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Arsenal's Faint Title Hopes End With Hammers Draw

Match Review: West Ham 3 Arsenal 3 - Premier League 09.04.16

If one game could represent Arsenal's season, this might well be it. In our final visit to Upton Park, everything seemed to be going to plan, but a sensational collapse and a late equaliser rescued us from a boring, routine victory. The Premier League pipe dream finally evaporates and the familiar cold sweat of the battle for fourth place returns.

Surprisingly, David Ospina kept his place in goal, while Cech continued to watch from the bench. Wenger confirmed after the game that Cech is fully fit and that Ospina was being rewarded for his good form. While I know that Ospina was not at fault for any of the goals, I was disappointed that Wenger didn't show a ruthless streak. The brutal fact is that Cech is not only a better goalkeeper, he's a better presence and leader to have on the field. In terms of organising and giving confidence to the defence, Cech is always the clear choice over Ospina. With the game being 'must win', I can't see why you wouldn't start your best goalkeeper, especially a vastly experienced, Premier League champion like Petr Cech.

The same goes for World Cup winning German defenders with over 100 caps for their country. For some reason, Wenger has decided that Gabriel has shown enough to displace Mertesacker and earn a run in the side. Again, to be brutally honest, Gabriel has been reasonable, without looking convincing. Mertesacker and Koscielny have formed an excellent partnership over the last few years, with their styles really complementing each other. Mertesacker has been subjected to mind-numbing, constant criticism based solely on his lack of pace, but he's still by far our most intelligent defender. As vice-captain (practically full captain with Arteta pretty much retired) he's also a key leader on the pitch and also vastly experienced. It's just my opinion, but I think Arsene Wenger got these selection decisions wrong.

However, with fourth minutes on the clock, it looked like everything was going swimmingly. Two almost identical goals had given us a commanding lead; first Özil got into space behind the defence and tucked the ball into the far corner, before Alexis followed suit, both benefitting from tidy assists from Iwobi. Despite West Ham having had a legitimate goal ruled out for offside, it seemed we'd muted the crowd and taken control. So obviously we switched off and conceded a quick fire double with minutes to go before the break.

Both goals were from sloppy defending. For the first, Alexis failed to track back and defend against Cresswell and the left-back's cross found Carroll being marked by Monreal. No prizes for guessing who won that aerial duel. The second was down to us failing to push out after a corner and Gabriel turning his back trying to block Carroll's second attempt. In the blink of an eye, the match turned on its head and the momentum was with the home side.

Bilic was proactive at half time, switching from a back five to a 4-4-2 and it paid off quickly, with Antonio beating Monreal and hanging up a great cross for Carroll to power home and complete a hat trick. Andy Carroll scored a hat trick against us, I felt ashamed just watching it. The three goals also came in under ten minutes, rounding off a spectacular capitulation. Though we threw attackers on and eventually levelled things up through Koscielny, it hardly mattered. Only a win was any good to us and the draw ended the title race for good.

Really the race had been run for a while, this result merely put to bed the last lingering hope we had. With City winning and United and West Ham not far off too, it's no sure thing that we'll get Champions League football either. It's a sad end to a season that promised so much but delivered so little. It's a tag that also threatens to attach itself to this group of Arsenal players and possibly even the last years of Arsene Wenger's reign.

Teams

West Ham (5-4-1/4-4-2)
Adrian, Antonio (Y), Tomkins (Emenike 45'), Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Kouyate, Noble, Lanzini, Payet, Carroll (Y)
Subs
Randolph, Valencia, Obiang, Moses, Emenike, Oxford, Hendrie

Arsenal (4-2-3-1)
Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin (Ramsey 61’), Elneny (Giroud 68’), Iwobi, Özil, Alexis, Welbeck (Walcott 81’)
Subs
Cech, Chambers, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Ramsey, Walcott, Giroud

Player Ratings

Ospina - 6/10 - Did nothing really wrong, but was hardly the commanding presence we needed
Bellerin - 6/10 - Struggled with the lack of cover from Alexis
Koscielny - 7/10 - Got the equaliser, but suspect for their first
Gabriel - 6/10 - Poor for their second, had some other shaky moments too
Monreal - 5/10 - Beaten for the first and third goals, a rare poor game
Coquelin - 6/10 - Might have benefitted from a more cautious approach and holding his position more
Elneny - 7/10 - Kept it simple and did all the right things
Iwobi - 7/10 - Two great assists, but gave the ball away a few times, including for their first
Özil - 7/10 - Scored a nice goal, but seemed to sulk a bit when it got tough
Alexis - 6/10 - Scored, but other than that his play was fairly poor, failing to track back
Welbeck - 5/10 - Seemed a yard off the pace all day
Subs
Ramsey - 7/10 - Did what he was sent on for, forcing the play forward from midfield
Giroud - 6/10 - Didn't really manage to affect the game much
Walcott - N/A

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Tags: Match Review, Match Report, Alexis goal, Özil goal, West Ham vs Arsenal, Carroll hat-trick, Iwobi assists, Koscielny goal

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