Arsenal 2-0 West Ham. We were top of the league, say we were top of the league!

Arsenal v West Ham, always a big game as it’s a derby, but this was an even bigger game for us, seeing as we’re chasing the League title and we really cannot afford any slip-ups. Cesc and Song- back from injury and suspension- went straight into the starting line-up, with Diaby and Sagna dropping to the bench.

The line-up then was:

Almunia

Eboue– Campbell – Vermaelen – Clichy

Song – Denilson

Nasri– Cesc – Arshavin

Bendtner

Yet again, we started really brightly, scoring after 5 minutes- our first goal at the Emirates in the first 15 minutes- and it was a well-worked goal. It started with Clichy’s run down the left, and he was able to cross the ball to Bendtner in the box, who headed it out to Denilson. They exchanged a one-two, with Denilson striking the ball to the bottom right corner, from just outside the box. Great start! Bendtner then tried his luck from a similar distance, but his shot was just wide. It looked like we’d run away with it, but credit to West Ham for sticking to it and not letting us run riot. They didn’t create much, but Diamante did have a decent effort from a free-kick conceded by Sol, but it was just over the bar, but straight at Almunia anyways, so he would have had it covered.

We looked under no pressure whatsoever, but a 1-0 scoreline is always a tricky one. We seemed to be cruising towards half-time, when the inevitable happened. I say inevitable, because in the other 2 League games where we’ve taken the lead inside 15 minutes- away at both Burnley and Hull City- we’ve conceded a penalty! But this time around, there was the added complication of a red card! A long ball from West Ham towards our box was not dealt with by Vermaelen, and he made the slightest of contacts with Franco who predictably went down. The referee was behind the play so he couldn’t see it, but the linesman called it, and a penalty was given. It was never a penalty. Not only that, the referee also showed a Red card to Vermaelen for a professional foul. It was a very soft penalty, and a very harsh Red card. Our first of the season.

So out of nowhere, we were down to 10-men, and facing a penalty. Apparently West Ham have scored all their penalties this season, but this time around, Almunia pulled off a great save! Justice done, one would say. Almunia’s received a lot of criticism over the past few months, but he’s not been mentioned lots over the past few games, as he’s been playing quite well. This was an important save, as it meant even though we were down to 10-men, we still had our advantage.

That was practically the last kick of the half. We were deservedly ahead, but with only 10-men, it was going to be a difficult task for us to hold on to the 3 points.

West Ham, as you would expect, started the second half on top and had most of the possession. We were still trying to regroup at the back. Arsene didn’t make any changes at half-time to compensate for the loss of tommy V, meaning Song had to drop into the centre of defence. It took us a while to get used to the change and it was obvious for a little while that we were a man short, but slowly but surely, we took charge of the game and began to dominate. Diaby did come on for Bendtner after about 12 minutes, but it seemed Bendtner may have picked up a back injury, but I’m not totally sure.

Sol had a chance to make it 2-0 from a free-kick by the corner-flag, but his header wasn’t firm enough, and it was an easy save for the ‘keeper. Arshavin also had a chance, after being released by Diaby, but his shot was weak and easily gathered by Rob Green.

West Ham did have a great chance to equalise through Carlton Cole, after brilliantly getting away from Clichy and Song, but his shot came off the bottom of the post and luckily for us, went round it for a goal-kick! In truth, that was West Ham’s best chance of the game, and the only real one they created. Whatever threat they had was always snuffed out by our defence, even though it was essentially a make-shift defence! Sagna later came on for Nasri with 15 minutes to go for more defensive reinforcement, with Eboue moving into the left-midfield position.

With the game drawing to a close, we were still leading but it was becoming tense. We did look like the more likely team to score, even though West Ham had the man advantage, and we were always wary of a late leveller. We continued to press, and with less than 10 minutes to go, we were awarded a penalty after Matthew Upson handled in the box. Great chance to ease the nerves, seal all 3 points and move to the top of the league, the responsibility falling on Cesc. But as usual, he stepped up and calmly sent Rob Green the other way! Upson had already been booked, but the referee decided against showing him a second yellow, probably because it wasn’t deliberate. Either way, we were 2-0 up and unlike when we were at Upton Park, there was no way back for West Ham, the game ending 2-0.

Absolutely crucial win, and it was great to see us grind out a result, even though we were down to 10 for a very long time. So that result meant we went top of the league overnight, with Chelsea and United not being in action until Sunday. Massive credit ought to go to Almunia for the penalty save- you could say that he won us 2 points as a result.

Wenger had this to say about Almunia:

“He has taken a lot of stick, not always justified I believe. He had a few problems at the start of the season but in the last two or three months I have found him to be outstanding and credit to him, he has silenced the critics.”

Credit ought ot go to Song as well, for slotting brilliantly into defence as I’m sure he wouldn’t have thought at the start of the game, that he’d find himself in defence! But he did really well and he very assured in that position.

