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‘Walking Along, Singing a Song’… Arsenal FC 1 – 0 West Ham United

We have seen days like this before, and will surely see them again: we huff and we puff, and struggle to breach the opponents’ defence. Arsene said afterwards he was relieved, as it looked like we would have to settle for a point, at best – and I can certainly agree with him. Despite a plethora of below-par showings in this Arsenal side, we stuck with it and finally made the breakthrough two minutes from time. I have been critical of Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong in recent matches, for getting too far forward, and (I felt) neglecting his defensive duties. Today, he – and perhaps Arsene – showed me just why he does this, and why I need to cut him some slack. Without him being on hand to head Clichy’s cross past Rob Green, we almost certainly settle for the solitary point.

I would characterize the match as more tense than exciting. This was due, understandably, to the minutes ticking by without an Arsenal goal. Watching on TV here in the metro DC area, I could still feel the tension in the stands at the Emirates. We certainly started with intent, and Arshavin forced Green into a fine save within a couple of minutes after the start. I felt he (Arshavin) had a good game – he worked hard throughout, at both ends of the pitch, and created chances both he and his teammates contrived to waste. The bright start did not last long, however. Our pace quickly dropped, and we settled for a gear or two lower than we should have. As a result, we did not cause West Ham too many problems, and they started to come into the match. They had only a couple of shots on goal, both from free kicks I think. They did not really look like scoring, but still caused us a few nervous moments from corners and free kicks. Mark Noble was particularly accurate with his deliveries, but they weren’t really able to get anyone on the end of them to convert.

We stepped on the gas towards the end of the first half, but that fizzled out. We started energetically in the second half, but West Ham put in a few hefty challenges, particularly their Captain Scott Parker, who got Cesc’s nose a bit out of joint. For the record, I did not have a big problem with what West Ham were doing – they held out for the first half, certainly believed they were going to get something from this game, and so decided to put us off our game. If our players didn’t appreciate what Parker was doing, the correct response should have been to give some back – and not direct retaliation, either, as the second man is always the one whistled.

Anyways, Boa Morte (remember him from Arsene’s early years here?) was booked for a shirt tug/shove on Denilson, and that was the last significant foul/player incident, until Chamakh was booked late on. Cesc, by the way, did get payback on his opposite number, smashing a shot directly off Parker’s face, which laid the latter out for a couple of minutes.

We upped the tempo and took almost complete control. Boa Morte’s foul on Denilson was punished by the booking and (almost by) a sweetheart of a free kick from Nasri. From 35 yards out, he beat Green all ends up, only to smash against the crossbar and over. From a goalmouth scramble, Green saved a Cesc first-time point-blank shot and despite getting the ball back several times, we couldn’t get another shot off and West Ham cleared.

I had hoped Arsene would change things up earlier than his customary hour mark, but he waited until almost 70 minutes (partially due to a stoppage while the prostrate Parker was attended to) to bring Theo on for Denilson. Within a couple of minutes, Cesc set him away, and Theo hit it well, beating Green easily. This time, the ball crashed against the post and bounced directly into Green’s arms.

When it’s not your day……..

With ten minutes to go, Arsene brought Bendtner on for Arshavin, and by now we had virtually all of the play, without looking like we would break through. With just a couple of minutes left, Clichy made a good run down the left, cut inside and curled a fine cross into the box.

For once, someone – Song – was on hand to head home. FINALLY!!!

The sense of relief was palpable, and despite two more minutes of regulation and five of added time, we held on comfortably. Extra time featured Arsenal passes all around the pitch, keep-ball at its finest. Last season, we were not able to hold the ball – when necessary – as effectively as this. Perhaps further evidence of a more mature and experienced side.

