Thursday, May 5, 2022

Gabriel sends Arsenal back into the top four with a win over West Ham – Ratings and Analysis

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Arsenal have the edge in the Champions League race after a 2-1 win at the London Stadium

Advantage Arsenal. North London’s tie with Tottenham for fourth place is generating some late-season interest, some sort of undercard support for the power couple leading the bill.

Westham 1-2 Arsenal (Bowen ’45 | Holding ’38, Gabriel ’54)

The difference in quality between Manchester City and Liverpool is so great that it makes you wonder what the point could be besides the PR benefit that comes with being in the Champions League. The improvement required to put City and Liverpool out of the way to win the bloody thing is beyond the capabilities of either.

Arsenal went from poor to average here, taking advantage of a pre-set West Ham. Perhaps West Ham expected the team that killed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to be too slow to see the poverty of ideas opposing them.

Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny were like black holes playing soccer in the middle of the park; The ball went in and never came out. West Ham, who had played 30 per cent more games than Arsenal, looked after their continued European involvement, resting influential Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio seemingly without influence.

In the absence of the demure Thomas Partey, Arsenal’s promising threesome of Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli lack the fast ball. The offensive heat they bring is chilled by the predictable contributions of Xhaka and Elneny, who prefer the square pass to the stiletto thrust .

Manuel Lanzini really should have given West Ham the lead after half an hour. The ball broke well on the edge of the penalty area, Lanzini climbed in with too much momentum when placement was possible. Rob Holding did his job by presenting a human wall. Nevertheless, his courage is said to have been in vain.

How devilish a company this game can be. After showing little Arsenal finally sat down, Eddie Nketiah sneaking like water through the cracks in West Ham’s defense to win a corner. Saka swung it in and Holding rose unchallenged to make a statue of Lukasz Fabianski. Mike Arteta went through the technical section of his Riverdance routine as if the goal were the fruit of great design. David Moyes, who knows how bad he is at defending when he sees it, was delighted with Kurt Zouma’s inability to jump.

There’s always Jarrod Bowen. No player burns more energy for the West Ham cause. The boy needs a vacation. His chances of scoring vanished with his reply just before the break. He needed a waiver to register. The good guys are lucky, which should be of great interest to England manager Gareth Southgate ahead of a busy June with four UEFA Nations League games over ten days.

Interestingly, in a completely random episode, Saka was booked for a ride with Bowen two minutes into the second half. Bowen was just too quick for the Arsenal creative. Did Bowen accidentally sprint in Saka’s England shirt?

A slightly improved arsenal materialized in the second half in a manner befitting a team notionally battling for Champions League qualification. They extended their lead from another corner. Gabriel was the beneficiary of West Ham’s generosity on that occasion, running unattended towards Martinelli’s cross and planting his header over Fabianski’s leg and into the net.

Arsenal’s celebrations matched the importance of a goal that would put them back in fourth place above Spurs. The teams meet weekly on Thursdays in the N17. The math offers everyone the prospect of gold should they win their remaining games. As things stand, Arsenal can afford the luxury of a derby draw.

David Moyes reached out to Antonio to try and wrestle back the parity West Ham deserved. Arteta deserves credit for instilling a willingness to fight on the days when the ball isn’t moving so sweetly. This is a team that lost their first three games. Had they shown the same desire and belief in the opening game in Brentford, Arteta might have been spared the trauma of August. “We didn’t play well, but at least it’s a win. We have to find a way to win on days like this,” Arteta said.

The game ended with an example of that resilience when Nketiah blocked a quick Hammers free-kick. Declan Rice reacted offended, Nketiah reacted aggressively and prompted Mike Dean to wave a yellow card. It served the purpose of wasting time and disrupting the opposition. The result means West Ham’s theoretical interest in the Top 4 is gone. The prospect of a real pot was always in the foreground for them. And so it goes to Frankfurt.

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