Wenger summed up the game thus:

“I believe we had an outstanding game. We played with class and spirit and we kept our nerve when the situation became difficult. So overall we have shown a good attitude, good maturity, and in the important moments in any department we were decisive. I think about the goalkeeper, I think about when we had to move Alex Song to centre back, everybody adapted very well to the situation and technically I believe we were outstanding today.”

As for Vermaelen’s Red card, there was a lot of confusion as to whether he would miss 1 or 3 games, probably due to the fact that we haven’t had a Red all season! It has been confirmed that he’s only missing one game, as the Red card was not for violent conduct, but for a professional foul. He’s only going to miss the game away at Birmingham. It’s going to be a tricky tie, especially with Gallas also missing. With us due to play Barcelona 4 days later, it’ll be interesting to see whether Arsene starts Sol, instead of Silvestre. Anyways, I guess we’ll find out closer to the time.

All we need to do is keep on winning our games and hope the others slip-up. It doesn’t look like they’ll be slipping up this weekend though, as United earlier on beat Liverpool 2-1 taking them back on top of the league. Chelsea are currently winning 1-0 at Blackburn, but you never know, they might slip-up in the second half!

Hopefully being top of the league, albeit for less than 24-hours, would have given the lads more belief that we can do it. 7 games to go, and maybe come 5pm on 9th of May, we’d be top of the league for definite!

  • Josiah

    blackburn 1 chelsea 1

  • Kodjo

    Chelski drop 2 points..so it means they stay in third. how come i didnt see this same commitment from b’burn last week against sp*rs? thanks but no thanks for forcing 2 pts off chelski!

  • AmriGooner

    Hey everybody, did you see the conflict between the two teammates of sp*rs? really, that was a funny thing to see.

  • JDD

    My Predictions

    A Birmingham 3-0 A Bolton 2-1 A Portsmouth 2-1
    H Wolverhampton 4-0 H Chelsea 1-1 H Villa 1-2
    A Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 A Blackburn 2-1 A Man U 1-1
    A Wigan Athletic 2-0 A Man City 1-3 H Bolton 3-1
    H Manchester City 3-1 H Tottenham 2-0 A Tottenham 2-0
    A Blackburn Rovers 2-0 A Sunderland 2-1 H Stoke 3-0
    H Fulham 4-0 H Stoke 3-0 A Liverpool 0-1
    H Wigan 3-2

    Arsenal 89 58
    Man Utd 85 52
    Chelsea 84 49

  • goonerman

    thats a little bit optimistic JDD i cant see us finishing 4 points ahead of man united top of the league even though i would love it i think it will actually be a matter of a single point that seperates the winners and runners up!

    To be honest im glad that blackburn took 2 points off of chelsea but the fact allardyce said he wanted to do fergie a favour was a joke! IF when man united go to blackburn and blackburn are sitting pretty in the league in no danger and they literally let man united turn them over then blackburn and allardyce would surely have to be investigated for some sort of match fixing becuase i think we will know wether man united actually beat them fairly but if blackburn put in any less effort than they did against chelsea today then this league will officially be a joke! i suppose we will see how blackburn treat the game it will be interesting!

    messi scored another hatrick haha! im pretty worried about the little man, vermaelen and clichy have a very big job to do!!

  • al

    I really think we are going to have to win every game to win this league. its so tight up there and any slip up from us will mean united and Chelsea will have to slip up further. which we are running out of lives as the fixtures pass. united had a hard game today and luckily won. another pen going there way and another hard game ticked off there list. we have some tough games still left spuds, man shity, Birmingham away and Blackburn away who gave the chavs a good kicking to day. its going to be real tough and nail bitting. lets keep winning

  • Nick

    Chelsea drops points and Terry continues to bitch about the quality of officiating in the CL. Get over it!

    Man U. 2-1 over Liverpool.

    Arsenal on top. Lets stay there for a few months!

  • vitus

    Morning folks
    with the football Chelski showed recent matches- they are not rivals for us- they’ll finish 3-rd place more likely.
    What we really need now is to take max points out of our remaining fixtures and…MU to drop points, thanks in advance fergie;)

  • Peres

    Something strange is happening

    Shouldn’t Arsenal be out of the title race by now?
    Arsenal shouldn’t have won at Stoke. We shouldn’t have won at Hull either. And we certainly shouldn’t have beaten West Ham. I’ve seen this film before: the potential hero gets close, bravely close and then narrowly misses out when Manchester United gets the girl. The title race was not meant to include Arsenal, it was supposed to be about United and Chelsea. Arsenal were supposed to bow out gracefully. So how are we still in it?

    Arsenal were not meant to score twice late at Stoke to win 3-1, or to strike very late at Hull to win 2-1. We shouldn’t have beaten West Ham, that’s for sure. We got an early goal – that much we can be allowed – it made losing Vermaelen to a sucker red card all the more sweet a script. What was then meant to happen was that Diamanti or Cole would apply the closing moments to our supposed title challenge and then Arsenal could be neatly packed away. Yet here we are, still in the frame, still in a position to affect who wins the title. Possibly by even winning it ourselves.