Another positive is winning without being nearly at our best. Our best players were clearly in defence – Clichy, Koscielny and Fabianski. West Ham may not exactly have put us under tremendous pressure, but they did cause us some problems. Clichy and Sagna defended our flanks quite well, Koscielny and Squillaci were both solid in the centre, and Fabianski was commanding and decisive again. This is what confidence does. Denilson did not have particularly good game. I imagine that injury (Diaby) and suspension (Jack) forced Arsene to pick the midfield he did, but I think it was still too defensive, considering we were playing the bottom-of-the-table side.

Theo should have been introduced at halftime, in my opinion. Some would say Chamakh had a stinker; I prefer to characterize his afternoon as a fine player having an off-match. In his defence, he did work hard throughout the match, and the service he got was generally poor. But I also felt he was slow of thought and reaction today – when the ball did come to him, he either lost it, or was slow to react, allowing the West Ham defence to mop up. When the team does not play particularly well, Arsene likes to say we “lacked sharpness”. Chamakh personified that term today. I just felt he was not sharp, not quick enough to react to what his teammates were trying to do. All players have matches like this, so it is nothing to get worried about. If this becomes a trend, then we have a problem, but I do not expect it to be such. As with the Theo substitution, I thought Arsene waited too long to bring Bendtner on, and Chamakh should have been the player to make way.

Cesc was rather subdued today as well, and Arsene said afterwards that our captain felt his troublesome hammy again, and that he considered subbing him at halftime. Cesc made it through the entire match, and as long as we were deadlocked, there was no way Arsene would bring him off. We got the win, but the question now becomes at what cost? We have a long flight to the Ukraine for Wednesday’s CL tie in Donetsk – a minimum of a point should virtually ensure progress to the knockout round, and three will do it, so this is a match we should have our strongest side for. But if Cesc’s hammy is still bothering him, it may be prudent to keep him behind for the trip. Fortunately, a rested Jack will be available for selection, and he should be an able deputy.

Even though this is Arsenal-focused, I try and say a word or two about the opponents. West Ham played well today, and I certainly would not have begrudged them a hard-earned point, if they had managed to hold out for the entire match. They were solid and organized, and admirably stuck to their plan of trying to avoid conceding, and perhaps hit us on the break. Similar to Chamakh, Piquionne got very little service up front, but still worked hard while he was on (Cole came on for him late on), and made a nuisance of himself. They may have had some poor recent results, but they can take plenty of positives from the performance and effort today, regardless of not bringing any points back across London.

So we won without playing particularly well. Another Highbury House regular is a fellow New York Giants (National Football League) fan, and when we previewed their game against the Detroit Lions a couple of weeks ago, I characterized it as a classic “Trap Game”. In the NFL, we call that a game where a good, top-of-the-table team (in this case, the NY Giants) plays a lowly, downtrodden team (Detroit) they are expected to easily beat, with a much more significant and difficult match (at the Dallas Cowboys) looming. We call it a “trap” because the favorites sometimes fall into the trap of looking too far ahead and then get turned over. For Arsenal, this afternoon’s fixture was a “Trap Game” for them, one which they thankfully got through. Let’s try and make this the exception (not playing well, that is) rather than the rule.

It is good we got three points here, as we are set for a pretty demanding upcoming six weeks. We have the remaining three group CL ties (two away), and a series of tough away fixtures (Everton, Wolves, Villa), a couple of should-not-be-so difficult home fixtures versus Newcastle and Fulham (not that I want to see Mark Hughes), the League Cup quarterfinal tie versus Wigan, and a home derby versus the Spuddies. It culminates with a mid-December trip to Old Trafford. This will not necessarily make or break our season, but will go a long way towards telling what we really have with this side. Whatever happens in these matches, we should see some old friends who have been gone, but certainly not forgotten. Robin should be back by or for the Spuddies, and hopefully Tommy V will be back soon as well.

For me and for many of us I am sure, the best moment will undoubtedly be when Aaron Ramsey runs out on the pitch for the first time since the Britannia.

