Premier League
West Ham United 2-2 Arsenal 

Sunday, 16th April 2023
by Chris Wilkerson

On an afternoon where even the most optimistic were struggling to believe, West Ham United came from two goals down to share the spoils with title-chasing Arsenal.

There seemed little in the way of hope after the Gunners were gifted a two-goal lead inside the opening ten minutes, but David Moyes's side plugged away, took advantage of the opportunity Arsenal gave them and showed a fight rarely seen this season.

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More than just the valuable point earned, it was a performance and an afternoon to lift the club and remind these players what they are capable of. Most importantly, it proved to squad, staff and support alike that this side will not go gentle into that good night.

The Hammers will have been happy with how weekend results had gone before this London derby, taking a little pressure off the mountain they would climb against the Premier League leaders Arsenal. Defeats for Everton, Leicester and Southampton could have been spoiled by Bournemouth's three points, had they not come against Spurs.

There was change from last weekend's slim victory at Fulham, the 4-4-2 abandoned as Benrahma and Paquet?? returned, as well as Thilo Kehrer in central defence after both Aguerd and Ogbonna picked up minor injuries midweek in Belgium.

With two wins in the last 31 games against Arsenal, little could be expected before even the contrasting form and fortunes of the two London sides could be taken into account.

But even the pessimists would have been ill-prepared for just how badly West Ham started their task.

An opening five minutes where Gabriel could have done better with a headed chance was little warning for what was soon to follow. Because five minutes later, it was 2-0 to Arsenal.

Both goals were entirely avoidable, and both could have been stopped by a little discipline from Sa??d Benrahma.

The first came from nice passing down the right and a slick move that looked fantastic, but was enabled by slack play. As Saka, ?~degaard and White exchanged passes on the right corner of the box, White dropped it to Saka and moved into the box. He was not just left by Benrahma, but stood still a couple steps away from him and pointed for the pass as the Algerian decided his job was done. Was it a massive error? Yes and no. It was a second of switching off, but he's also the man you'd target for such a thing.

?~degaard saw the space and slipped him in down the side of the box, and he perfectly fired the ball across the face of the goal for Jesus to tuck it into an empty net and open the scoring.

It was only three minutes later for the second. This time, it took little for the away side to earn their goal.

After Martinelli had crossed once from the left, the ball was cleared back out to the Brazilian. This time, he was given a little too much space on the edge of the area and curled a lovely ball that dropped at head height on the right side of the six-yard box.

It sailed over the heads of all those standing waiting, but was struck perfectly for the runner from the edge of the box. ?~degaard was that was that runner, darting into the area unmarked as Benrahma stood watching his man. It dropped for the Norwegian to coolly volley home from close range and it looked a case of how many Arsenal wanted.

With the Goliath of Manchester City to halt, Arsenal fans started to think of the positive impact this game could have on their goal difference. Some choice words aside, Hammers will have been fearing the damage that could be done to their own.

Arsenal seemed relatively content from here, comfortable enough to back off and, rather than go for the throat, manage the game against an opponent that struggled to score goals this season.

West Ham deserve a lot of credit in this period for how they applied themselves, with Michail Antonio in particular putting in the hard yards, making the unrewarded runs and looking to make life uncomfortable for Gabriel and Holding, the latter of whom was lucky to escape a booking after the striker beat him down the left and was hauled down.

Rice, too, was eager to keep to task, stick to the instructions that were planned to unsettle Arsenal in possession. There is plenty of noise around the midfielder's next destination after West Ham, with the media delighted to tell all and sundry about his plans to join Arsenal. Whilst that leaves a sour taste, it was joyous to watch him better two midfielders that the North London faithful believe would be under little threat from Rice's acquisition. Sometimes, it's the little victories.

The captain was instrumental in getting his side back into the game.

That lifeline came from Arsenal's drop in intensity. As good as they've been this year, being content at 2-0 will cause you problems in the Premier League. West Ham can be fighting relegation as The Gunners fight for the title but still have one of the best emerging central midfielders in the world.

Somebody should have told Thomas Partey, who casually tried to flick the ball over Rice's foot to get himself out of trouble after dawdling on the ball 10 yards from his box.

The midfielder is used to staying out of jail far too easily, which may explain why he thought such nonchalance was acceptable under pressure.

