Gabriel and Holding on target as Arsenal win at West Ham to stay in fourth place | Premier League


Two goals from central defenders, both following corners, and an overall performance that was unconvincing. Mikel Arteta did not care. To the Arsenal manager it was not about how the victory came or in what kind of style. It was simply about the result.

Arsenal could feel the pressure, with Tottenham having beaten Leicester earlier in the day to jump above them into fourth place. Arteta’s team had to react and they did so, keeping the dream alive of a first Champions League qualification since 2016. The north London derby at Spurs’ stadium on 12 May looks increasingly like a potential blockbuster.

Rob Holding, in for the injured Ben White, had not scored since September 2019 but he capitalised on loose West Ham marking on a Bukayo Saka delivery to make it 1-0.

With one eye, surely, on Thursday’s Europa League semi-final return at Eintracht Frankfurt – West Ham are 2-1 down from the first leg – David Moyes had mixed and matched, starting Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio on the bench. The manager would lament that they were missed on defensive set pieces as much as anywhere else. Moyes was also without three of his key centre-halves.

Jarrod Bowen’s equaliser before the interval was merited on the balance of the first half, with Arsenal flat for long spells. But the game turned when the home team could not defend the second phase of another Saka corner. When Gabriel Martinelli crossed, Gabriel Magalhães was all alone to power home the header. And that was pretty much that.

Arsenal might have had more through Eddie Nketiah, who led the line with drive and attitude, albeit without end product. But for Arteta the smooth outweighed the rough. Arsenal had brought an incredible record against West Ham into the game – 20 wins from the previous 27 league meetings, with only two defeats. There would be nothing to blemish that here.

Moyes asked Aaron Cresswell to play on the left in a central defensive two, with Ryan Fredericks away from his preferred flank at left-back and Bowen filling in up front. With West Ham’s top-four hopes effectively over, there were not the same do-or-die imperatives for them, although they shaded the first half.

Jarrod Bowen watches his shot beat Aaron Ramsdale to score West ham’s equaliser.
Jarrod Bowen watches his shot beat Aaron Ramsdale to score West Ham’s equaliser. Photograph: Katie Chan/Action Plus/Shutterstock

For Arsenal it was another of those slow starts that so frustrate Arteta; the movement telegraphed, the decision-making “sloppy and imprecise,” to quote him; the basic oomph missing.

The visitors did little until the 38th minute. That was when Martin Ødegaard released Nketiah, whose low shot forced Lukasz Fabianski to tip behind. The effort might have been more precise, although Arsenal did not mind because, moments later, they were in front. It was strange to see Holding up against Manuel Lanzini on the corner. He duly brushed him aside and glanced into the bottom corner.

West Ham had been more proactive up until then. Kurt Zouma had a header blocked while Lanzini saw Holding throw himself in front of a shot after Vladimir Coufal’s cross had deflected. Holding emerged with honours at both ends. Declan Rice also side-footed weakly at Aaron Ramsdale. The equaliser had been signposted. Ramsdale threw up a hand to keep out Rice’s near-post flick from a Pablo Fornals corner and it came when Rice picked out Coufal, who cut back for Bowen. The striker’s first touch set up the shot and the technique on it was excellent, conjuring power, the ball flicking off Magalhães and beating Ramsdale. It was his 16th goal of the season – and 10th in the league.

West Ham felt that Ramsdale got away with one on 53 minutes when he tore out of his area to stretch into a high challenge on Bowen, who had chased a ball forward and got there first. Moyes called the tackle “reckless” and it unbalanced Bowen, who went down. The referee, Mike Dean, felt there was no contact and harshly booked Bowen.

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Saka, as ever, rarely wasted the ball. He thought that he had put his team back in front, jinking inside and unloading for the near corner, only for Fabianski to turn it behind. But Arsenal did score from the corner when West Ham again caved uncharacteristically.

Up went a posse of bodies, with Moyes complaining that Holding had led with his arm and handled. When the ball ran through to the far side, Martinelli returned it towards the back post. No one went out to Martinelli and, even worse, nobody tracked the run of Magalhães, with Lanzini especially culpable. The header was too strong for Fabianski.

West Ham had nothing left and they were fortunate that Nketiah did not add to the scoreline from any of three breakaways. “We won ugly,” Arteta said. Nobody was about to argue.



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