David Hautzig's Match Report
When my wife told me she had invited a few friends for a little front yard get together, I told her that was obviously fine. We hadn’t seen these people in six months due to, well, you know. But I told her that at 3pm I would be going inside to watch the match. To be fair, I don’t know why I made that choice. David Moyes had never managed a winning side at Arsenal, and based on what we saw against Newcastle there was very little reason to think he would end that snide. In fact I told our guests that if it got ugly early, I’d throw in the towel and come back out. It got ugly late enough that my guests had already left.
Masuaku is not a left back. That we know, it’s been confirmed, and needs no further discussion. But on the wing, he can offer something. He has very good ball control, and can get out of tight spaces. He won a corner in the 4th minute, Cresswell found Rice in the box with the delivery, and the young Captain Of The Day headed it back to Ogbonna alone in the box. The Italian international probably should have tried a volley, because he had to bend downward for a header and got very little pace on the ball. Leno handled it with ease.
The opening fifteen minutes were noteworthy in that West Ham seemed to be frustrating Arsenal, and Moyes decision to go with three at the back looked less insane than I had originally thought. Antonio broke down the right on a counter and got off a low shot that Leno saved without much effort, and Bowen intercepted a pass, broke into the box, and only a bad touch denied him a goal scoring opportunity.
A team with the quality of Arsenal doesn’t usually need a ton of chances to beat a side like ours. And one moment of skill can undo a lot of hard work by the opposition. That was the case in the 25th minute when Aubameyang floated a cross into the box from the left, and Lacazette was there to do what center forwards do and headed it home. VAR had a look, and while Aubameyang’s chest looked offside his feet did not. Maybe the offside rule changed? I don’t know and I don’t care anymore.
West Ham 0
As the opening forty-five wound down, Arsenal probed and asked a few questions. The West Ham defense held their shape, with key blocks by Ogbonna and Soucek. In the 45th minute, a long clearance floated in the air like a balloon. Fornals looked like an NFL wide receiver, watching the ball come over his shoulder, and cradled it down with his feet. He then passed to Soucek, who put the ball wide to Bowen on he right. Fredericks overlapped, Bowen rolled it to him, and the much maligned right back crossed to Antonio. Moyes recently said Antonio’s future is as a striker. It’s certainly his present. He overpowered Holding to get to the ball, and the match was even.
West Ham 1
In the opening five minutes of the second half, the instructions Arteta gave his players was pretty evident. Go over the top. Two of those passes found Aubameyang on the left, and required good defending to thwart the attack. An offside flag came to West Ham’s rescue when Saka was flagged a minute later. Moments after that it was West Ham on the front foot when Masuaku sent a delightful cross into the box that Antonio couldn’t get any power onto. Leno stopped it right on the line, and a superb chance to take the lead ended an inch away.
West Ham won a corner in the 59th minute when Fredericks got around Saka. The delivery by Bowen was good, but Arsenal cleared the area. Minutes later Bowen and Soucek threatened in the Arsenal eighteen yard box, but Bowen slipped on his shot attempt. The ball bounced off Kolasinac and out for a corner, but the visitors did nothing with that chance.
West Ham came inches away from taking the lead when Antonio got on the end of a Masuaku cross but his header hit the bar. Leno tried to roll the ball out, but he collided with a defender and lost it. Bowen tried to drill the ball into the unguarded net but it went off Leno well away from his line. A few minutes later West Ham intercepted yet another pass in the midfield and Bowen broke on the counter. He tried to cut to his left, but his shot was blocked. Arsenal broke on their own counter, and a ball over the top for Saka led to a corner. West Ham cleared, and a second goal by either side looked more and more like it would be a winner.
West Ham looked close to taking the lead in the 84th minute when a cross from Masuaku just missed a leaping Soucek. It bounced to Fredericks, who tried another cross into the box but Arsenal was able to clear. Then West Ham fans experienced what we have watched so many times. A very fine performance against a top side spoiled by a defensive lapse late on. Ceballos came down the left after a great pass from Saka, and Nketiah got away from both Diop and Ogbonna to tap it home.
West Ham 1
The odds were against West Ham from the start. Moyes abysmal record at Arsenal was just the start. Our awful performance last week did nothing to help quell the discontent among the natives, and the possibility of zero points by the end of October was, and still is, real. But the formation and starting eleven worked well, and just like the last game at The Emirates before lockdown West Ham have every reason to be disappointed to come away with nothing. While the result was not the desired one, the effort was. And if that currency has any value, we earned some today.