Rice robbed him and took the ball into the box, squaring for Paquet??. The Brazilian took a heavy touch to get around Gabriel and was then gleefully taken down by a lazy challenge.

With The Hammers in need of a gift, Arsenal had presented them with one, and Benrahma was only too glad to step up and pass the ball firmly into the bottom corner as Ramsdale went flailing in the other direction.

Belief spread around the squad and around the stadium. Arsenal were not at it, they'd started fast and looked to blitz West Ham, but a sense of fragility crept into their play.

It must be said again that the rampaging of Antonio really helped change the tone. This was a game to prove it's not all about poise and class, but effort and endeavour. Antonio appeared to determine that whatever the result, he was not going to give any opponent up against him an easy time. It paid off, even if you'll see no specific reward.

His enthusiasm and that encouragement of a goal, brought the others along with him. Now Arsenal were struggling, and the cracks that showed at Anfield a week earlier were not healed.

Soon Antonio was forcing Ramsdale to flick a header over the bar and The Hammers were firing corners in at goal, making life uncomfortable.

It was a shame the half had to come to an end. Arsenal were rattled, Jesus getting a needless freekick for hauling down a man who had already run beyond him. The passes were no longer sticking, the orchestra didn't play to ?~degaard's tune.

The half ended 2-1, but the sting was not taken out of West Ham's tails. Moyes's boys came out ready for more.

Quick, successive corners in the first minute of the half kept The Irons on the front foot, in an opening five minutes that gave hope.

The problem with hope is that you're less prepared for the fall. Just past the 50th minute, an Arsenal corner was cleared to the edge of the box. Martinelli flicked it back in, but only hit Antonio. Unfortunately for the West Ham faithful, it hit his arm, and referee David Coote ruled that the striker's arm was far enough from his body that, even from a yard or so away, a penalty was to be given.

Saka picked up the ball and placed it down. The winger they dub Star Boy has missed important penalties before, but is having the season of his life. In fine form, he stepped forward and passed the ball wide of Fabianski's post, to roars of relief all around.

He would have only a couple of minutes to wait to really feel the regret.

West Ham have been using Coufal's long throws to add another weapon to their arsenal. The height and physicality was handled by Arsenal, although not confidently.

On this occasion, the clearance came right out to Kehrer, who quickly returned the ball into the area with a looping, straight pass.

The defence pushed out as Bowen came from deep to run in and into space. With the ball dropping from high over his shoulder, he managed to open his body up from the right side of goal to volley down into the ground, the ball skidding quickly off the surface, too quickly for Ramsdale in the Arsenal net. With 35 minutes to go, West Ham had turned it around.

The winger's tail was up, and he had the beating of Tierney. After recovering from a slip that looked like it could have strained his groin, Bowen was soon back attacking goal, beating his full back and firing a ball across the face of goal. Unfortunately, there was no-one waiting.

He was then vital in his own area. Pinning West Ham back, a drilled ball across the six-yard box went all the way through to Saka. On the corner of the box, he clipped a curling ball to the far post.

It beat the defence and dipped dangerously, but before any Arsenal head could get to it and nod home, Bowen appeared under it to head the ball to safety.

And as Bowen did all the headline grabbing work, still worked Antonio, tirelessly dogging defenders. It was the best he's looked since Everton.

Arteta looked to his bench, and used all five by the end as he looked for the combination that could pick apart the West Ham defence.

His concern will be not just that they couldn't, but they could barely threaten. The old readiness to defend has returned and West Ham will dig in, even with arguably their fourth-choice centre back in. To Kehrer's credit, it was one of his better games for the club.

There were still two chances left in the game, one apiece, in the final half hour. But beyond incident, the story was the tension.

For Arsenal, it was desperate. It looked unlike how you could characterise Manchester City, a winning machine who do what they do until you can't stop it any more.

Arsenal looked more panicked. The weight of what was happening was on them, and it had been on them from the penalty onwards. To win this title, you suspect they will not be able to show such weakness again.

In contrast, the West Ham nerves became more apparent in the stands. The players retreated to protect what they had, to some extent, but of course they did. With no expectations, suddenly they had a point to play with. A single point in a game like this could be crucial. The hope it brought may matter even more than the result itself.

Arsenal's best chance came from a counter attack. Everyone stormed forward for the long throw, but the ball went to Paquet??, and the Brazilian lost it to Saka.

