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Saturday, 15th December 2001

West Ham United 1
Arsenal 1

by Graeme Howlett

West Ham followed up last weekend's impressive performance at Old Trafford with an equally gutsy effort at the Boleyn this afternoon against in-form London rivals Arsenal.

Glenn Roeder stuck with the midfield system that worked so effectively against Manchester United playing Trevor Sinclair and Don Hutchison on the wings, with Joe Cole and Michael Carrick in the middle.

The only change to the team was up front, where Freddy Kanoute replaced Jermain Defoe after returning from injury.

And it was Kanoute who gave the Hammers a richly deserved lead on 35 minutes when he coolly volleyed home from six yards following some excellent work by Seb Schemmel.

But the Hammers joy was short-lived as Ashley Cole equalised for the visitors just two minutes later after some slack defending.

That was it as far as the goals went - but there was still plenty of action for the crowd to enjoy, and it was met by an enthusiastic response in what proved to be the best atmosphere heard at the Boleyn this season.

Predictably Arsenal's Martin Keown was taunted on a regular basis by the home fans; the 'Keown's got a monkeys head' chant rang out several times during the game.

West Ham may well have won the game in the dying minutes as they exerted pressure on the visitors defence, but referee Mike Riley - who had a dreadful game all in all - missed a blatant handball in the area by Patrick Vieira.

The draw lifted the Hammers into fourteenth place in the Premiership - a rise of two places on last week.



by Graeme Howlett

In recent years our meetings with Arsenal at the Boleyn have proved to be stirring affairs. Many memorable moments stick out from recent battles; from Paolo's goal when he murdered Keown in front of the Bobby Moore, to the Vieira/Ruddock spitting affair - the visit of Arsenal always raises passions on both the terraces and the pitch.

Fittingly, today's confrontation was to prove no different.

No surprises in the team selection for the Hammers; Freddy Kanoute replaced Jermain Defoe up front as expected, and Glenn Roeder stuck with the midfield selection that worked wonders at Old Trafford last week.

Once again it proved to be fruitful; Joe Cole, reveling in his favoured role in the centre of midfield stole the show with a virtuoso display. Playing in the middle Joe was free to express himself to the full; he took full advantage of the opportunity and fully justified Roeder's new found faith.

Michael Carrick provided the perfect foil for Cole; he was again outstanding against formidable opposition and gave a performance far beyond his tender 20 years.

Don Hutchison again showed why he should play as a wide midfielder; despite previously stating his preference for playing in the middle he looked a different class on the wing by providing the creative spark that he had failed to offer when playing inside. With Trevor Sinclair ably offering width on the left flank, Glenn Roeder finally appears to have found the midfield formation to take the club forward into the second half of the season. Of course, Sinclair could be off at any time - but that's another matter.

Although thoroughly enjoyed, many were left with the feeling that last weekend's win at the Theatre of Prawns was simply a 'one-off';, a temporary (albeit pleasant) distraction from our true form, the likes of which had seen us fail to beat teams such as Fulham, Tottenham and Aston Villa in recent weeks, and in turn sent us plummeting down the Premiership table.

But today's offering soothed any such fears. The Hammers, for large periods, looked on top of their game once again, proving creative, sparkling, and sometimes simply irresistible as they weaved their magic against a team which at times looked far from championship contenders thanks to the home sides creative impetus.

Predictably perhaps, even that wasn't enough to earn all three points for Roeder's men. It all started brightly enough when Freddy Kanoute latched onto a Seb Schemmel cross to give the Hammers the lead ten minutes ahead of the break. It was especially sweet for Paolo Di Canio, who responded to some earlier barracking from the visiting Arsenal fans in typical fashion. No doubt the FA bigwigs are preparing a summons as we speak.

But with the Hammers fans still celebrating the goal, Arsenal struck with the equaliser thanks to Ashley Cole who bundled home a Lauren cross which somehow evaded West Ham's back line. All poised at 1-1, we looked forward to a second half of equal excitement. There were to be no more goals, but the second half more than lived up to the first.

No doubt West Ham were spurred on by the best atmosphere witnessed at Upton Park this season. For a change the whole ground were on the same level, lifting the team to a standard perhaps befitting of the impressive new West Stand which was filled to the rafters once again. The players responded in like fashion, taking the game to their (on paper) stronger opponents for large periods. For an afternoon the Boleyn almost felt as good as it used to.

Despite the Hammers greater possession it was Arsenal who had the better chances after the break; twice they rattled David James' crossbar - first Gilles Grimandi from no more than six yards, then Dennis Bergkamp who shook the posts in a similar fashion to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in the Hammers' 2-1 victory over Chelsea earlier in the season.

But it will be West Ham who feel most aggrieved at not having taken all three points, as they were denied a clear penalty in the final minutes when Patrick Vieira blatantly handballed in the box. To be honest it was no great surprise that the referee missed it; Mike Riley had the Boleyn collectively up in arms at several points during the game with some appalling decision making. We've seen some very bad referees at Upton Park already this season but Riley today was definitely up there with the worst of them. There are too many incidents to mention individually but his performance can perhaps best be summed up by the fact that he booked seven players in a game which was unusually clean for an Arsenal derby.

At the end of the day a draw was probably a fair result, but a measure of how good this West Ham side has performed in the last two weeks is in the fact that many Hammers supporters will have left the ground thinking that we did enough to win - against a team that we would previously been happy to share the spoils with.

Glenn Roeder has got the team playing well, and he has discovered the system which would appear to offer us the best opportunity of climbing the table and proving a real force in the Premiership once again.

Of course, a defeat against the likes of Leicester or Derby could change that overnight - but for now it's thumbs up to Glenn - and the players.