Written by Oliver

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44 comments on “‘Walking Along, Singing a Song’… Arsenal FC 1 – 0 West Ham United

  1. Morning all, great read yet again oliver, thank you….

  2. I think Wenger is playing Denilson in the defensive role and leaving billabong to do as he likes to a degree, i’m glad he was there to head home, didn’t nikki miss it?

    credit to clichy too, great bit of play to make room for the perfect cross, haven’t been able to write that for a while….

  3. Wenger…

    ‘on a new dimension to Song’s game…
    He is [adding that to his game] because when you sum up his game today he had three good chances: the goal he scored, the one on his right boot and the header in the first half that touched the bar. He has got the taste to go forward, even if I think a little too much sometimes for a holding midfielder! But that is part of our game as well’.

  4. I think so far so good n I don’t remeber that last time arsenal won by 1-0 three clean sheet a row is a nice spurise
    the back five were focus that is not the word u
    normally describe the arsenl defend the other posetive from the game was the OLD clinchy is back n hope he continues this form about chamack I didn’t see him shooting once for a striker this is really bad I love his work rate but he has to step up specialy when our midfilder have an off day that when we need him to score that single goal to win us the game If you remeber last season against fulham away we were stragling and rvp came to rescue us oh yh I just reameber that game finshed 1-0 basicaly what am tryna say is I wante to see him scoring the single goal out of nothing when we are not performing and so far I didn’t see it I know he won us pen but away from home arsenal wining the game with single goal by scored by chamack that I wante to see

  5. Hi T, I think Chamakh is wacked, he needs to be rested for the CL game and let Nikki have a game, the service to him was poor to be honest…

    clichy was so much better, good to see…

  6. Boo! Still smiling. :) As accurate and fair an assessment as one could give, oliver. Great write! I agree, we labored and nearly capitulated to a team intent on parking the bus, but win we did, and it’s hard-fought wins such as last night’s that will define our season.

    Morning, rico and Tarsenal.

  7. I know but watching bendtener is soo frustrating this goes to arshaving, denilson, djouru and ofcourse diaby and vela
    risco I know our midfield didn’t give him much but he had enough chances as a striker to score if you remeber the arshaving cross if it was another day when the midfield plays well you know he is gonna get another chance but what I wante to see from him is scoring when the match is tight n gets that chance n scores am a bit harsh on him but we miss that type of player can you imagen we hv tevez or drogba in our side we can play two at the back n still win the game

  8. Morning agag, still smiling about clichy’s fine cross :)

  9. T, JD and Vela both need playing time, Vela is low on confidence and right now the way AA is playing he looks tired – i would play Vela…

  10. agag, i think you are spot on, 2 maybe 3 seasons ago we possibly wouldn’t have fought until the end to get all 3 points. Some times we have to accept that the boys will not all fire together but ultimately three points were earned, and boy were they earned….

  11. Morning Rico,

    (or afternoon to WordPress :-) )

    Oliver, that really is an excellent summary/analysis and your reference to the Giants and the “trap game” is all so true.

    We have fallen straight into the trap so often in the past, and nearly did it again yesterday. An 88th minute clincher was leaving things a bit late!

    On the other hand, it could have been so different. If Nasri’s shot onto the bar or Theo’s shot hitting the post had gone in, it would have looked an easy win.

    In addition, Arshavin should have been given a penalty for the tug on his shirt.

    All good stuff! :-)

  12. Hard to break WestHam down yesterday but got through in the end .Great Goal by Alec Song.Hope Cesc hammy is not to bad it a good job Jack can play in our next game… .

  13. Good recap. I’ve been saying for a while that Song’s new-found versatility is a good thing. As long as he is selective about when he bombs forward – and as long as the rest of the team is mature enough to plug the gaps – this additional dimension to his game makes us more unpredictable and therefore more dangerous. Three in three games for Song now, and 10 in 15 for us as a team between minutes 81 and 90 of matches. That’s the sign of a team that will keep believing and fighting to the end. Good stuff, even though the performance as a whole was patchy.


