Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham: Gunners´ attackers inspire turnaround as Jesus-less leaders show their mettle

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 26 Dec 2022


Arsenal made light of Gabriel Jesus’ absence as each of the Gunners’ attacking trio scored in Boxing Day’s 3-1 win over West Ham on their return to Premier League action.

The blow of losing Jesus for three months due to a knee injury suffered during the World Cup had seen many write off the league leaders’ title chances, but at Emirates Stadium their mentality shone through.

Arsenal – who had a fifth-minute Bukayo Saka goal wiped out – looked to be in trouble when Said Benrahma scored a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

But their dominance eventually brought chances, and while they benefited from a hint of luck, Saka coolly levelled before Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah secured a deserved win.

Nketiah, the man tasked with replacing Jesus, was encouragingly key in the build-up to the early disallowed Saka goal.

But Arsenal initially missed the Brazilian’s presence, with their only other first-half chance seeing Martin Odegaard scuff wide from close range in the 24th minute.

They then conceded from the next meaningful attack.

William Saliba was penalised for a desperate lunge on Jarrod Bowen, and Benrahma converted emphatically from the spot.

An Arsenal penalty was overturned on the stroke of half-time, with the ball striking Aaron Cresswell’s face rather than his arm.

West Ham’s resistance ended early in the second half, though, Saka controlling Odegaard’s miscued shot and sweeping past Lukasz Fabianski.

The Hammers’ goalkeeper was arguably culpable when beaten at his near post five minutes later, Martinelli blasting goalwards after darting beyond Vladimir Coufal.

And Nketiah fittingly completed the scoring, cleverly spinning away from Thilo Kehrer before finishing clinically into the bottom-left corner.

What does it mean? Pacesetters pick up where they left off

While Arsenal had their issues in the first half, they were still dominant. There was a feeling they just needed 45 minutes to warm up.

That certainly ended up being the case, with Mikel Arteta’s side ruthless after the break as they showed the kind of form that propelled them to the Premier League summit prior to the World Cup.

Of course, Jesus’ absence could end up being problematic, but you would have barely noticed he was missing on Monday with Arsenal going seven points clear at the top at least until Manchester City play their game in hand against Leeds United on Wednesday.

Odegaard pulls the strings

There is every reason to suspect players who did not have World Cup exertions could be key between now and the end of the season – clearly, the break did Odegaard no harm.

Sure, he got lucky with his first assist for Saka, but that was one of a match-high five key passes. He might want to work on his shooting, though – none of his six efforts were on target.

Nketiah answers the call

Put into the team in the absence of Jesus, Nketiah can be very happy with his day’s work. There were a few instances where he seemed to be trying too hard to impress, but there were still several occasions where he looked extremely bright and inventive.

His goal was one such moment, with his brilliant turn bamboozling Kehrer. Given much of the talk around Arsenal before this match was focused on Jesus, that goal was massive for Nketiah.

Key Opta Facts

– Arsenal have come from behind to beat West Ham eight times in the Premier League, more than they have against any other opponent.
– West Ham manager David Moyes has lost 15 Premier League away games against Arsenal, equalling Harry Redknapp for the most away defeats against a specific opponent in the competition (15 vs Man Utd).
– Saka has scored in three consecutive Boxing Day games (also 2020 vs Chelsea, 2021 vs Norwich City), the first Arsenal player to do so since Thierry Henry between 2002 and 2004.
– This was the second time Odegaard has provided two assists in a single Premier League game, with the other coming on Boxing Day last season against Norwich.

What’s next?

Arsenal go to Brighton and Hove Albion on New Year’s Eve. West Ham host Brentford a day earlier.



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