Gunners go Top as Hammers drop
Written By: Robert Halter
After a goalless draw at home to Chelsea, the next derby for Arsenal was at West Ham United on Boxing Day. In the tenth minute, a two handed save by Wojciech Szczesny kept out Mark Noble’s direct free kick, following a foul by the Gunners’ Mikel Arteta on Hammers player Mohamed Diame. Six minutes later, Adrian was tested for the first time with a header by Santi Cazorla on the edge of the box but the Irons shot stopper clawed the ball away to safety. In the twenty fifth minute, Diame struck an effort from long range but Szczesny kept control by pushing the ball upwards but collected the ball comfortably at the second attempt. A minute later, the Gunners broke as Aaron Ramsey floated the ball over for a lurking Theo Walcott at the near post but he turned his shot wide. On thirty three minutes, a neat lay off by Mesut Ozil supplied the opportunity for Cazorla to shoot from range but the ball fizzed over. Cazorla then opened up the Hammers defence for Olivier Giroud to race clean through a minute later, but Giroud’s strike was dragged across the right side of the area to give West Ham a reprieve. The Irons were then delivered a blow as James Collins was unable to continue and replaced by Razvan Rat. Three minutes from normal time in the first half, Joey O’ Brien made a saving clearance from Ozil’s cut back from the right flank, after Ozil had been played in by Cazorla. Then in the forty fourth minute, after Gunners captain, Thomas Vermaelen had been pulled down by O’ Brien, it was Ramsey that drove a free kick against the wall but as the ball broke clear, Arteta sent a drive narrowly wide. In stoppage time, after Kevin Nolan was denied by Szczesny from a flick on by Mark Noble from a Rat free kick following a handball by Vermaelen, Arsenal then broke again as Kieran Gibbs sent a cross flashing past the face of the goal to end the half. A minute into the second half, the Hammers broke the deadlock as Szczesny failed to hold onto Nolan’s strike from the edge of the area, and it was spilled out to Carlton Cole at close range, who snapped up the rebound to ram the ball in. Then on fifty minutes, Szczesny pulled off an important diving save to prevent Matt Jarvis adding a second, to keep Arsenal in the game. Four minutes later, a cross by Diame on the right was met with a diving header from O’ Brien which went fractions wide of the far post, as again the Claret and Blue went close. Another chance fell to West Ham on fifty seven minutes, as Rat’s ball in, set up Cole but he miss timed his half volley in front of the right post. But it was Arsenal cursing their luck on just under the hour mark, as Adrian kept out Cazorla’s low drive and then responded with a miraculous stop to prevent Ozil’s follow up strike. In a second change, the Hammers replaced O’ Brien for Guy Demel before the Gunners were forced to take off the injured Ramsey for Lukas Podolski. But the Gunners drew level on sixty eight minutes, as Walcott found space in the area and his shot managed to squeeze through the hands of Adrian, for a fortunate equaliser. Finally it was the straw that broke the Hammers back, as Podolski’s left wing cross cannoned off James Tomkins and with a bullet header by Walcott, the ball crashed the back of the net in the seventy first minute. But within two minutes, Adrian prevented Podolski scoring from close range, after Cazorla’s well placed through ball. After Cazolra had curled a shot wide from just outside the box, the Irons made their last substitution by taking off Nolan for Matt Taylor. But on seventy nine minutes, Arsenal had the game wrapped up as Walcott’s cross was touched on by Giroud and with a curling strike, Podolski bent the ball into the right corner. The Gunners then replaced Ozil for Mathieu Flamini before taking off Giroud for Nicklas Bendtner. On ninety minutes, Cazorla found Bendtner in space but his shot brushed George McCartney for a corner. At the end the Hammers went close as Joe Cole fired wide of the left post, having been set up by Diame but it was too late in the day.