Starting XI: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Xhaka, Wilshere, Alexis, Ozil, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Kolasinac, Coquelin, Elneny, Welbeck, Lacazette
Arsenal and West Ham United played out a 0-0 draw at the London Stadium as Arsene Wenger’s players underperformed on the road yet again.
A third game without a win, following the weekend’s draw with Southampton and a defeat at home to Manchester United, leaves the Gunners in seventh place in the Premier League, one point behind Burnley, Liverpool and Sp*rs.
The good news, Arsenal didn’t concede an early goal at the London Stadium. The bad news, we did huff and puff in possession as we have so many times this season on the road.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, making his first ever start in the Premier League, proved a useful outlet at left-back in the opening stages. A couple of crosses into the box had the Hammers on the back foot. It was to be a common theme throughout the half.
Sanchez, seemingly told to play a bit further forward, had the Gunners first effort on goal, a low shot straight at Adrian, on eight minutes. Little did we know, it was to be our only shot on target of the opening 45 minutes.
For the most part, Arsenal looked comfortable. Wilshere and Iwobi showed a few nice touches and Ozil had plenty of the ball, but when West Ham finally came forward with intent, the nerves started jangling.
Indeed, the Hammers thought they had the lead on 14 minutes when Arnautovic headed home Obiang’s cross from the left. The Gunners, caught on the break, had failed to pick up the Austrian in the six-yard box but he’d strayed slightly offside. A major let off.
Our clearest sight of goal came on 22 minutes and it was delightful build up play that fashioned the chance for Alexis Sanchez. The ball moved from Ozil to Wilshere, on to Giroud, back to Wilshere before the Chilean had a first time effort deflected over. From the resulting corner, Maitland-Niles, from 20-yards out, shot wide.
The Gunners continued to pen the home side into their half and Iwobi might have broken the deadlock were it not for the width of the post. After Lanzini gave the ball away, Ozil slipped in Sanchez who in turn found the Nigerian midfielder. He took a touch and unleashed a low left foot shot on the angle but it cannoned off the outside of the woodwork.
Giroud, found again by Maitland-Niles, tried a spectacular overhead kick that resulted in the ball cannoning off Aaron Cresswell at close quarters. The home side earned a free-kick for dangerous play even though the West Ham man stopped the shot with his hands. Penalty? Not for Jon Moss.
Arsenal’s frustration grew to a crescendo in the final moments of the half as Xhaka thwacked a couple of efforts well wide from distance.
In the pouring rain, it was the Hammers who had the first chance of the second half. Noble’s chest slipped Arnautovic behind Monreal but under pressure from Koscielny he shinned his effort over Cech’s bar.
Arsenal resumed their dominance and, aided by the soaked pitch, played with a noticeably higher tempo.
Xhaka tried a more measured effort, again from the edge of the box, that Adrian had to field. Giroud and Maitland-Niles combined; the Frenchman’s header fell wide courtesy of a nick off a West Ham defender. Ozil wriggled into the box and poked just past the post.
A Giroud knock-down (guess what, from a Maitland-Niles cross) dropped to Wilshere, but the midfielder couldn’t keep his shot down from six yards out.
Another striker was thrown on as we looked to pick the lock, Iwobi made way for Danny Welbeck with 20 minutes remaining. West Ham just couldn’t keep the ball, but in sitting deep they formed a wall of maroon every time they were out of possession.
A Sanchez free-kick forced Adrian to dive to his left and palm the ball away. Still, Arsenal pressed. Still, they struggled to manufacture a clear-cut chance. Lacazette took Sanchez’s place. It was not the little man’s night. Again.
In the dying moments, Arsenal might have snatched a defeat from a game they should have won. Koscielny, who up to this point had played quite well, played an utterly disastrous pass across the penalty area and then all hell broke loose. In the panic, the ball fell to Javier Hernandez, on as a substitute, and his curled effort beat Cech, clipped the bar and bounced onto the line and wide. The passage of play really seemed to sum up our season.
A final chance to steal the points in stoppage time, a free-kick from 30-yards out, was clattered into the wall by Ozil. The whistle went. That’s 18 points dropped on the road and the fourth time we’ve failed to find the net away from home. It’s really not good enough.