  14. I really rate Vela too, rico. But he seems to be amazing only when we’re winning. :) He’s my favorite chipper of goals. :P

    I feel that he really should take advantage of the rare starts he’s granted to try to impress AW. Competition in his position is high, particularly since Chamakh has taken virtually no time at all to settle, Bendtner is looking sharp, and our first-choice striker is set to return. (well, fingers crossed)

    I can’t imagine one with his talent wanting to warm the bench for so long… :(

  15. Morning RA, i thought a penalty would have been a tad soft, nasri’s free kick was stunning, he was so unlucky… But for an on form Green we would have thrashed them :)

  16. Hi Rosicky7, you and me both, wouldn’t risk him for the CL game….

  17. agag, i just think last seasons jet setting for mexico near on destroyed him, he is a great talent and i can’t see wenger letting him go… With AA playing so on and off maybe its time to give the little Mexican a run….

  18. In and out for the next hour, but not far away :)

  19. Fabianski has shown what an extended run in the team can do to a player’s confidence.

    Which of the two, Fab2 or Chesney will play on Wednesday at Shakhtar Donetsk?

  20. It was one of those games where although Arsenal deserved all 3 points, West Ham would have deserved a point. Unfortunately the points cant be split that way, but it was a good game. The ref tried to let the game flow as it was a London derby and on the whole, thought he did a good job. My only negative was Fabragas. The day Viera left (not an easy void to fill, he was fantastically inspiring), Fabragas declared himself as the new Vierra and he would take on that mantle general. Since then all he seems to want to do is go nose to nose with people. Tough tackling is part of the game, he won’t play any games without them and retaliation is a great way of picking up needless bookings. I remember thinking at the time Vierra left, why does he want to be the new Vierra when he can be the original Fabragas? He has awesome creative ability which I’m sure you Arsenal fans would prefer to see rather watching him sit out games through the odd ban.
    Good luck with the title race and hope the Champs League goes well in the next few weeks.

  21. RA, Chesney I hope…

  22. Hi Hammer and good to see you here…

    Green was outstanding yesterday and you fought hard. Its always easy to say ‘we were poor’ but some of that has to be down to way you guys played. I didn’t think we were going to get all three points…

    I honestly don’t know how you sit at the bottom of the table, you don’t deserve to be. Good luck for the rest of your season, i’m sure Grant will pick things up. You just need your strikers to start finding the net….

  23. All quiet so off to walk the mutts….

  24. Somewhat disapointing day, yesterday, for freeman, Galindo and Mannone, all unused substitiutes again.

    At least Berkley had a full 90 minutes for Sheffield Utd, after recovering from his injury. Apparently he played well.

    Sunderland are currently being stuffed by the Bar codes, 3:0 at end of 1st half. Ouch! :-)

  25. Hi RA, i was reading that earlier on JB’s sight, whats the point in Mannone or any of them going on loan and not getting playing time – they should have gone to a club that really needed them….

  26. sight = site :oops:

  27. By the by, rico, the site hits are now past 100K. That is so cool. And still quite a young site. :)

  28. i didn’t notice agag, thats good news :)

    its very young, only 10 weeks old ;)

    you off for the day now??

  29. Its been dreadfully quiet today, i guess everyone is out celebrating Halloween …..

  30. It’s raining here, feels dismal, rico. And I’m too old to play dress up. :P But I should be going out in a little… You??

  31. Not me agag, too many fireworks around and last night the dogs got really grumpy listening to them… wouldn’t want to leave them howling on their own…

    not my thing really either, don’t agree with all the trick and treating thing, feel sorry for all the old folk….

