I am, by nature, pessimistic when it comes to West Ham. No surprise there, and I doubt too much consternation either. Even from all the way over here, 30 years in Claret & Blue shapes a football-world view that isn’t easily shaken. But this year has not felt like a false dawn. Instead, it has felt like the beginning of the transformation of us into a steady, well run football club with a pragmatic yet not dour person at the helm. But in chats with my fellow Hammers, I have said I fully expect a purple patch at some point this season, and that downward turn will see us drop away from the top four fantasy’s we have enjoyed. I have also said that even if that were to happen, this season would go down as one of the, if not the most enjoyable seasons of my virtual time in the East London. When asked by Sean Whetstone of Claret & Hugh for my prediction today, I said 1-3. Even when we have dominated the Gunners we have found a way to lose. I didn’t expect that today, other than the losing part. Today, in it’s own way, was just as difficult to stomach.
I don’t know why today more than other days, but I found the sight of the empty stadium very depressing. Maybe getting my first jab has tricked my brain into thinking life is normal again, when clearly it’s not.
West Ham won the first corner of the day in the 2nd minute, and such moments have often brought joy to the Hammers this season. The delivery from Cresswell was fine, but Arsenal defended well. The Hammers got the ball back to Cresswell on the left, yet his attempted cross flew over the bar. Seconds later Coufal had an opportunity from just outside the Arsenal eighteen yard box, but his volley attempt flew almost as high as Cresswell’s. In the 9th minute Benrahma made a run on the left and found Soucek in the box but his header skidded across the goal mouth. Seconds later Antonio tried to find Soucek with a cross of his own but again the end product wasn’t there. It was a decent start from the home side in a match where the possession statistics were likely going to favor Arsenal.
Let’s call a spade a spade. When Bowen made a very fine run in the 13th minute, it was almost transparent that his plan was to draw a penalty. But when Mari touched him with the tips of his fingers and he went down like a ton of bricks, we had to agree with Moss when he waved it off. But who needs dodgy penalties when you have Jesse Lingard? Antonio got the ball on the left, looked up, and saw Lingard at the top of the Arsenal eighteen yard box. The ball bounced a bit, but Lingard took it on the volley and laser beamed it past Leno.
West Ham 1
While writing the above paragraph, Antonio was brought down 25 yards from goal. Great, I thought. A few seconds to write while we set up. With no consideration at all to my literary needs, West Ham took the free kick so quickly that not only was I unprepared, but all eleven Arsenal players switched off as well. Bowen took the pass on the right from Lingard and calmly put it past Leno. How rude.
West Ham 2
The Gunners won a free kick in the 25th minute when Lingard took down Saka. The delivery flew into the box, and Fabianski looked fine to catch it. Only he didn’t. Thankfully the ball stayed close enough to the Hammers keeper that he was able to smother it. Minutes later Arsenal won a corner when Cresswell knocked Chambers attempted cross out. The Hammers defended well, and eventually were able to get the ball out of their half of the pitch.
Moyes likes players who run. Every manager does, but Moyes has been very clear about that requirement. Arsenal were once again sloppy in midfield, and Rice took advantage. He sent a ball over the top that Bowen ran down while Chambers kind of watched. Bowen knocked the ball back to Coufal just before it went it for the goal kick Chambers expected, and the Czech right back sent the ball into the box for Antonio. Antonio flew over both Luiz and Mari, and sent a header past Leno. Replays showed the ball went off Soucek’s foot, so he got his ninth goal of the season without doing much.
West Ham 3
The carnage took a break a minute later when Chambers put a cross into the box for West Ham nemesis Lacazette, who fired it past Fabianski. The ball took a slight deflection off Soucek, so it went down as an OG. The replay was unclear as to whether the shot would have gone wide or not without the Soucek touch. Regardless, a potential walk in the park suddenly looked like a football match again.
West Ham 3
The match almost took a turn towards North London in the 40th minute when Saka got sent in on goal with a good through ball, but Fabianski went down to his left to make a good save. Moments later Arsenal won a corner when Cresswell blocked a cross from Chambers. Fabianski punched the corner away, but Partey got back on the ball and tried a long drive that went out over the bar.
Arsenal came a hair away from going into halftime bouncing when Tierney sent a low ball into the box. Rice got a touch on it, but the ball rolled away from him and right to Saka who sent a low, slow shot goal bound. It seemed to go in slow motion, and rolled just wide.
West Ham 3
The second half started as the first half ended, with Arsenal on the attack, and it almost led to a second Gunners goal right away. Lacazette sent a pass over the West Ham back line that Aubameyang ran onto. The Arsenal striker lobbed the ball over the advancing Fabianski, and it was heading in as Diop ran back and got a bicycle kick clearance off the line.
The visitors did not let up, and the cliche of the next goal being all important was painfully obvious. Lacazette got the ball at the edge of the West Ham penalty area, turned, and let go a shot that thankfully for us went right to Fabianski. Moments later Arsenal won a free kick 35 yards from out. Odegaard sent the ball to the far post where Luiz made a run, but his shot went over the crossbar.
West Ham finally broke out of the choke hold Arsenal seemed to have them in with a corner in the 57th minute. It would have been better had Moss not made the ridiculous decision to bring play back after a foul on Antonio instead of playing the advantage, which Lingard clearly had. Arsenal did their defensive work, but West Ham regained possession and were able to at least have some time on the ball. Antonio had a half chance two minutes later when he drove into the box, but his attempt at power went into the empty stands.
The match was turned completely on it’s head in the 61st minute when Chambers sent a cross into the box that Dawson couldn’t avoid running onto, and for the second straight week Dawson had an OG on his stat sheet.
West Ham 3
The Hammers had a chance to regain a two goal advantage in the 66th minute when Bowen broke into the Arsenal box, but Tierney slid in with an excellent block. The ball bounced to Antonio who had a chance of his own, yet again it was Tierney that got in the way. Down on the other side of the pitch it was Cresswell’s turn to get in the way of an attack, putting a key block in on Odegaard.
How West Ham didn’t regain their two goal advantage in the 75th minute is beyond my comprehension. Leno lost the ball in the box with Lingard right on top of him. But somehow the ball rolled away. Then, a minute later, Benrahma broke down the right and rolled a pass past Leno that Antonio stretched to get. He got it. But the ball got the post as well and bounced out. Those are the kind of moments that are usually rued later on.
The rue-ing didn’t take long. In the 82nd minute, Saka went down the right and sent a cross into the box that Lacazette headed home.
West Ham 3
Right after the goal, Pepe got the ball in the box and could easily have given the Gunners the lead, but Fabianski got to it. Moments later Rice looked like he simply had enough and went on a box to box run before letting a shot go that Leno blocked.
West Ham 3
The last time we drew Arsenal 3-3 at home, Andy Carroll scored a hat trick and it was a mighty entertaining game of football. Same score today, but a totally different feeling. How the players, staff, and of course supporters don’t feel deflated would be beyond me. Had Antonio scored that fourth, we win. Had Lingard got on the ball, we win. Two OG’s. The list of things that have ruined the weekend can go on and on. I am in no mood to be happy with a point I would have been happy with this morning. I don’t blame anyone, either. I won’t have a go at the manager, or any of the players, because it wouldn’t be deserved. It’s just that the way this played out was terrible for our collective psyche. Maybe it’s a Karmic payback for White Hart Lane? If so, I guess I’d make the trade.
But it’s a tough one to take.