This poor little fella lost his dad at the game on Saturday and got a little bit scared. Thankfully dad turned up in the end and all was well. Do you know who the lad is? Drop us a line at KUMB by clicking here and we'll stick a free official Paolo Di Canio video in the post to cheer him up.

Player ratings:

David James (6) James' didn't have an awful lot to do, which was perhaps surprising when you consider the calibre of the opposition. The difference between him and his predecessor Shaka Hislop is that he gives his defenders confidence, and it has certainly helped to tighten the Hammers rearguard. Brilliant last week, not so outstanding this week but you're still happy to know he's in goal.

Seb Schemmel (8) A really terrific performance from Archie today. He's had to change his game a little with the introduction of Don Hutchison in front of him, but he was truly excellent today. West Ham have a tradition of providing full-backs with the determination and workrate embodied in Schemmel, and he excelled today. His burst into the Arsenal box proved the crucial ingredient of our goal, setting up Kanoute beautifully. More of this please Sebastien.

Nigel Winterburn (6) Winterburn was largely anonymous today, which, as someone pointed out to me at the game is not such a bad thing for a defender. No mistakes to note, and only one real error when caught out of position for the move which led to Bergkamp rattling the bar. Obviously pleased to be up against his former team mates, even he must have enjoyed the 'monkey's head' chants directed at his old pal Martin Keown.

Tomas Repka (7) Sadly Tommy was booked early on, which meant he had to be very careful thereafter. But he still proved a constant thorn in the sides of the Arsenal attackers; imperious in the air and tenacious in the tackle Repka was once again showing the sort of form he first offered when he signed for the club. Worth 5m of anyone's money.

Christian Dailly (7) Hammers fall-guy Dailly responded to recent criticism in the best way possible - by giving an excellent display against formidable opponents. The much derided Scot showed why he is now considered by Glenn Roeder as an automatic first choice from the current squad. His tackling was strong, distribution good and even his tactical awareness is showing signs of improvement. Despite not standing out his performance was perhaps one of the more impressive in the team today.

Trevor Sinclair (6) Playing on the left flank again, Trevor seems to have settled into the new midfield regime the least well of the Hammers quartet. Despite having no problems with the effort the creative spark doesn't seem to flow as well as it does on the right. But that's to take nothing away from him today; he gave Arsenal a torrid times on occasions and will still be very much in the frame for another England spot.

Don Hutchison (8) Don doesn't like playing on the wing, so he says. But it's quite clear that this is where he is most effective, as he proved last week in Manchester and again at the Boleyn this afternoon. He looks a different player from the one forced to come to terms with an unfamiliar role in the centre of midfield, which led many to question Roeder's decision to splash out 5m for his services earlier in the season. Gave added impetus to the Hammers right side and colluded well with Seb Schemmel. Things are looking up for Don.

Michael Carrick (8) Another terrific performance from Carrick. He belied his age with an assured performance, and he was denied a late goal which would have surely sealed the points for West Ham. Looks far more comfortable playing alongside his old compadre Cole, showing more confidence and imagination. It's Japan 2002, here we come - if Michael continues this form.

Joe Cole (9) Absolutely outstanding. Yet again Joey proved he could cut it with the big boys; last week it was Roy Keane, this week Patrick Vieira - and yet again the young Hammer came out on top. He did Vieira like a kipper today; the World Cup winner was clearly rattled and was a far less potent threat as a result. Playing in the middle Cole is once again able to express his full repertoire of skills, and doesn't he love it. So do the fans, so did I, that's why he was my Man of the Match today.

Paolo Di Canio (6) Once again Paolo was to play his part in an Arsenal derby, but not perhaps in the way he wanted. His most memorable contribution to the game was the moment he was booked for tumbling in the box following a clumsy challenge from Martin Keown - an act which earned him a yellow card from the over-officious Riley. Some will argue justifiably, but many will disagree claiming sufficient contact was made. Whatever, Paolo wasn't on the top of his form today.

Freddy Kanoute (7) Brought in against the tide of public opinion to replace Jermain Defoe, Freddy justified his selection with an excellent goal which took his tally to six for the season. Defoe certainly has his advantages, but Freddy was the right man for the job today as he proved creative and strong, holding the ball up well and unnerving the Arsenal defence. Unfortunately he was substituted at half-time due to what was later described as a 'thigh-strain', which could well prove to be the troubled hamstring yet again.

Jermain Defoe (6) Definitely second best in the battle of the strikers today, but still gave an energetic performance against just about the strongest defence in the Premiership. Never really created a great opportunity for himself in front of goal but he was still involved in many of the Hammers attacks in the second half. He will only get better and better.

Referee:

Mike Riley (4) Yet another woefully substandard refereeing performance from Riley. Gave some terrible offsides, unnecessarily booked players (most notably Tomas Repka) and contrived to spoil what was an enthralling contest. An early turkey for Christmas.

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Schemmel, Winterburn, Dailly, Repka, Hutchison, Sinclair, J.Cole, Carrick, Di Canio, Kanoute

Subs: Defoe (Kanoute 45), Andersson, Foxe, Minto, Courtois

Arsenal: Taylor, A.Cole, Lauren, Keown, Campbell, Pires, Vieira, Grimadi, Bergkamp, Wiltord, Henry

Subs: Edu (Wiltord 70), Kanu (Pires 77), Stack, Upson, Von Bronckhorst

Goals: Kanoute (35), A.Cole (37)

Bookings: Carrick, Repka, Di Canio, J.Cole, Lauren, Vieira, Pires

Attendance: 34,523

Man of the match: Joe Cole

Referee: Mike Riley (4)

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