    And I am definately too old to be dressing up ;)

  32. It’s raining here too… and I want Bolton to score :)

  33. hi all! rico, thanks as always for fielding the comments and criticisms and ably defending our corner…

    if the billericay hammer is still here, i thought your side did quite well yesterday, and certainly belied their position in the standings. as i said in the match report, i had no problem with parker, et al getting stuck in – they had just completed 45 minutes of giving the arsenal players very little time and space, and kept the scoreboard blank. if the hammers were goint to take the next step and actually win the match, they would clearly need to up the intensity and physicality, which they did. i thought the referee did a fine job of not letting the players referee the match for him, and used common sense to keep an edge to a derby match, without letting it boil over. when cesc started complaining i imagine he was frustrated about being subjected to a couple of hard challenges in quick succession – but that is part and parcel of the game. cesc may still be young, but he can look after himself quite well. he and nasri are the two players in this side that have mean streaks and are not above dishing it out themselves – or giving it back…

    good luck for the rest of the season. while i understand grant and the side’s first priority is to move out of the bottom three as quickly as possible, we are both in the league cup quarterfinals, so perhaps we shall meet again in that competition.

    ra, i also noted the tug/push on arshavin inside the box. i suggest that not getting a penalty for something like that is a by-product of chamakh’s embellished fall against birmingham a fortnight ago. by the letter of the law it is a penalty – as was when the defender (da costa?) was all over chamakh inside the west ham box. like it or not, he and arsenal now have a rep, and one of the consequences of that rep is that “soft” penalties will be more and more difficult to come by. remember the eduardo versus celtic incident last season? even though uefa vindicated eduardo, the damage was done through perception and we did not get a penalty again until late in the season – at stoke, i think…

  34. I find it all rather pointless. Why on earth would any girl willingly go out in public dressed as a banshee, a bunny, or Rainbow Brite??? Eeeek. I really am old and missish, I guess. ;)

  35. Hi oliver, as always its been my pleasure, i love reading your match reports, they make much better and easier reading than my attempts..

    Like RA, i loved the reference to a trap game, i’m not sure the players thought it was game won before KO, but i know i certainly did :(

  36. You certainly won’t catch me dressed up looking like Bugs Bunny agag :shock:

  37. oliver, i also believe that it was just a bad day at the office yesterday for many of the players, just like against WBA.

    The difference being that yesterday our defence was pretty solid and we had a keeper who has finally gained confidence.

    We all know that a goal keeper who believes in himself and performs well gives confidence to those in front of him. We haven’t had that in a long while but right now you can see the difference.

    Right now I don’t think any of our players worry about the Pole in goal…. That’s why we are keeping clean sheets….

    Long may that remain…

  38. Right you fine folk, i’m offski…

    be good and stay and catch you tomorrow…

    nighty night…

  39. hi rico. agree with your points and i would also add that west brom were inclined to attack us, put us under pressure, and they were able to score. west ham wanted to keep it tight and nick a goal. they kept it plenty tight, but never really looked like scoring. i am not sure our players were necessarily looking ahead, but they were certainly flat yesterday. if arsene had either jack or diaby to select instead of denilson, we may have had a more fluent attacking side and may have been able to score more goals. although, i will say that having denilson in the side means that song can get forward more with someone to cover his back.

    a win is a win, and we needed this one yesterday. games are coming quickly. i would like a win in donestk as the rule for arsene’s sides has been they are pretty useless when traveling to eastern europe. then we will face a stronger barcodes side in our next league match. they looked pretty good taking the mackems apart in the tyne-wear derby.

  40. Morning all, anyone around?

  41. oliver – re your last, I quite like seeing Song more offensive, I’m not so sure that Denilson is good enough to cover him though. I know many will disagree but I would like JD to play alongside/just behind Song. He is more athletic and his true position is in midfield…

    But then where would that leave Denilson? Glad i’m no football manager…

  42. LTrawling the newspapers for news is funny sometimes, this morning it’s full of the Lardy and Kompany brawl, Yaya being allowed to leave eastlands at half-time last week to miss the traffic and Mancini is on his way out…

    Money doesn’t always bring good fortunes does it, to think, i thought he would go before Christmas, not quite this early though :lol:

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