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Monday, 29 December 2014

Arsenal end 2014 with win over West Ham

Arsenal followed up their Boxing Day win with victory over West Ham at Upton Park on Sunday afternoon. Goals from Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck sealed the points as the Gunners managed to hold off a late surge from West Ham to eventually win the game 2-1 after a second half goal from Kouyate. It was a more convincing display from Arsenal than we've been used to in recent weeks but we made the most of our first half chances to go into the break two goals to the good. What made it better for Arsenal fans was that Alex Song had a goal ruled out at the beginning of the match. It's open to debate as to whether the Gunners have been the same since Song left the club but Flamini and Coquelin did their best to extinguish any memories of Song's time at Arsenal. Coquelin was one of three changes as he replaced Rosicky whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain came in for Giroud. The other change saw Laurent Koscielny return from injury as Gibbs was rested.
Santi Cazorla opened the scoring from the spot
Although we were pegged back in the opening exchanges of the game, it was actually one of our most convincing first halves display in a long time. On Boxing Day we had QPR pegged back but we didn't really take our chances. However, against West Ham it was two shots on target and two goals. It was very pleasing to see us clinical in front of goal for a change. Our first half may have been clinical but the second was far from it. We had numerous opportunities to kill the game in the second half but we didn't take use of them. Thankfully, a renewed defence under Laurent Koscielny managed to hang on for another vital three points. Three points that took us level with Southampton in fourth who we play on new years day.

For the second game running we were awarded a penalty. Winston Reid brought down Santi Cazorla and the Spaniard was the one to take it. Alexis missed his penalty against QPR so there was no doubt over who was going to take this one after scoring penalties against Stoke and Newcastle. Indeed Cazorla fired the penalty home as he sent the keeper the wrong way. Cazorla's form of late has been excellent. At the start of the season he was extremely poor but in the last few months we've seen the Cazorla we saw when he first joined the club. He has his confidence back and everything we seemed to create against West Ham yesterday came through the Spanish international. He could've had another goal too if it wasn't for an outstanding display in goal from Adrian.

Adrian managed to keep the scores tighter than they should've been, denying Alexis and Oxlade-Chamberlain late in the second half. It was Chamberlain that created our second goal just before the break though. He exchanged passes with Debuchy before driving to the byline and sliding the ball across goal for Danny Welbeck to tap in. It was a goal that should bring extra confidence to Welbeck who will enjoy playing as the lone striker again now Giroud is suspended.

Welbeck's performance was brilliant though. Although Giroud has improved our play since his return, without him in the squad Welbeck gets a lot more room to run into it seems, and that was exemplary in his second halves display. He never stopped running and there was a particular moment when he picked the ball up on the left and then showed great pace to burst into the box before firing wide. Welbeck perhaps hasn't hit the ground running as we would've liked and his finishing does need improving but he's proving to be a good asset to a club that was lacking pace last season with Walcott out injured.

Arsene Wenger's team selection was an interesting one with Flamini and Coquelin starting at the base of the midfield but it worked. Flamini often comes under criticism for his performances, and that was deserved against Liverpool but he's put in two much better performances in the last two games. Francis Coquelin was excellent in my opinion though. He was making his first Premier League start for two years having spent loan spells at Freiburg and Charlton and he showed a great determination to get stuck in. He broke up the play well and showed just how important a proper defensive midfielder that is willing to be physical in the middle of the park is. His stats of 4 tackles, 5 interceptions and 7 clearances show just how important he was to our win at Upton Park.

At last we have all of our defenders fit and that showed with a more resolute performance. Although the fullbacks do need to close down the wider areas more to prevent crosses coming in we managed to hold out well in the dying moments of the game. Koscielny made our defence more solid and was very convincing in his aerial duals with Andy Carroll. Overall it was a much improved defensive display with Koscielny back in the side. Lets hope he stays fit now!

The games are coming thick and fast but with more players getting back to full fitness after injuries that gives us a better chance of getting results into the new year. As said earlier our next game is against Southampton. Another massive fixture and if we win we'll be in the top four. Promising times potentially lie ahead.

The team's line-ups:

West Ham: Adrian, O'Brien(77), Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell, Song, Kouyate(77), Amalfitano, Downing, Sakho(62), Carroll. 
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Collins, Demel(77), Noble, Nolan(77), Cole, Valencia(62). 

Arsenal:Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Coquelin, Sanchez, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain(89), Welbeck(84). 
Subs: Ospina, Chambers(89), Gibbs(84), Campbell, Walcott, Podolski, Akpom. 

My man of the match: Santi Cazorla.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick. 
Attendance: 34,977.  

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