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