Arsenal 5-1 West Ham United: Ten Irresistable Minutes

It is no understatement to say that Arsenal's season would have been in irreparable tatters had they come away with anything less than three points today. Briefly, it looked like West Ham might pull off the upset. That fleeting fear dissipated first thanks to an immediate reply, and then more emphatically amidst a maelstrom of second-half strikes.

Needless to say though, the euphoria of the win was blunted a bit due to the sickening injury suffered by Hammers defender Daniel Potts, sustained in a mid-air collision with Bacary Sagna. I hope I speak for all of us when I wish him a speedy recovery, in the hope that it's just a concussion and not something more serious.

That said, Arsenal struggled out of the blocks once again, though their opponents weren't overflowing with ambition either. I admit to only half-watching here as I tried to regain feelings in my extremities after my own 7-a-side game this evening.

Theo Walcott had the first half-chance, and what looked like a dreadful miss proved to be excellent defending by Guy Demel. No corner kick was forthcoming, of course.

How important that seemed at the time as well, as the Hammers were 1-0 up four minutes later. A corner kick was cleared out by Olivier Giroud, but only as far as James Collison at the edge of the penalty area. All of the red shirts in the area were far too deep, so he strode forward and lashed an unstoppable shot through the forest of bodies and past the helpless Wojceich Szczesny.

Let's be honest with ourselves - what did we all think about where this season was heading when that one went in?

Either way, those thoughts were to be recalibrated four minutes later. Jack Wilshere tapped a pass to Lukas Podolski on the left. Demel stood too far off of him, which gave the German space to one-up Collison with a thunderbolt of his own. Jussi Jaaskelainen was left with no chance whatsoever.

The momentum of the match was firmly with Arsenal, but the Gunners failed to take advantage. Fair play to the West Ham defense, they were disciplined and did well to go into the interval on level terms. They even could have gone in with a lead had it not been for a timely intervention on the goal line. A cross from Demel was poorly cleared out by Sagna, and it deflected to Carlton Cole. The ensuing shot lacked conviction, allowing Szczesny to get a small piece of it off his shoulder. It looked like it might sneak over the line, but Aaron Ramsey and Thomas Vermaelen combined to clear the danger.

The bad news is that the injury sustained in doing so meant that Vermaelen had to be substituted. The good news is that Arsenal were 5-1 up by that point.

The West Ham defense continued their strong play from the first half for all of two minutes after their halftime tea. By the end, they were a disorganized rabble, routed by the men in red.

Giroud started the party off of a corner kick. Per Mertesacker executed a basketball-style pick-and-roll play, distracting James Tomkins long enough for Giroud to run into space and volley it in off the shoulder of Jaaskelainen.

Six entire minutes would elapse until the next goal, but it could easily have been five had Walcott not dallied in the area after a gorgeous long diagonal ball from Santi Cazorla. Directly afterwards, a glorious team goal made it 3-1. Podolski was in the thick of it again, cutting in from the wing. His one-two with Giroud, made possible by the latter's fantastic flick-on, shredded West Ham's defense. A square ball to Cazorla saw the Spaniard bundle it in off of the defender's body.

It's safe to say that we all breathed easier by this point, but Arsenal were just getting started. Less than 60 ticks of the clock later, Jaaskelainen was picking the ball out of his net again. The Hammers pressed far up the field, the defense all at the halfway line. Wilshere's pass to Podolski would have been offside, but the left-back was a good three or four yards behind his mates. Walcott timed his run onto Podolski's diagonal pass perfectly, and smashed one past the Finnish stopper.

Now, the Hammers were all at sea, and overcompensated for the previous mistake by stationing the defense too far back. This left a country-sized gap between their lines, which Wilshere was happy to utilize. He once again found Podolski on the left, and once again Podolski's delivery was exquisite. Giroud gratefully tapped into the net, effectively ending the match as a contest.


Arsenal had several more chances, but wisely didn't overexert too much against a well-beaten opponent. Andre Santos got a rare run-out, and the Ox got a few minutes late on. While it would have been ludicrously funny to see Sam Allardyce's face as an eighth or ninth went in, the relatively serene last 30 minutes of actual gameplay (Potts' injury aside) was for the best.

So, we Gooners feel a tad bit better about life than we had a few days ago. But, consistency is going to be key now. This win won't do that much good if the next four or five results aren't just like it. Hopefully, this emphatic ass-beating gives the side the confidence they need to do exactly that - especially because if there was perhaps a 1.5% chance that the boss would buy someone before the transfer window ended, that has shrunk to zero now.


The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Gibbs 7, Vermaelen 7 (Koscielny 7), Mertesacker 7, Sagna 7, Wilshere 8, Ramsey 7, Podolski 9 (Santos 7), Cazorla 8, Walcott 8, Giroud 8 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 7)


Man of the Match: Ein Tor. Drei unterst├╝tzen. Lukas Podolski!