LONDON ENGLAND - JANUARY 15: Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal is challenged by Luis Boa Morte of West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal at the Boleyn Ground on January 15 2011 in London England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
A return to Arsene Wenger's favoured team saw a much improved and cohesive performance, as Arsenal won away 3-0 for the second time in a row in the league. In the end, it was all rather too easy for Arsenal, as Theo Walcott had a superb game in his 100th league appearance, and Robin van Persie looked his best since returning from injury.
West Ham set up in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 to try and disrupt Arsenal in the midfield, as they did so well in the return fixture in October. Aside from some early midfield pressure though, West Ham's pressing was almost non-existent, and Arsenal were able to play around the early pressure to get the first goal. After that, West Ham had to come out, and Arsenal were able to attack on the counter, and van Persie was unlucky to hit the post.
Wayne Bridge had a particularly poor game; he didn't get tight enough to Walcott for the first goal, played van Persie on side and let Walcott get ahead of him for the second, and gave away a penalty. Because of Bridge's struggle to defend against Walcott and because he stays out wide more than Nasri does, Arsenal played more passes down the right than the left, something they also did against Everton back in November. Then, as today, Arsenal took advantage of a weakness at left back.
van Persie's movement and link up play was outstanding, and by dropping deep he allowed Nasri and Walcott to take up central roles at times, and allowed the furthest forward midfielder, whether it was Song, Fabregas or Wilshere, to get forward as well. Arsenal have looked much better going forward with van Persie in the team, and it's because of his link up play. Not only will he score goals, but his movement allows for a greater fluidity among the front 6, which is one reason last year Arsenal had so many different scorers. A fit van Persie and a fit Fabregas can see Arsenal score freely, like they did at the early part of last year.
Arsenal's midfield was fluid tonight, much more so than they were against Leeds and Ipswich. Song, Wilshere and Fabregas rotated extremely well, and West Ham couldn't deal with it, and ended up being outpassed by Arsenal's midfield. One of the inspirations to Wenger's team is the Total Football of Ajax and the Netherlands in the 1970s, where every player can play every position. While that is not entirely possible in the modern game, Arsenal's midfield has that element, where you can see Song play a one-two with van Persie (or indeed Djoruou), and Fabregas holding. Indeed, the weakest parts of their games, Song's passing and Fabregas's tackling have improved so that they can play in unfamiliar midfield roles.