I thought Mikel Arteta’s team might have a tough afternoon at the London Stadium but as it turned out, the players probably had one of the easiest afternoons they’ve had in a long time.West Ham might sing about forever blowing bubbles but they had their own big bubble royally burst during 100 odd minutes of football. Before the half-time whistle blew, West Ham fans were heading out of the stadium and on their way home. They’d already seen enough.
Last weekend, sports writers and pundits talked about how the Liverpool game might have been very different had Klopp had a fully fit squad to select from, conveniently forgetting that Mikel Arteta had injuries to deal with too. Yesterday, Mikel Arteta had an even smaller squad to select from, with Oleksandr Zinchenko ruled out and Jorginho not fit enough to start. Three academy players were on the bench; Ethan Nwaneri, Reuell Walters and Mauro Bandeira. They were joined by Aaron Ramsdale, Jorginho, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Mo Elneny and Cedric Soares.
Once again it was a set-piece which opened the scoring, or rather, the floodgates. Just over half an hour of the game had passed, a few chances for Arsenal had been spurned, when we were awarded a corner. Up stepped Declan Rice, up jumped William Saliba and it was 1-0. 1-0 became 2-0 when Saka fired home from the penalty spot. He’d spurned two really good chances before being brought down by the West Ham keeper so yes, I’ll admit I was nervous when he placed the ball on the spot. He clearly wasn’t. 2-0.
Four minutes later it was 3-0. Another corner from Rice, another defender out jumped the defence and another goal scored. This time it was from the head of Gabriel . Seven minutes had been added to the first half and it was during this period when we nabbed a fourth. Martin Odegaard played the ball to Leandro Trossard who made a bit of space before curling his shot past Areola. Super goal.
Another goal came just after the hour mark. A second for Bukayo Saka which came after a cut inside on the right. A trademark Saka goal. Then came a stunning strike from Declan Rice. I thought the chance had gone when Odegaard and Trossard left the ball for each other but as the ball fell nicely to Rice, there was clearly only one thing on his mind. What a goal!
6-0 up, Mikel Arteta made his changes. Saka, Rice, Martinelli, Trossard and White were replaced by Nwaneri, Soares, Elneny, Nketiah and Nelson – as much as they tried, no more goals were scored but it didn’t and doesn’t matter. 6-0 is a fantastic result and with it, the goal difference between City and ourselves has been wiped. The difference between us and Liverpool is now just one.
After the game, Mikel Arteta told Arsenal.com:
It’s really difficult to do what we’ve done today against West Ham away and really pleased with the performance collectively and individually and obviously the score tells you the story of the game. The level of purpose and determination that we showed, how much aggression and the courage that we had to put pressure on the ball all the time. You know they’re going to go direct, how good we were in every duel and everybody was really, really alive to play every ball.
To totally play West Ham off the park was special. To send thousands of home fans packing before the half-time whistle blew was incredible and to score 6 goals away from home was something not often seen. As a team, I thought Arsenal were excellent.
For anyone who wondered whether or not this Arsenal team could perform well after thrashing Liverpool at The Emirates, well, the answer was made clear yesterday by 4pm. Yes, yes they can and they did.
We now have just under a week before we take on relegation threatened Burnley. During that time, there’s a chance Jorginho, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emile Smith Rowe and Oleksandr Zinchenko might recover from the injuries which kept them out of yesterday’s game. Thomas Partey should be a step closer to a return too. At this stage of the season, it would be a huge boost for Mikel Arteta to have an almost fully fit squad to select from, especially as Champions League football returns after next weekends game. Fabio Vieira and Jurrien Timber’s return is on the cards too although I’ve no idea when. Later rather than sooner I suspect for the Dutchman.
Lastly, I know you’ll be reading so thank you for the photographs. Too bad you had to sit in the West Ham section but hey, why not? I know I would.
Catch up in the comments.