Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, Walcott, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Monreal, Flamini, Gnabry, Bendtner, Podolski
Arsenal went back to the top of the Premier League after a 3-1 win over West Ham at Upton Park today.
Arsene Wenger made just one change from the team that drew with Chelsea, recalling Santi Cazorla in place of Tomas Rosicky.
The game began in fairly even fashion, with both teams sounding each other out, and in the 6th minute Cazorla had the first Arsenal effort but his shot was blocked. Moments later a fantastic Bacary Sagna cross almost found Olivier Giroud but the Frenchman was well marshalled by the home defence.
In the 10th minute Wojciech Szczesny had to be alert to push away a Mark Noble free kick, while at the other end Adrian had to stretch to keep out a Cazorla header after the Hammers failed to clear a short corner.
Joey O’Brien picked up a 19th minute yellow card for pulling back Kieran Gibbs as the left back drove into the West Ham box, but the free kick from just outside the area came to nothing.
A stinging shot from Diame almost caught Szczesny out but the Pole found his touch, and from the resulting spell of possession Arsenal should have been ahead. Aaron Ramsey’s pass over the top of the defence found Theo Walcott but the winger volley wide with the goal at his mercy.
Arsenal dominated possession for the most part but struggled to create anything clear cut. Per Mertesacker had to be strong to fend off some amorous advances from Carlton Cole, before Cazorla fizzed an effort just over the bar. Mesut Ozil then played Giroud down the left hand channel but the striker screwed his shot wide. It was the strike of a man short of confidence.
Aaron Ramsey saw a right footed shot deflect into the arms of the keeper as the Gunners looked to up the pressure, and the Welshman made Adrian work with a cross from well inside the area.
Fantastic combination play saw Ozil pull a ball back across goal but it was just in front of Giroud who probably should have been more on his toes. As the half drew to a close a Cazorla free kick was blocked to Mikel Arteta just outside the box, but the Spaniard’s volley whizzed just wide of the post.
Kevin Nolan threatened from a West Ham free kick before more good Arsenal play almost created a chance for Giroud. Gibbs low cross from the left rolled two yards in front of the goal but once more the Frenchman’s timing was just off and he failed to get a touch, meaning the game remained scoreless at the break.
The second half began in exhilarating style. After making a great run through midfield, Theo Walcott had two options for a final pass but instead chose to give it to a West Ham defender. They broke upfield, Szczesny failed to hold a Kevin Nolan shot and Carlton Cole was on hand to poke home the rebound. The half was just 46 seconds old when they scored.
Arsenal had shouts for a penalty when Tomkins blocked a Mertesacker shot with his arm, but it was very much ball to hand and Phil Dowd waved away the appeal. And the confident home side almost had a second when Joey O’Brien, unmarked in the box, headed wide from about 8 yards out.
O’Brien was lucky to escape a second yellow for a foul on Giroud, before Cole almost put West Ham further ahead but he poked it wide with Szczesny advancing on him and in no position to cover.
Arsenal looked press for the equaliser. There were a succession of corners and some goalmouth scrambles but West Ham defended resolutely. Adrian made a good save from a Cazorla shot, and was back on his feet quickly to save the rebound from Ozil. It looked like it was going to be one of those days.
Matters weren’t helped when Aaron Ramsey picked up what looked like a thigh strain, replaced by Lukas Podolski. The German was quickly involved, but it was only to pick up an ankle knock when a shot inside the West Ham area was blocked.
But in the 67th minute Arsenal were level. Arteta made a good tackle on the edge of the Arsenal area, the ball was moved forward and played out wide to Theo Walcott. The England man cut inside on his left foot and got a shot on target, but the keeper really should have saved it easily. Adrian somehow let it run through his hands and into the net.
Less than 4 minutes later, Arsenal were ahead, and it was Walcott again who got on the scoresheet. A Podolski cross flicked off the head of Tomkins and Walcott rose high to plant a header downwards into the net.
It was almost three when Cazorla found Podolski in the box, but Adrian came out quickly to smother. The momentum had changed completely and Arsenal looked hungry for more goals. And the third duly came when Giroud laid the ball off for Podolski on the edge of the box and the German’s left footed shot meant he got a goal on his first appearance since the end of August. He celebrated like it meant the world to him.
The manager took the opportunity to rest some legs then, bringing on Flamini for Ozil and Bendtner for Giroud. Arsenal had lots more possession to try and see out the game, and almost got a 4th when Bendtner’s shot from the right hand side went just wide of the far post.
In the end it was a win which showed some real character and put the Arsenal back on top of the table.