|Aaron Ramsey scored and assisted a goal as Arsenal beat West Ham|
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)