Theoooooooo (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Arsenal dominated and saw off a listless, loagy West Ham United today at Upton Park in East London. Despite a couple moments of brightness for the Hammers, they proved unable to sustain pressure playing either directly or otherwise and had no answers for Arsenal's midfield passing and attack.
Arsenal featured nine of the eleven players that defeated Chelsea 3-0 at the Emirates nearly three weeks ago, Emmanuel Eboue filling in for the suspended Bacary Sagna and Wojciech Szczesny stepping in for Lukasz Fabianski, who's fighting a shoulder problem. West Ham were without Scott Parker, who was a late scratch with an ankle problem.
The Gunners immediately grabbed the game by the neck, generating a couple of good chances within the first five minutes before Freddie Sears' effort was blocked by Laurent Koscielny. Samir Nasri's free kick a few minutes later was hit well, but Robert Green saved it comfortably after a deflection sent it into his arms. It would not be long before Arsenal found their opener, though.
Cesc Fabregas stole the ball from Mark Noble after a West Ham corner, raced up the side of the pitch, and found Jack Wilshere waiting in the middle of the attack. Wilshere placed the ball out wide for Walcott to run onto, and the young winger sped a low cross into the box. Nasri dummied beautifully, letting the ball run to van Persie, who, with his right foot, cracked a low shot that found the two-foot gap between a diving Green and his post. 1-0 to the visitors, and no less than they deserved from their opening display.
Julien Faubert saw yellow for a late tackle on Fabregas shortly after the goal, and the next fifteen minutes saw good chances for both sides. After Luis Boa Morte came on in place of an injured Noble, Johan Djourou, under pressure, made a terrible backpass to Szczesny. Carlton Cole jumped on the chance, but the Pole was up to the task, making himself big to deny a score. Zavon Hines' follow-up went over the bar.
Arsenal came back up the pitch and attacked with purpose, Alex Song having a shot deflected wide and van Persie smashing a low effort off of the far post. Eboue and Djourou continued to enter into risky business at the back, but they were spared any problems, and Arsenal pressed for a second. That second came shortly. Fabregas fed Robin van Persie, who looked to be offside, until it became apparent that Wayne Bridge (who had a SHOCKER) was standing about six feet behind the rest of his defense on the other side of the field. van Persie worked towards the byline, eventually cutting back for Theo Walcott, who worked around a despairing Bridge to slam van Persie's pass into the roof of the net. 2-0 Arsenal shortly before halftime, and Avram Grant stood on the side, his face of stone belying no feeling whatsoever.
West Ham immediately tried to find a chance on the other end, Sears crossing for Cole, whose header deflected off of Djourou for a corner. Djourou wasn't having his best game, but a couple minutes later, he found himself, somehow, one-on-one with Green, who saved the defender's tame effort. Halftime arrived, and Upton Park was not pleased.
The second half was almost all Arsenal. Hines tested Szczesny early after the restart, but the Pole saved comfortably. van Persie had a shot saved for a corner, Walcott missed well wide after the fray, and van Persie nearly scored again. It was all Arsenal until West Ham caused some chaos in the Arsenal area, Djourou struggling to deal with a couple of floated crosses and headers that Szczesny had to shut down himself.
Grant subbed off Sears in the 64th minute for Pablo Barrera, but West Ham still could find no pressure. Arsenal were snuffing the life out of the match when, in the 76th minute, Bridge (again--he had a SHOCKER) dove in on Walcott in the box, missed the ball, and tripped up the winger, who was going nowhere fast. It was not necessary to go to ground, and the West Ham support let him know it as van Persie stepped up and buried the penalty for his second goal and Arsenal's third.
Wenger brought Denilson on for Fabregas, and Arsenal continued to pass freely around the pitch, the Hammers put away for the day. Nasri had an effort blocked, and then was subbed off for Kieran Gibbs, Theo also coming off for Andrei Arshavin. Wilshere had the game's last real chance, which was well-saved by Green, and the match petered out. Arsenal, despite some shaky defending at times, were by far the better side today, West Ham looking totally flat, and the Gunners will be happy with their clean sheet away from home and getting back to winning ways.