West Ham United 1-3 Arsenal
SPECULATION over Manuel Pellegrini’s reign at West Ham United mounted after the east Londoners suffered a nine-minute second-half collapsed against out of sorts Arsenal at the London Stadium.
A surprise victory at Chelsea briefly lifted the pressure hanging over Hammers chief. However, the Chilean’s future was once again the subject of wild conjecture following a drab midweek performance at Wolves.
Pellegrini recognised that his misfiring side needed to react: “It’s an important game for us because we’re playing at home and we didn’t win the last games in front of our fans,” he explained.
“It’s a special game also, both London teams, and I was happy in the way we played against Chelsea.
“I think three points playing two games away was not bad, but of course, we were not happy with the result against Wolverhampton, even though we knew before it was a difficult game. Now we must recover our good results at home.
“This is a special season in the Premier League, where we have ten or eleven teams separated by five or six points, so to have a win at our home would be very important for us.”
Of course, it hasn’t been all sweetness and light across the capital at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal arrived under the interim care of Freddie Ljungberg – the Swede keen for his charges to end their worst winless sequence since 1977. The Gunners preparation was hindered further when Hector Bellerin pulled up in the warm-up – his place handed to Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Michail Antonio missed the defeat at Molineux, and he also missed a decent opportunity to hand West Ham an early advantage – firing high over after Felipe Anderson had played him in.
But the opening stages were far from inspiring. Antonio and Anderson remotely the players on display offering any sign of creativity. Meanwhile, Gunners stopper, Bernd Leno clung to Aaron Cresswell’s effort as the home side continued to look sightly the brighter.
Arsenal’s injury woes continued when Kieran Tierney was forced off with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. The North Londoners finally offered a threat of their own – Mesut Ozil nodding over after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had centred.
Antonio forced Leno into an unorthodox save at his near post. But with their next meaningful foray forward, the Hammers took the lead. Angelo Ogbonna’s powerful header deflected off Maitland-Niles, wrong-footing Leno – Mark Noble the man providing then opening. – the goal was given after a lengthy, and seemingly unnecessary VAR check.
West Ham continued to press after the restart. Robert Snodgrass saw his attempt scrambled behind – this after the Scotsman had seized on some sloppy Gunners defending. Soon after, Leno was forced into action – clinging to a speculative strike from Declan Rice following a slick build-up.
But West Ham’s wastefulness was to be punished. Gabriel Martinelli arrived to meet a low cross from Sead Kolasinac, finding the bottom corner of the net and sending the Gunners contingent into raptures in the process.
Incredibly, after offering so little for so long, Arsenal swiftly hit the front. Nicholas Pepe emphatically fired high beyond Martin – the West Ham crowd left completely bemused as to how their side could fold so easily.
And the capitulation continued. Skipper, Aubameyang, crisply finishing from close range after Pepe had turned provider – Many of the West Ham crowd had seen enough.
Aubameyang was close to a fourth in stoppage-time. Ljungberg’s relief was clear – the Hammers search for answers altogether more cloudy.
West Ham United return to Premier League action on Saturday, December 14 when they take on Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium (5:30pm).
West Ham United: David Martin, Aaron Cresswell (Arthur Masuaku 51’) Fabian Balbuena, Felipe Anderson (Sebastien Haller 70’), Robert Snodgrass (Nathan Holland 78’), Mark Noble (capt), Pablo Fornals, Angelo Ogbonna, Ryan Fredericks, Michail Antonio, Declan Rice Subs not used: Roberto (GK), Pablo Zabaleta, Carlos Sanchez, Issa Diop
Booked: Robert Snodgrass (foul), Aaron Cresswell (foul)
Goals: Angelo Ogbonna 38’
Arsenal: Bernd Leno, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Kieran Tierney (Sead Kolasinac 29’), Sokratis, Mesut Ozil, Lucas Torreira, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Capt), Nicholas Pepe (Reiss Nelson 88’), Calum Chambers, Granit Xhaka (Matteo Guendouzi 86’), Gabriel Martinelli
Subs not used: Emiliano Martinez (GK), Alexandre Lacazette, David Luiz, Bukayo Saka
Goals: Gabriel Martinelli 60’, Nicholas Pepe 65’, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 69’
Referee: Mike Dean
Assistants: Ian Hussin and Dan Robathan
Fourth Official: Lee Mason
Reaction to follow…