    In the real world we didn’t get a penalty at Stoke, Bendtner’s follow-up at Hull was saved, Diamanti scored his penalty and Cole’s shot went in off the post. We didn’t win any of these matches. But Arsenal aren’t operating in the real world. Most penalties get scored. Cole’s shot was heading in until it neared the goal and then it veered and hit the post. We shouldn’t have been in a position to win the match 2-0 late on with a penalty. So what is happening?

    Sequences work for the team that wins the league. Incidents, events that would scupper everyone else don’t quite the scupper the team that hence becomes the champions. You can’t get anywhere without a mixture of talent and luck, one alone is not enough. We know that Arsenal have the talent, so dare we risk to think that it is we, Arsenal, that have had the ultimate luck turn our way?

    Ramsey’s injury was hardly a good turn though was it? No way. Was it positive for Arsenal that United scammed an equaliser out of Liverpool and then beat them 2-1? Not exactly. I’ve never got why Liverpool fans rate Javier Mascherano, he’s a fouling idiot who always look likely to get sent off. Time after time Mascherano holds onto people and when they fall down he turns around half smiling as if it is inconceivable that he could have done anything wrong.

    Well against United, with Liverpool winning through a magnificent header from the formidable Fernando Torres, Mascherano ludicrously held on to Antonio Valencia who waited until he reached the penalty area before flattening to the ground. Liverpool, despite amounting to very little more than Torres, Steven Gerrard and a bunch of nobodies, could have got a result at United. Mascherano’s lunacy ensured that it was a defeat.

    So how does this mean that Arsenal might have the ultimate luck that you need to win the league? United’s victory doesn’t do us a favour. But our victory and Chelsea failing to match this, by drawing at Blackburn, means that United winning in their typical way doesn’t end anything for us. All we have suffered is to have played another round of matches. We should have completed United’s picture by dropping points to West Ham. The villain is supposed to gain from the hero getting his come-uppance – but we’re still standing.

    If Chelsea had the ultimate luck they would have skanked a late winner. In fact, Diouf wouldn’t have equalised against them. Ivanovic getting injured was a big unwelcome kick in the guts that Chelsea were not expecting. Ivanovic is a henchman, someone to take care of business. Well he went off, Paulo Ferreira came on and Ferreira did not take care of business because Diouf got up above him to deprive Chelsea of two points. Bang. That is all it takes.

    Something goes wrong for Chelsea, they lose ground. United skank a penalty, they win. The next part of the sequence is then that Arsenal missed out too, after Diamanti’s penalty and/or Cole’s long ranger gave West Ham a win/draw. But that last bit of business never happened. We won too. It should all be working out now for United.

    Match of the Day 2 last night ignored Valencia’s dive but derided Torres for kicking up the penalty spot. They talked lovingly, longingly, yearningly, romantically of ‘United!’ and of Park’s goal “finishing off” something. I hope they meant the move rather than Liverpool as there was still half an hour to go, or the title as there are still seven matches to go. Five Live this morning were talking like the title had been conclusively decided for United by Chelsea drawing. Chelsea may be beginning their ending, but Arsenal are annoyingly still in the frame.

    Champions override every single factor to finish top of the pile. Injuries, suspension, weather, kits, referees, anything you could mention, the media too frankly – the champions overcome all hurdles put their way. It is very hard to know for sure how the title will conclude and the most likely outcome is that United win it, because that’s what happens, that’s what the establishment prefers. Arsenal may though just be benefitting from a different script.

  • goonerman

    By what Henry has said today shows he literally loves the gunners and that barca mean nothing to him!
    When asked if he would celebrate a goal, he added: “Forget about it. No. I do not want to play against Arsenal, simple as that.
    alot of players love ttheir ex clubs but he literally cant bare to play us or beat us! i think he would be happy to sit on the bench and support his beloved Arsenal lol!

    And news on van persie is that he is medically fit and is in light training but surely he can get back into action with 2 or 3 weeks instead of 4 to 5 if he really starts to step up his rehabilitatio we could have the van man back!!

  • khai

    http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11670_6046623,00.html

    i think the words read cant really match what he said in the video. i mean emotionally.

    it really brought me back to the time when king henry reigned.

    there’s a fine fine example of a true Arsenal Player.

    long live king henry!

  • khai

    skysports.com/story/0,19528,11670_6046623,00.html

    i think the words read cant really match what he said in the video. i mean emotionally.

    it really brought me back to the time when king henry reigned.

    there’s a fine fine example of a true Arsenal Player.

    long live king henry!

  • tom G

    I love that man. I just love him. What a guy. Thanks for the link.

  • Kuka

    Quite a shame that Viera went to City…..Sorry, but he has become rubbish

  • Kuka

    Not sure why Vieira joined city. He has become total rubbish….

  • Kuka

    Not sure if appealing Vam’s red was a good idea. If it doesn’t work out, he gets banned for another game…..hmmm. Fingers crossed

  • Sam

    Henry is the man. A real Gunner. Respect.