Two goals from Lukas Podolski around Olivier Giroud’s match winner allowed an embattled Arsenal to claim its first league win in 30 days, a 3-1 victory over West Ham that allows the Gunners to temporarily reclaim fourth place in the Premier League. Although Everton can resume that spot tomorrow against Crystal Palace, Arsenal fans will get at least 24 hours to enjoy their team’s place in the top four, with Matt Jarvis’s 40th minute opener going rendered irrelevant as Arsène Wenger’s team fought back before the hour.
That opener came after a Antonio Nocerino shot from the right of the area was popped up in the six-yard box, allowing Jarvis to run onto the header that sent his team in front. The lead only lasted four minutes, however, with Podolski pulling his team back just before intermission.
Shortly after half time, Giroud’s short from the right of goal beat Adrián far post, giving the home side its first lead of the day. When Podolski added his season in the 78th minute, Arsenal was back in the win column for the first time since March 16’s win at White Hart Lane.
With 67 minutes, the Gunners sit just above Everton in the table, with the Toffees hosting Crystal Palace tomorrow. West Ham, coming off a weekend loss to Liverpool stay in 11th place, the club’s 37 points leaving it at the extreme reaches of a relegation battle.
Staying deep and relying on the counter attack, the Hammers had the better for play for the first half hour, with early shots by Mohamed Diamé and Antonio Nocerino drawing blocks inside Arsenal’s penalty area. With a perfectly threaded through ball from 40 yards out, however, Santi Cazorla produced the Gunners’ first big chance, with Giroud’s test of Adrián in the 29th minute threatening to switch the match’s momentum.
In the 40th minute, West Ham was finally rewarded for its stalwart start. After a Nocerino shot from the right of Arsenal’s area drew Wojciech Szczesny beyond his left post, Jarvis was able to run onto the rebound, heading home from inside the six to give the Hammers a 1-0 lead.
Thanks to a mistake from Stewart Downing, that edge lasted only four minutes. Attempting to clear a ball near West Ham’s right corner, the Irons’ winger played a long pass back toward the middle of the field, finding Cazorla above the penalty area. A ball quickly rolled toward goal allowed Podolski to take a touch before blasting a shot into the right side netting, bringing Arsenal even just before half time.
Early in the second, the Gunners claimed their first lead of the match, assuaging fears the Hammers could compound the team’s late-season problems. After a 55th minute corner was cleared out of the West Ham area, Thomas Vermaelen lobbed a pass back toward goal, finding Giroud in between Winston Reid and Andy Carroll. A skillful trap from the Gunners’ striker allowed him to get a shot off before Adrián could close down his angles, with the far post try giving the home side a 2-1 lead.
In the 78th minute, Giroud was part of the day’s final goal, putting a cross in from the left that found Aaron Ramsey just above the 18-yard box. The substitute midfielder headed the ball into the left channel, where Podolski quickly put a left-footed shot into the top of Adrián’s net.
Down two goals, the fight drained out of West Ham, with the urgent concern on Sam Allardyce’s face fading into calm conversation with his assistants. On the other bench, the worry that defined Wenger’s scowl after Jarvis’s opener gave way to a more settled resolve, that of a man who wouldn’t have to explain another failing after the final whistle.
Instead of failure, Arsenal can now embrace hope, with its Tuesday win giving fans reasons to believe the team can capitalize on its easy run-in. Win out, and the Gunners may yet return to Champions League.
For West Ham, the opening goal may have raised spirits, but points were never likely to come at the Emirates. The loss is less of a set back than the expected result.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Arteta, Rosicky (Ramsey 72′), Kallstrom, Cazorla (Jenkinson 88′), Podolski, Giroud
Goals: Podolski (44′, 78′), Giroud (55′)
West Ham: Adrian, Reid, Tomkins, Jarvis (Vaz Te 78′), Armero, Demel, Noble, Downing (J. Cole 78′), Diame, Nocerino, Carroll (C. Cole 84′)
Goals: Jarvis (40′)