Shaun Botterill - Getty Images
Arsenal were good enough to pull back from an early deficit, and took three points from a resilient Hammers side.
Diame 1-0 21'
Giroud 1-1 41'
Walcott 1-2 77'
Cazorla 1-3 83'
Arsenal certainly were not at their high-flying best, but they had the skill and the perseverance to score thrice unanswered after giving up an early goal. West Ham were resilient and tough to break down, but Arsenal did the job and got the all-important three points.
The game started with twenty minutes of fairly dominant Arsenal football, running their possession game to its highest potential, and creating three or four good chances. Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla were both unlucky to score, but their inability to get the ball in the net would cost them soon after.
After twenty-one minutes, Mohamed Diame took the ball on the left wing, and though he was challenged by two Gunners, he nutmegged Aaron Ramsey and blew past. He curled the ball into the top corner, and West Ham had a lead against the run of play. He was subsequently booked for over-celebrating, but that didn't help soothe Arsenal fans any.
Particularly seven minutes later, when Diame went in recklessly on Mikel Arteta in what surely was a bookable foul. Referee Phil Dowd gave the foul but that was it, which kind of sums up Dowd's performance on the day. He could have been a lot worse, but he was lacking on several occasions. Diame should have been off, but he played on.
Arsenal didn't help themselves much for most of the rest of the half, with sloppy passes, poor runs, and awful crossing combining to slow their progression mightily. But in the 41st minute Giroud took the ball at midfield and played a through-ball down the left side to Lukas Podolski, who dribbled into the box before unleashing a strong, waist-level cross. Giroud had moved forward well, and finished brilliantly with his left foot. Finally a league goal for the Frenchman, and he leapt on Podolski to celebrate, clearly relieved to score.
Both before and after halftime, Kieran Gibbs had some odd missteps, with his crossing leaving a lot to be desired. Ten minutes into the second half Gibbs came off for Andre Santos, with an apparent injury. The extent of the injury is unclear, but if Gibbs is out for an extended period that's not great news for Arsenal. Santos is a fine option, but Gibbs has been very good this year and would be missed.
After an hour there was an injury for West Ham after an odd situation. Arsenal 'keeper Vito Mannone came out to take the ball off Ricardo Vaz Te's foot, and did so fairly. As he passed Don Vito he (probably inadvertently) kicked the 'keeper in the head and went down hard behind the goal. At first the worry was more about whether the Italian had been concussed, but Vaz Te stayed down, and the word now is that his shoulder was dislocated. He had to leave the game and will likely miss 6-10 weeks.
In the interim Theo Walcott came on for Gervinho, who was largely ineffective but not a negative influence. Walcott took a little while to get into the game, but once he did, he contributed. After several Arsenal corners came to nothing (they were largely wasteful from set pieces all day), in the 77th minute Giroud charged forward and played another through-ball - this time to his right, to Walcott. The Englishman streaked behind the defense and as Jussi Jaaskelainen came forward to cut Walcott's angle, he finished coolly, giving Arsenal the lead. He ran to the away fans to celebrate with vigor, and was booked for his trouble.
About five minutes later Walcott took the ball again, in front of the 18-yard box, and as he fell under a challenge he desperately poked the ball to Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard, who had played well all day, took a step and blasted a knuckleball across Jaaskelainen's goal and into the top corner. It was a scorching goal, and sealed the result.
Aside from that, the main note is something that happened after the third goal. Laurent Koscielny came on as a substitute, but replaced Podolski - effectively making Arsenal's formation a 3-5-2, or something similar.
Koscielny - Mertesacker - Vermaelen
Jenkinson - Arteta - Ramsey - Santos
Walcott - Giroud
It was an interesting tactical move from Arsene Wenger, and one that, as a 3-man defense fanboy, I really enjoyed, even just for a few minutes. It may not be something we see a lot, but with three very competent central defenders and active fullbacks, it could be a possibility from time to time.
Arsenal weren't perfect, but they were plenty good enough, and will now go into (yet another) international break happy.