This was a highly entertaining game, particularly the second half, undoubtedly aided by the sharp contrast in styles between West Ham and Arsenal.
Setting aside the fact this was the 6th of 30 London derbies that will be played in the Premiership this season, there were a number of other issues circulating. A home victory would leave West Ham with their best Premiership start after 7 games whilst Arsenal, despite positive comments in the media, had actually experienced their third worst start to a top flight season with 9 points from their opening 6 games.
Arsenal emerged victorious, securing a 3-1 win which, despite their early dominance, could have been much closer if West Ham had taken any of the chances which they created during the second half.
Sam Allardyce made two changes to the West Ham side which had defeated QPR earlier in the week. Andy Carroll returned in place of Carlton Cole whilst George McCartney filled the vacant left back slot following injury to O’Brien.
West Ham lined up in their usual 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 formation.
Mertesacker returned to the starting line up for the Gunners following a bout of illness with Koscielny departing. Abou Diaby was out due to injury with his place taken by Aaron Ramsay.
Arsenal operated with a very fluid front four, mobility and interchanging positions when the opportunity presented itself being key.
Arsenal started brightly, controlling possession and dictating the tempo of the game but they were allowed to do so by a very submissive West Ham side. After 10 minutes, Arsenal had 73% possession as West Ham dropped very deep, holding the defensive line around the edge of their penalty area.
The fact they were so deep prevented West Ham from having any semblance of build up play, simply looking to hit Andy Carroll with long balls but too often the ball was delivered to Carroll in a straight line offering the striker little to work with. With the rest of the team deep, support was slow in arriving.
The other concern from West Ham dropping deep was the un-coordinated pressing. Often one or two players would press whilst the rest dropped off but the press was easily avoided by the likes of Arteta.
Cazorla repeatedly drifted to the left, linking well with both Gibbs and Podolski. He also dropped deeper when Ramsay advanced, providing cover for him. With Cazorla moving to the left, the team shifted slightly particularly with Gervinho cutting inside. It left Jenkinson on his own on the right.
The opening goal for West Ham came against the run of play. McCartney found space on the left to move into and played a ball to Diame who was making a surging run forward. Question marks will be raised over the ease with which Diame was able to cut inside Ramsay, and rightly so, but questions must equally be asked about the positional play of Mertesacker.
As can be seen in the graphic below, there was far too much space between Mertesacker and Ramsay, effectively the right back in this incident. There was suggestions that Mertesacker was more concerned about Andy Carroll and given the struggles that Vermaelen had when dealing with Carroll, that is a distinct possibility.
Mertesacker should have been much closer to the right back position. If he was, Diame would have been rushed and either shot earlier or passed.
Diame was cautioned for his celebrations and it was a moment which almost came back to haunt him when he rashly challenged Arteta in the 27th minute. The caution effectively rendered Diame obsolete in a defensive sense for the remainder of the game as his ability to harry and press the opposition was severely curtailed now. One mistimed challenge and he was likely to receive a second yellow and get sent off.
The equalising goal arrived when Arteta stole the ball from Diame, Giroud collecting the loose ball. Diame initially checked the run of Giroud towards the penalty area. Without a caution, would Diame have made a challenge? The graphic below shows Diame (red) trailing Giroud (yellow).
Yet just a few yards into the penalty area, Diame stopped. Had Giroud being passed onto the central defenders?
When play was spread to the left, Podolski whipped a low cross into the box which Giroud converted. Diame has stopped running around the edge of the penalty area. Whether a continuation of his run would have made any substantial difference to the outcome is open to debate however by pursuing Giroud for those few extra yards, Diame would have added increased pressure to what was a difficult finish.
Next Page: Second Half Analysis, Carroll and Noble stats – plus Cazorla Stats!
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