It was a cold, wet evening at the Emirates on Wednesday for the Olympiacos game and after many a tense moment and getting completely drenched sitting five rows back from the goal, I was left not only with a cold but a feeling that, while the wheels weren’t coming off exactly, they were starting to wobble.
Our defeat to Chelsea was the start. Perhaps it was because it was our first defeat of the season. That and feeling robbed at not managing to secure the draw we undoubtedly deserved. But that feeling of riding high on a wave so early in the season had most certainly gone. And the nervy end to the Olympiacos game did nothing to allay my fears.
But onwards and upwards, and off to Upton Park to face West Ham.
Our play looked quality from the start. Beautiful football from little Santi Cazorla once more, linking up nicely with Arteta, in sharp contrast to West Ham’s constant attempts to HOOOOF it forward.
Within the first twenty minutes we saw two great attempts from Giroud and a cheeky shot from Cazorla, all on target. Even when the Hammers got near the goal, BFG and Jenkinson were solid in defence. With early possession 73% to the Arsenal, West Ham were soaking up a lot of pressure from the boys in red (well yellow!).
So after dominating the game for so long in the first half it was absolutely gutting to get hit on the counter attack with a goal from Diame for West Ham around 20mins. Within ten minutes of the goal Diame got away with a late tackle on Arteta that surely would have earned him a red card had he not had one already.
The game seemed to turn, with West Ham getting more possession and our zonal defending letting us down again with Carroll getting a good attempt on goal with a header that Manonne thankfully saved. But we kept on going, battling against the Hammers’ clunky play.
Giroud must been starting to think he was jinxed as yet again he failed to score, not managing to get on the end of a nice ball in from Merts. But as we passed 40 mins Giroud broke the drought, scoring a beautiful equaliser after a lovely ball in from Poldi – incidentally also netting me £15 (faith rewarded). And oh how they sung – na na na nananana, nananana, Gir-oud!
So into the second half on a high, but it was obvious West Ham were very much still in the game, with a decent amount of possession and us making some silly mistakes. Wenger then looked to make some changes, first subbing Gibbs off for Andre ‘he drives how he wants’ Santos and then – after Manonne took a nasty kick to the head when Vaz Te left his foot in, Theo came on to replace Gervinho who was erratic in his play yet again.
At 60 minutes it was end to end stuff, Podolski first making a brilliant run giving Giroud a go, then back up the other end for Carroll before back to us and a Cazorla getting a shot that sadly failed to hit the back of the net.
We were under pressure and it looked like Nolan was set to score (despite being off-side) but for a vital tackle from Mertesaker that left him limping. The ref was also having a bit of a mare – first with Cazorla cruelly denied a penalty, and then changing his mind over whether we’d got a corner.
But we came back stronger than ever, heaping the pressure on, with three corners in quick succession but none failed to materialise into goals. A goal was coming, you could feel it. And so it came, in the shape of a classic pacey goal from young Theo Walcott, notably started by Cazorla.
More pressure, more corners, more attempts on goal. And another goal! Cazorla’s hard work and total class throughout the game was rewarded with a stunning goal off his left foot – a goal that gets better and better every time you watch it. Surely one of the goals of the season.
It was a nervy extra time for me as we sat on 3-1 – which I’d bet on and stood to win £150 if the scoreline remained at full time. We still had more chances though, Cazorla and Giroud both having good attempts. And I would have been happy to lose the £150 just to increase our lead over the Hammers and boost our goal difference in the table.
But the scoreline did stick and as well as the euphoria of winning the game, I had an extra £150 in the bank plus another £15 for Giroud hitting the onion bag.
And what a game! As much as they tried to frustrate us and upset the rhythm of our play with their scrappy game, our quality shone through.
Final score: West Ham 1 – Arsenal 3
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