A game-long duel between Alexandre Lacazette and Lukasz Fabianski was denied a fitting ending as Vladimir Coufal was sent off with a quarter-hour to play of Arsenal’s 2-0 win over West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Lacazette set up Gabriel Martinelli’s goal but was denied by Fabianski on several occasions including a second-half penalty as Arsenal moved into the top-four without suspended star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Arsenal’s top-four status comes with an asterisk, as Man United is two points back with a match-In-hand and Tottenham is four points behind with three matches-in-hand, but the four next to the Gunners’ name will music to the ears of its relatively-long suffering fans.
Arsenal’s 29 points are one more than West Ham, who have just one win in six matches (though that was a defeat of Chelsea).
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Arsenal vs West Ham final score
Arsenal 2-0 West Ham
Goals scored: Martinelli 48′, Smith-Rowe 87′
Shots: Arsenal 21-7 West Ham
Shots on target: Arsenal 8-1
Possession: Arsenal 57-43 West Ham
Three things we learned from Arsenal vs West Ham
1. Arsenal backs up its boss after Aubameyang ouster: Mikel Arteta’s belief has not wavered (publicly) for a moment since he left Pep Guardiola’s Man City for the first chair in North London. Arteta has shown his love for his players including the currently-suspended Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, backing the Gabonese striker’s new deal at Arsenal. But despite putting himself out there for the player in such a nascent stage in his managerial career, Arteta has twice punished Aubameyang for breaking team rules. The most recent example saw Arteta also take the captain’s arm band from Aubameyang, and how did his players respond? By beating a very good West Ham team in decisive fashion.
2. Fabianski vs Lacazette a near-90 minute feature: Ex-Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski flummoxed the Gunners for most of the match, but Alexandre Lacazette and his men kept pushing and pushing and pushing until they broke through for the win. Lacazette put three shots on target, only missed on three of 23 passes, and had two keyt passes. He was very, very good against a very, very good keeper who made six saves in defeat.
Fabianski saves Lacazette's penalty!
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 15, 2021
3. Coufal’s second yellow ends West Ham’s hopes: The Irons rarely looked a threat to do much of anything in North London, but Arsenal’s failure to finish a few chances — again, ex-Gunners goalkeeper Fabianski sure played his part — left the game in the balance… right up until Vladimir Coufal’s penalty-conceding challenge on Lacazette in the 67th minute. Even though Lacazette saw his penalty saved, it means one less man for a team that wasn’t really in the match from the outset. Both of Coufal’s yellow cards were questionable if not wrong, and David Moyes will certainly come down on the angry end of this debate.
Man of the Match: Alexandre Lacazette
It could’ve really been any Arsenal player shy of Thomas Partey, Aaron Ramsdale, or Bukayo Saka (and they weren’t bad at all). Again, this was a complete performance from the North London’s red set.
Emile Smith-Rowe wows again.
“And now, for my next act,” said the young man they call ESR/
Arsenal’s defense the real deal
Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes look like the center back pairing of a decade that Arsenal has been claiming for several duos over the past 10 years.
And Arteta is getting a lot out of his fullbacks while growing a very decent group of young players. With Granit Xhaka returning to health, the big question is how he’ll keep players happy in a season without European demands.
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West Ham needs a break
You can have great depth and be tired during a European campaign, so this is not an insult to the rotation at West Ham.
But David Moyes’ system demands an awful lot from his players and the Irons look like they need a week off more than perhaps any other team in England.