West Ham United 3 Arsenal 3
Saturday, 20th March 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
It was a six-goal thriller at the London Stadium this afternoon, with West Ham and Arsenal sharing the spoils in a dramatic 3-3 draw.With a 3-0 lead in the first half, the Hammers may well feel it is two points dropped, but Arsenal?EUR(TM)s second half dominance could easily have carried them to victory, with Moyes?EUR(TM)s men hanging on as time ticked away.
All that said, it was the home side who still had the better chances and could, probably should have scored at least one more in the second half to take the three points.
The manager chose the attacking approach, steering away from the timid tactics of the Old Trafford defeat last time out; Benrahma and Lingard returned in place of Noble and Johnson. Fornals remained out of the squad, and he may well have been the missing piece that stopped the points being secured.
In what was one of the games of the season, it was West Ham who started it at full pace. There was little time for anyone in red to settle on the ball, Benrahma and Lingard excellent pressing from the front and regaining possession any time it was lost. Soucek got close to two headers in the opening ten minutes in what was a clear signal of our intent.
Whilst crosses and set pieces dominated discussion, West Ham took an early lead down to the craft of Antonio and Lingard.
The striker made a run down the left channel and Luiz backed off, scared of the way Antonio may beat him. So the forward used the space to lay it back with the outside of his boot to the edge of the area. It came to Lingard, who softened the heavy pass and then lashed in the half volley as his control popped it softly into the air. The strike was perfect, curling away into the top corner as Leno dived in despair.
Straight from kick off, the Irons were back at Arsenal again. Antonio got goal side of Saka, forcing the winger to bring him down. As the TV replays showed the foul, Bowen was scoring and giving his side a 2-0 lead. They missed the nonchalant brilliance of Lingard, slowly jogging toward the rolling ball and never diverting from his path before passing it into the area ahead of Bowen.
Arsenal scrambled, but it was too late. Bowen took his shot from the angle and hit it right at Leno, but it might have been his inaccuracy that got him the goal. So close to Leno was the ball that he couldn?EUR(TM)t react to stop it, with the goal coming as the ball almost rolled over his stationary foot. His teammates protested, but Jonathan Moss ?EUR" with a rare good decision ?EUR" had allowed the freekick to be played to the attacking team?EUR(TM)s advantage.
It was almost as if the ease of their lead shocked them, but control drifted quickly away from West Ham as their advantage grew. Now it was Arsenal who were finding passes to feet and buzzing with energy. By the half hour mark, they were firmly the dominant side, and one may have expected them to be the next scorers.
But West Ham had different ideas. This time the goal was right from the manager?EUR(TM)s playbook. A Coufal cross from the right was won brilliantly by Antonio, towering above Luiz and heading down at goal. His header was guided into the net by Soucek, but neither man celebrated as they awaited an expected offside flag.
However, the check was over quickly, and Soucek was not even nearly offside as he quite deliberately flicked the ball into the goal for a 3-0 first half lead. It seemed like a dream, and it also seemed like the right moment to disturb Arsenal?EUR(TM)s momentum, but the pattern of the game only changed to even further be under Arsenal?EUR(TM)s control.
Looking at the game, the credit for their revival sits with Lacazette, Odegaard and Callum Chambers. That right side created every goal, Cresswell and Diop both looking lost defensively on multiple occasions.
The first Arsenal goal came five minutes after Soucek had scored. It was also the first of two own goals, which is still only one facet of the lengthy bad luck West Ham had on the day.
Chambers fired in the cross, something he had more and more space to do as the game went on, and Lacazette took it down and swivelled to shoot in one fantastic and fluid motion. His shot was powerful but heading wide, only for the flick of Soucek?EUR(TM)s boot to guide it into the back of the net with all the excellence he had shown five minutes earlier at the other end.
Soon Saka was through on goal, Diop pulled away by Lacazette and Cresswell slower than his opponent. The youngster should have done much better with a low shot that Fabianski saved reasonably easily.
