Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 victory over West Ham in the English Premier League on Wednesday night
Despite looking slightly shaky at the start of the match, Arsene Wenger’s side were in complete control throughout and looked like they were slowly regaining some semblance of form after the 2-2 draw with Manchester City over the weekend.
Mesut Ozil opened the scoring after taking West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph by surprise before cleverly setting up Theo Walcott for Arsenal’s second goal. Substitute Olivier Giroud then wrapped up the proceedings with a brilliant curling effort from the edge of the area to ensure Arsenal took all three points at the Emirates.
The result means that Arsenal have now moved ahead of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United to 5th place – albeit on goal difference – and are only four points behind Manchester City, who have played one match more than both the Gunners and the Red Devils.
It was a much-needed victory for the Gunners who have looked completely out of sorts in 2017, and Manchester City’s loss to Chelsea on Wednesday night also meant that the race for the top 4 is now firmly back on for Arsenal. We take a look at the key talking points from the match.
Mesut Ozil slowly getting back to his best
Mesut Ozil has endured a torrid 2017, much more so than several of his Arsenal teammates, as the German has been unfairly scapegoated by the media, pundits and fans alike as Arsenal’s form has regressed alarmingly.
The German looked at his worst in recent weeks and many took this as a sign that he had given up on Arsenal and was just waiting until the summer to angle for a move, but it was clear that Ozil was simply suffering from a crisis of confidence, brought on by his unfair treatment.
Last night’s performance went some way to silencing his critics. Ozil was immense, completing 5 key passes, 3 successful take ons, 80 accurate passes and ending the match with a goal and an assist – opening the scoring and then assisting Theo Walcott for the second.
Wenger on Ozil: “I feel that he’s back physically and focused. I felt he was hit hard by us going out of the Champions League.”
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) April 5, 2017
Theo Walcott’s numbers
This season is Theo Walcott’s 10th season with the Gunners and it is fair to say that he has failed to live up to the expectations many placed on him – even though many placed an unfair amount of weight on his shoulders.
A combination of injuries as well as poor form has meant that Walcott has had a very stuttered career with Arsenal but when the winger manages to stay fit and gets a run in the side, he always manages to achieve a good return in terms of goals and assists.
Walcott’s best tally for Arsenal thus far is his 21 goals in 43 appearances back in the 2012-13 season. This season, he has already picked up 18 goals in 31 appearances and looks well on his way to bettering that tally.
#afc most goals & assists this season (all comps):
Alexis 37 (22G, 15A)
Özil 21 (10G, 11A)
Walcott 21 (19G, 2A)
Giroud 17 (13G, 4A) pic.twitter.com/YgyIIVLkR5
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) April 5, 2017
Granit Xhaka’s magnificence
Granit Xhaka, along with Mesut Ozil, were brilliant for Arsenal last night. The midfielder showed exactly why Arsene Wenger bought him as he was at his influential best throughout the match against West Ham.
Several Arsenal fans wrongly assumed that Xhaka was brought in as the man to solve the Gunners’ defensive midfield issues, but he is not, and never has been a defensive midfielder in the classic sense of the word.
What the Swiss international does best is keep things ticking over and use his superb passing range and ability to pick out players all over the pitch with ease. Last night, Xhaka had a chance to exhibit his full range of passing and he did exactly that.
Granit Xhaka was the only Premier League player to complete 100+ passes during midweek.
Passes in every part of the pitch. 👏pic.twitter.com/a5BQbzVHqU
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 5, 2017
Elneny impresses in midfield
Mohamed Elneny was handed a rare start alongside Granit Xhaka and he definitely made his mark on the midfield. Elneny is a neat, mobile player who rarely gives the ball away and with his energetic running, Xhaka was able to flourish.
Elneny was always putting pressure on West Ham opponents and whenever Arsenal went on the attack, the midfielder exhibited his intelligence by constantly playing quick passes and moving into space, easing the pressure on Arsenal players in possession of the ball.
It was one of Arsenal’s best performances in recent weeks and Elneny was definitely a big contributor to that. Given Arsenal’s poor form, perhaps it is time for Elneny to regularly start over Francis Coquelin in midfield.
Xhaka/Elneny vs West Ham
93% pass accuracy
3 key passes
4 aerials won
11 ball recoveries pic.twitter.com/L0syay7lgQ
— Hass (@TrequartistaFC_) April 5, 2017
Martin Atkinson had a terrible game
It is often unfair to criticise referees as it is one of the most difficult jobs in football, and it is very rare when a ref gets every call right in a match. However, last night there were some bewildering calls from Martin Atkinson.
Theo Walcott was clearly fouled in the first half, but Atkinson simply waved play on. Clear fouls on Arsenal players – including two incidents where an Arsenal player appeared to be on the receiving end of illegal elbows – went unpunished. The biggest howler, however, came towards the end of the match, when Arsenal were denied yet another penalty.
— Siddhant Prakash (@Siddhont) April 5, 2017
Nacho Monreal was clearly brought down in the box after a dangerous tackle from a West Ham’s Sam Byram, who not only went studs up onto Monreal’s ankle, but also allowed his trailing foot to take the Spaniard down.
Once more, Atkinson – who had an unhindered view of the incident – simply waved on play when everyone – including the West Ham players – expected the whistle to be blown from a penalty. The calls for video evidence will only get stronger on the back of performances like this.