The forward run some 60 yards with the ball, driving straight to goal. Cresswell chased, which allowed Kehrer to back off and jockey into position. The German defender marshalled Saka into a good area, and whilst he still allowed the shot, it was made difficult by his defending. And it was sent right at Fabianski.

West Ham offered a little more verve, Bowen forcing a good block from Tierney having spun in behind the defence.

The big chance came with just under 10 minutes to go.

A Benrahma shot was blocked from inside the box, but the rebounding ball spiralled out wide. He beat White to it, brushed him aside as the full back went too physical and forgot the ball. The Algerian looked up and picked a very good cross to Antonio at the far post. On the corner of the six yard box, he tried to head back across goal, but only found the corner of post and bar, the ball flying behind for a goal kick. He could have done better.

It would matter not. Arsenal were out of ideas and out of belief as the minutes ticked away. They pushed The Hammers back, but it lacked the intensity of a team who felt it was really there for them, it lacked the confidence of a team who truly believed.

And so the points were shared, a point that felt like defeat to Arsenal and victory to West Ham.

It felt a little bit like having the old Moyes West Ham back, whilst turning up to bloody the noses of a title contender feels like real West Ham.

31 points, and surely not that many left to go. There's not really been a happy week this season, but a win against Fulham before a draw away in Europe and then home to Arsenal might be as close as we'll get!

Manager's Rating

David Moyes 9/10: The big mistake was arguably starting Benrahma over Fornals, but even that had some reward going the other way. He deserves praise for the approach, it clearly played off in the long run, and whilst the conceded goals were frustrating, the side were not cowed into surrendering from there. The pressing on Arsenal was brave but worked, they looked secure in defence after the 10th minute.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Given little chance on any of the goals and even the penalty was sent wide. Not tested enough considering the opponent.

Vladimir Coufal
Tireless work up and down the flank, a good job on Martinelli, and his throws were a threat.

Thilo Kehrer
If not his best game for the club, his best game at centre back. A couple early mistakes were soon forgotten, and it?EUR(TM)s as if the level of play Arsenal aim for is just more suited to his skills, similarly to how Diop could follow a passing move then lose the ball in the air when in front of his face.

Aaron Cresswell
Where he lacks Emerson?EUR(TM)s pace and drive on the ball, he is a more reliable defender, a calmer presence and a better passer. Plus his set pieces are a weapon we need right now.

Declan Rice
West Ham pressed Arsenal aggressively and very well, believing in the approach and keeping it going deep into the game. Rice was fundamental in this and got the reward for his work. Then controlled midfield well.

Tomas Soucek
Important in structure and cover, so whilst he was barely involved (13 passes), he was vital to the structure. His mere presence caused issues in the Arsenal box, and he?EUR(TM)s started to simplify his passing, meaning he at least keeps the ball better.

Lucas Paqueta
Grew into the game in the second half, but was good pushing hard on that press and won the penalty. Needs to cut out some of the casual play that he gets caught on.

Said Benrahma
Improved as the game went on, but was so painfully exposed by Arsenal, who appeared pretty aware of the Algerian's slack attitude to defending.

Jarrod Bowen
Best player on the pitch. Bowen has been doing better than his rewards for many weeks, often carrying the West Ham threat alone. Antonio turning up only showed what can happen when defenders are dragged away from Bowen. A fantastic finish, a menace and a threat, and he worked hard in defence.

Michail Antonio
The return of the one-man frontline. If Antonio can reach these standards in half our remaining games, there is no doubting West Ham stay up. If he can do that, he may also show he's worthy of more time in a West Ham shirt, as influence dwindles and his age creeps up. He just did the selfless stuff, the tiring work that is so rarely rewarded. And he kept doing it, whether it was taking kicks as he ran 50 yards with the ball into space to relieve the defence, or chased down Gabriel just to make sure his clearance was hurried.

Kurt Zouma
After the opening blitz, the defence did very well and kept Arsenal quieter than most sides have done this season.


Flynn Downes
(Replaced Paqueta 87') Not on long.

Maxwell Cornet
(Replaced Antonio 87') Not on long.

Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Benrahma 90') Not on long.

Did not play.

Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Thilo Kehrer, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Lucas Paqueta, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio, Kurt Zouma.

Goals: None.

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Arsenal: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: .

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: .