The play remained this way for most of the second half. Arsenal were more urgent, firing balls into Lacazette between midfield and defence, the Frenchman quickly moving it on to players like Odegaard who always found space and then created space for Chambers on the overlap.
Moyes will have been delighted and relieved to go in at the break still leading by two, but the second half only got worse.
Arsenal bolted out of the traps and nearly scored inside the first minute of the restart. Lacazette spun in behind to meet a chipped pass, beating Fabianski to it and lobbing the goalkeeper. It was going in, only for Diop to hook it back over his head as he ran at goal to save tt.
The tone was set: Arsenal were frenetic but controlled; West Ham were never in control and often a step behind. It took ten minutes before the defence could get the ball out of their own third, such was the pressing and tenacity of Arsenal. Lacazette led the charge, proving what an all-round centre forward he is. Aubameyang remained on the periphery before being withdrawn.
In a fast-paced game, the tempo was set by Arsenal and confounded West Ham. The instinct to sit and protect the lead was being exposed, Arsenal too good at finding space and playing in tight areas. When they did break, the counter attacks were often returned by the visitors, and they did it more threateningly.
That relentless pressure soon told. This was even more easily avoidable, with Bowen falling down under little pressure when dribbling out of his own half. He fell near the ball, the referee gave a freekick for handball (which replays show never happened) and Arsenal played it quickly, Lacazette again hurrying things. Quick passes found Odegaard on the corner of the box once more, where he fed Chambers to hammer in across. The pace meant it only needed a touch, and Dawson rifled it home with Aubameyang waiting behind him to convert.
When it felt like only Arsenal could score, West Ham found their threat. A pass to Antonio on the edge of the area was so badly miscontrolled that Bowen ran onto it behind him and shot at goal, only for Tierney to make a fantastic block on the slide. The ball fell to Antonio, but his shot hit the full back once more, the Scot on the floor as Antonio struck it against him.
An end-to-end game opened up, and it suited Arsenal even more. Now Diop was being outplayed by Lacazette every time he tried to engage him, and leaving huge holes in behind. The manager reacted, Noble coming on for Bowen to try plug the midfield, but it didn?EUR(TM)t have any bearing on how Arsenal poured forward.
At the other end, West Ham came agonisingly close not once, but twice. Antonio intercepted down the side of the Arsenal area, playing in Lingard who tried to cut it across goal to Benrahma. He was blocked, it rolled behind the goalkeeper and towards Lingard and an empty net, only for the defender to hook it away.
Moments later, Gascoigne in Euro 96?EUR(TM) was alive in the thoughts as Benrahma drove into the area brilliantly, skipping challenges and hammering it across goal. Antonio lunged, a yard from the empty net, but his touch forced the ball off the post, where it cannoned away to safety, probably taking any chance of three points with it. There was little he could have done but reacted sooner, if that was even possible.
Fredericks replaced Benrahma and West Ham went to a back five, maybe 20 minutes later than some had called for it. It didn?EUR(TM)t work, Cresswell only being further exposed for a lack of pace as a wing back.
And it did have to come down that right side as Arsenal equalised. This time Odegaard picked it up near the corner of the area and found the run of Pepe. His cross was excellent, curling to the back post, beating the centre backs and finding the head of Lacazette. He headed it forcibly into the back of the net, getting his well deserved goal with ten minutes left on the clock and West Ham frantic.
With time running out, there was still enough left of the game for Rice to dribble 70 yards from his own area to theirs and force a good save, but there was no more drama remaining in this thriller.
It ended 3-3, a point arguably the fairest result. Arsenal will feel that they both saved themselves from defeat but should have gone on to win, whilst West Ham will be relieved that they only threw away two points, and kept a seven-point gap to Arsenal in the table that could have just as easily been ten or four.
The draw did ensure Moyes?EUR(TM)s side have not lost back-to-back games since the opening two of the season, keeping them three points clear of Liverpool, but two outside the top four and without the momentum that a flying Chelsea have.
