Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Arsenal maintain form with win over West Ham

Arsenal maintained their excellent form in the Premier League on Saturday with a comfortable win over West Ham. Such is the form that we've now won eight consecutive League games at home for the first time since 2005. Earlier in the season we managed to overcome the same opposition at Upton Park when they were in form. However they're now in poor form and we took advantage of that to stay in third place and rise to within a point of City after their defeat to Burnley. After the game against Manchester United the team were full of confidence and you could see that with some of the play and the way with which we moved the ball around. Arsene Wenger did however have Monaco in midweek in mind as we made a few changes from the game against United. Ospina returned in place of Szczesny whilst Chambers was recalled ahead of Bellerin. Walcott earned a rare start whilst Giroud replaced Welbeck. The other change saw Cazorla rested as Aaron Ramsey started.
Aaron Ramsey scored and assisted a goal as Arsenal beat West Ham
What was most pleasing about this Arsenal performance was the quality of the goals we scored. We had to remain patient in the first half and chances went begging through Walcott who had a brilliant chance early on. However remaining patient is what Arsenal under Arsene Wenger has been all about. The goals though epitomised Wenger's Arsenal. West Ham had set-up to frustrate us, their back four sat deep whilst their midfield left barely any room for our midfield to break though. For that reason it was going to take something special to break the deadlock but that was exactly what happened. Ozil, Ramsey and Giroud all interlinked brilliantly with one touch fast paced football which accumulated in the opening goal. Ramsey set the ball back to Giroud who got the ball out of his feet before hammering the ball home. It was an extremely clinical finish from a man who looks to be in the form of his life.

Olivier Giroud was vital in the win, and his flicks and delicate touches lead to a host of Arsenal chances. I mentioned the Walcott chance above, and it was one he really should have scored. However in the build up Giroud played a lovely flick into Theo. Giroud was also to play a similar role in what turned out be the third goal, turning the ball round the corner for Cazorla who had a brilliant second half cameo when he came on. The Spaniard played the ball across goal for Mathieu Flamini to tap home for a rare goal. It was his first goal since March 2014. That only added to Giroud's contribution to the game though as he assisted the second goal of the game, scored by Aaron Ramsey. Giroud feinted out the way of the ball before Ramsey played a one-two with him and then slotted home on his left foot.

Aaron Ramsey was indeed another of the game's outstanding performers and his goal was greatly deserved. He's struggled with injuries this season but on occasions has shown signs of his form in 2013/14. Yesterday against West Ham he certainly showed the qualities he displayed last season. Ramsey provided a brilliant partnership with Coquelin in midfield and his late runs into the penalty area caused the Hammers defence all sorts of problems. The Welshman was unlucky not to open the scoring in the first half, seeing a close range volley saved well by Adrian. Of course Ramsey would go onto get his goal in the second half, but he also supplied Giroud for the first. It was a brilliant display from the midfield man and hopefully now he can kick on as we head into the final stretch of the season.

Not just was our attacking performance convincing but so was the defensive side. I thought Laurent Koscielny was absolutely outstanding at the back and he dealt well with the threat in behind of Diafra Sakho. Koscielny played brilliantly as he effectively acted as a sweeper, clearing balls out and getting in ahead of the opposition on numerous occasions to prevent goal scoring chances. Per Mertesacker was improved and put in a solid display, as did the ever improving Nacho Monreal. Calum Chambers was good in attack and set up a few chances but he still remains a defensive vulnerability at times. On occasion he let Jarvis go but West Ham's end ball into the box always seemed to be lacking which meant for a relatively easy afternoon for Arsenal's defence.

Arsenal's subs all played a role in helping to extend the lead when they came on though. Danny Welbeck was very lively when he entered the fray and he definitely offered more than Theo Walcott. I must admit I've had my doubts over Welbeck's inclusion over Walcott in recent games but yesterday exemplified why Welbeck has been starting more. Theo seemed quite rusty and had quite a poor game by his standards. He should and could have had two goals but he lacked that clinicalness in front of goal. I mentioned Cazorla's cameo when he came on too, grabbing an assist for Flamini who's goal should give him a boost of confidence after returning to the side.

Our passing game throughout was absolutely exceptional. On numerous occasions the midfield and attack interlinked brilliantly which was shown with the extreme quality of the goals and how easy we made them look. We could perhaps be guilty of not scoring more as both Ozil and Walcott spurned chances. One improvement I noticed from recent weeks was that we looked a lot more calm and composed on the ball, something that we'll have to maintain as we go to Monaco in the week.

Results since that first leg defeat have given me confidence that we can indeed go there and reach the quarter-finals but I can't help but feel we've left ourselves with too much to do. Only time will tell but this squad has immense confidence at the moment so a miracle could happen!

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Walcott(71), Ozil(83), Sanchez(65), Giroud.
Subs: Szczesny, Gibbs, Bellerin, Flamini(83), Cazorla(71), Welbeck(65), Akpom.

West Ham: Adrian, O'Brien, Kouyate, Collins, Cresswell, Song, Noble(83), Jarvis(75), Nolan, Downing, Sakho.
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Onariase, Cullen, Poyet, Amalfitano(75), Nene(83).

My man of the match: Aaron Ramsey.

Referee: Chris Foy (Replaced by Anthony Taylor mid-way through second half)
Attendance: 60,002.

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