Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Three Things: Arsenal Win at West Ham 2-1

Arsenal were outplayed for large stretches of a back and forth affair with West Ham but were efficient with their chances in the first half (though not the second) and held on for the second time in three days, winning 2-1 at Upton Park. It was a heartening end to the first half of the season and the year, pushing Arsenal above West Ham and into fifth place, only a -6 goal difference away from fourth with a showdown at Southampton Friday. Three quick thoughts:

1. Cazorla Cunning Clicks Again: Cazorla has really come back into form and after Sanchez fluffed on a penalty against QPR two days earlier, it was the diminutive Spaniard who stepped up and ensured that the penalty he elicited would translate into a goal (his fourth in the last five). A few minutes later, Sanchez crossed perfectly to a charging Welbeck, who made no mistake giving the Gunners a 2-0 halftime lead against the run of play. West Ham had a number of chances and an early goal disallowed, rightfully, for passive offsides, but goals are what count in the end. Arsenal should have had a third and maybe even fourth, but some good goalkeeping and missed chances kept them on the double.

2. Szczesny, Mertesacker and the Defense: it was good to see Koscielny back on the pitch and though the Gunners defense bended pretty consistency, it was an unlucky deflection off of a poorly positioned Debuchy that led to the only West Ham goal. It was clear to see the increased confidence of Mertesacker, who appears to have some sort of mental block that only allows him to play well when his French partner in crime is on the pitch (insert your own inappropriate WWII joke here). But Szczesny was solid throughout and Arsenal did hold on for all three points for the second game running, after far too many late capitulations this year (including at Liverpool a seemingly long, three-pints before 11 a.m. week ago).

3. Good Day at the Office: West Ham can be proud of their effort and feel aggrieved to have not at least split the spoils, but this is a team that could continue to hang around near the top, with great pace and power going forward and a reasonably solid defense. But Arsenal got all three points on a day when Chelsea, Southampton, Manchester United, Tottenham and Man City (up 2 at the break to bottom dwelling Burnley, before giving both back) all drew. In a statistical anomaly I just noticed, only 7 teams in the league have a positive goal difference, with Chelsea at +27 on top, City only three behind and then a rather large drop to the surprising +17 for a stingy Southampton. Arsenal stand at +11, the result of conceding so many goals when ahead and so many draws (6 already). But a win against the Saints on the road would push them back into that fourth spot, even as that is far from a given this season. And at the time of posting this article, Everton have again given up a lead, this time against Newcastle on the road (though there is still 45 minutes to play). COYG!

Note: Everton blew the game in the end and Newcastle won, though rumours are circling that Alan Pardew will be leaving for Crystal Palace anyway.

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