On the other hand, it is a sign of progress once more. Not only did we have the threat to scare Arsenal, but we showed the ability to punish them when we outplayed them, unlike many meetings previous. Equally, the point was a valuable one amongst our difficult remaining fixtures. Whilst we may be looking up the table optimistically, keeping that gap to Arsenal gives us a bigger chance of European football, a point stops us looking like a team ready to fall from this great height and keeps us ticking along.
Further to that, we looked ready to fight Arsenal, a team who have fallen from the top table but are definitely high up the queue to disturb it once more. They are our rivals and we looked at their level, even if we were both much better and much worse inside one game.
Fornals and Ogbonna have proven to be two huge losses, and both playing today does feel like the difference between three points and one. The Spaniard is comfortable playing under pressure, runs all day long and would have protected Cresswell better. The Italian is a far better defender than Diop, especially in difficult games, and would have imposed himself on Lacazette.
Progress. It?EUR(TM)s all still progress. Now breathe.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
A couple of good saves were crucial, and his positioning to dart off his line saved us on occasions.
A good attacking performance, his crosses were dangerous, but a little more vulnerable defensively than we are used to. Tierney beat him a few times, and he may have been better positioned to defend Lacazette?EUR(TM)s header.
Not good enough defensively and didn't really deliver from set pieces. Looked the left back he was said to be before this season - a weakness - and being a wing back just exposed him further.
The defence was never settled and he couldn?EUR(TM)t do anything to stop the work in front of the defence, whilst three goals from inside the area showed we never dominated our own box.
Lost at sea and no one got hold of him. He was trying to step out to Lacazette but it only pulled him out of position and opened up space where he once was. Never worked for him and the whole left side was a shambles.
Didn?EUR(TM)t dominate like he can and as Arsenal profited from pockets between defence and midfield, Dec didn?EUR(TM)t stamp on it and stop it. To be the world class defensive midfielder he can be, he will need to learn how.
His runs were scaring Arsenal early and it?EUR(TM)s his ability to ghost into the box that got him the goal. But the midfield were weak on the ball under pressure and you could see his limitations at times.
Good goal, as much a reward for being ready as for the actual finish, but he?EUR(TM)s started to look less dangerous on the counter attack. Works hard, and his discipline down the right was not matched by Benrahma on the left, so it?EUR(TM)s harsh to criticise too much. But when he runs at players, he doesn?EUR(TM)t beat them often, whereas Benrahma and Lingard do.
Brilliant in the first half, then moments of it in the second. Benrahma gets the lazy label, but Lingard doesn?EUR(TM)t defend either and it does look like you can only carry one of them against the better sides.
Inconsistent on the ball but dangerous, links well and his burst of pace and quick feet get him through areas that Fornals and Bowen never could. But whilst he may get back, he isn?EUR(TM)t disciplined or switched on enough to track runners. That is understandable, but doesn?EUR(TM)t work with Cresswell?EUR(TM)s weaknesses.
Five shots, created five chances, two assists and a first half where he dominated Luiz. He deserved a goal, was unlucky not to get one and whilst he wasn?EUR(TM)t perfect, he was on his game throughout and a little luck makes that a 10/10 and three points.
(Replaced Bowen, 74) Was meant to make the midfield sturdier but was bypassed throughout.
(Replaced Benrahma, 79) Barely involved, wouldn?EUR(TM)t really know he came on and it didn?EUR(TM)t work for the team.
Did not play.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Jesse Lingard, Said Benrahma, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Jesse Lingard 15 Jarrod Bowen 17 Tomas Soucek 32 .
Booked: Vladimir Coufal 59 Michail Antonio 89 Aaron Cresswell 89 .
Sent off: None.
Arsenal: Leno, Chambers, David Luiz, Mari, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka (Smith Rowe 74), Saka (Pepe 74), Odegaard, Aubameyang (Martinelli 81), Lacazette.
Subs not used: Ryan, Gabriel, Holding, Cedric, Elneny, Ceballos.
Goals: Soucek (38og), Dawson (61og), Lacazette (82).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.
Man of the Match: Michail Antonio.