at least. Let’s enjoy the afterglow.


Match Thread

Match Thread: West Ham v Arsenal

West Ham v Arsenal
FA Premier League
London Stadium
KO 12.30pm
TV: Sky Sports
Radio: BBC 5 Live

Please use this thread to comment on the game as it progresses.


Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Arsenal

This weekend West Ham welcome Arsenal to the London Stadium for an early Saturday afternoon kick-off. Ahead of the game I spoke to two colleagues and die-hard Arsenal fans Matthew Coulter and Matt Jenkins to garner their collective thoughts on this weekend’s game, and the season so far.

We’re at the halfway stage of the season how do you sum up your season so far?
It was going really well until our December blip against Liverpool which showed how far we are off making a genuine challenge. However, Unai Emery has only been there since July and this is a work in progress. People outside the club don’t really realise the huge range of problems he took over from. At least we are doing better than last year so with the new manager there is improvement.
It’s been an interesting season for us given the changes at management and coaching level. After a tough start in which we lost at home to Man City and then away to Chelsea, there was a great recovery and we went on a very long unbeaten run until just before Christmas. We currently sit in fifth place and are in the fight for top four which is our target. Overall, Arsenal fans are still very optimistic about Emery and are happy with what has been achieved so far but there remain huge concerns about our defending or lack thereof! There are questions about whether many of the current players we have in defence are capable of showing the necessary improvement and concerns that we lack the funds to bring in new players that are better – we aren’t currently linked with any in this January window.

Were you part of the increasingly loud group of fans that were demanding the end of the Arsene Wenger’s reign last season?
Yes – which is sad. He had worn down the most loyal of supporters by the end and it was definitely time for Arsene to move on. He had been fantastic for us in the early years of course when he brought in so much talent which transformed the club. However, his inability to bring in untapped talent (such as Henry or Vieira) and build a defence effectively caught up with him in the end. But thanks Arsene for the memories and thank you leaving us Lacazette and Aubameyang.
Arsene Wenger was a huge part of the club and achieved so much during his 22 years with the Arsenal. He built some fantastic sides and played with a philosophy that truly encapsulated the meaning of the phrase ‘the beautiful game’. The last few years were difficult because the fan base was so divided and any poor performance or result brought about an extremely toxic atmosphere at The Emirates and on the road. Personally, I think it would have been the right time to go after one of the more recent FA Cup victories – certainly after his 2017 victory over Chelsea in which he became the most successful manager in FA Cup history with seven wins. I, along with many others, was disappointed when he stayed on and found it hard to watch him put himself through it as much as anything because there were no signs that he could change it. It was the right decision for him to go and once it was announced, the atmosphere around the club changed and fans were able to show their appreciation for all that he had done during the last few games of the season. It was such a shame we lost a Europa League semi-final against the eventual winners Athletico Madrid as that would have been a fitting send off to a great man.

Now that you’ve replaced Arsene Wenger with Unai Emery, are you pleased with the progress he has made so far? Is it a question of the grass looking greener for you, or is it too soon to make an informed judgement?
See above – still a little soon but the signs are good. At least the fans are united.
There was always the concern that things would get a lot worse before they got better as hilariously experienced by Manchester United after Ferguson left! So far, under Emery, there have been signs of improvement in the ground we cover, the pace and intensity of our attacking play and we have made a few good signings most notably in the form of Lucas Torreira. Injuries as of late have been damaging to us particularly in the defence which is where we are weakest. We have lost Rob Holding who was our most consistent performer in the centre of defence for the season and have missed Bellerin at right wing back both as a defender and as a key part of the way we build attacking play down the flank. Bellerin and five others have made a welcome return to full training but it remains to be seen whether the game at the weekend will come too soon for them or not. We have made progress and the fans are on the whole pleased so far but it is still too soon to make a fully informed judgement. Emery will need a couple of transfer windows to get in more of the players that he needs to fully implement his ideas and take us to the next level.

The transfer window is upon us, are there any areas that you think you urgently need to improve?
Defence, central midfield.. although things are better but we need a player to support Torreira, who is great, in the middle of the park.
As previously mentioned – defence! We brought in a stop-gap signing in the form of Stephan Lichtsteiner to provide cover for Bellerin but at the age of 34 he has really struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League. Koscielny is 33 and returning from a serious injury which cost him a place in the World Cup winning France team and claimed that he would probably have left at the end of last season. Sokratis has shown improvement but it is still too early to tell with him – he likes a rugby tackle though and it amazes me that he is yet to see red in an Arsenal shirt! Most Arsenal fans are of the view that Mustafi is not at the level required and Kolasinac offers a lot going forward but has made a number of defensive errors this season. The most important position for us to strengthen is centre back so we are looking at attacking wide players –some things don’t change!

Going back to John Radford, and taking in players such as Liam Brady (by the way what a great goal scored by Brady in the game highlighted in Dan’s preview: great to see him celebrating against his former team), Ian Wright, Davor Suker, Marouane Chamakh, (the list is endless) right up to Jack Wilshire, Arsenal have traditionally managed to sell off their aged/’past it’ players to West Ham: which of your current squad would you like to offload to us?
Yes indeed – well you can have Mesut Ozil and Xhaka if you can afford their wages. Hope it works out for Jack by the way.
There would be no shortage of Arsenal fans that would personally volunteer to help Mustafi pack and move house if you want him?! Not that he would have far to go – the offer would stand for any place in Europe! You also currently have Fabianski, Nasri, Perez who were once Arsenal players as well!

I said the list was endless! Which of West Ham’s players (if any) do you wish you could entice to make the opposite journey?
A fit Jack Wilshere would be welcome back – I have always admired Mark Noble’s commitment and tackling – something we have sometimes missed. Do you have any good centre halves?
I read an article linking us with Reece Oxford the other day! No doubt that is just clickbait. I always liked Mark Noble but it may be a bit late in his career for him to make a move and it would be a shame for such a loyal player to West Ham to not finish his top level career with you.

How do you rate the appointment of Manuel Pelligrini as West Ham’s manager and his tenure so far?
Thought he was going to be great for you but he disappointed at first so it is wait and see. He is a proven winner and might come good for you.
Pelligrini is certainly a manager with a great record but I thought he’d retired! West Ham had a difficult start to the season but have recovered very well with some great results along the way against strong opposition. There has definitely been improvement under him from what I have seen so it seems to be working out well so far.

Which teams have impressed you the most this season at The Emirates? Who is going to win the League, and which teams will occupy the Champions League slots?
Manchester City… Liverpool, them and hopefully us – so Chelski miss out. It will be tough for us.
Obviously Manchester City on the first day of the season looked very strong and beat us 2-0. We had a chance at 1-0 which we didn’t take then they turned the screw and got the second which killed the game off. We beat Spurs at home in the league in the best performance of our season and were unlucky to lose 3-2 away at Chelsea in the second game of the season. Liverpool came at a point where Emery had had some time to work with the players a bit and came away with a 1-1 draw which we probably shaded but was a reasonably fair result. I did however make the journey to Anfield a couple of weeks ago and watch them dismantle us in a 5-1 game that could have been more in fairness. Whilst the best performance against us was by Liverpool, I think they will finish second with City winning the league. That lot up the road look like they won’t be too far behind but I can’t see them finishing higher than third. Fourth place is probably the biggest battle in the Champions League race with Chelsea three points ahead of us and United making up the ground having replaced their manager. Any of those three teams could take fourth and I’m going to stick my neck out and say we can pip Chelsea!

What position do you think Arsenal will finish the season?
Hopefully 4th..
As above, our target and hope is fourth and are very much in the race. I don’t see us finishing any lower than fifth as the Manchester United revival has so far been against poor opposition and we are yet to see if they can sustain it in the longer term.

Where will West Ham finish the season?
They have recovered well – so top half.
It seems the top 6 will win a lot of their games this season so teams below that will lose a lot of points but it will be quite tight below that and teams may finish higher than the total points they get will typically see them finish in other seasons. West Ham are currently tenth, a point behind Watford and Wolves who have both been quite consistent over the season but West Ham can certainly finish above them. Leicester seem likely to stay where they are. There are some decent teams just below with Everton likely to improve as the season goes on so they pose a threat. – 9th.

Most West Ham fans will have great memories of: being the last and first away teams to win at Highbury and the Emirates respectively, I personally would say the 1980 Cup Final was the most memorable West Ham game I attended: any particular West Ham/Arsenal games that you can recall?
I was at all of those games – the 1980 cup final – aaargh! You deserved that one and Brooking with a header too!
Too many victories to mention them all! – but the stand out for me was the FA cup reply in 1998 – a fantastic backs-against the wall performance from 10-man Arsenal. Bergkamp was sent off for elbowing Lomas in the face and then Anelka scored a wonderful goal just before half-time. Eventually won on penalties. Arsenal went on to win the Double that year.

How are Arsenal likely to line up against West Ham this weekend, players/formation?
He is running out of fit centre halves so 4-4-2.. but Unai may switch to 3 – 4 – 1 -2 (just to confuse you!)
_We have been playing with three at the back supported by two wingbacks recently but it is difficult to know who will be fit in defence at this stage. We often play with two in the middle and a front three with Lacazette through the middle. Ozil is fit again but is likely to be on the bench.

Leno Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi, Monreal, Kolasinac,> Torreira, Xhaka> Aubamayeng, Lacazette, Iwobi._

Are you feeling confident about the result? What’s your prediction for the score?
Yes – we normally do well and it will be an open game. 2-4 to the Arsenal.
Relatively! We often play well on the road and have had some good results against West Ham over the years but they are always very close at your place as it’s still an intimidating place to go given the passion of your fans. It was 3-1 to Arsenal at The Emirates and I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet so I will go with West Ham 1-2 Arsenal.

Well thank you to the two Matthews for their time. I think they are both being a bit optimistic about the result, and so I think that we will further dent the progress of Unai Emery this weekend. It’s also about time we returned to scoring three goals a game, so 3 – 1 West Ham. COYI

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