West Ham United (1) – (2) Arsenal
Ramsey (78′), Eduardo (83′)
Upton Park, London
All the pre-game talk was whether Arsenal should take the FA Cup seriously.
My personal view was that recently with Arsenal, the FA Cup has become almost like the Carling Cup. In recent years Arsene has prioritised the Champions League and Premier League, and whenever he’s had big league or European games he’s always played a weaker side in the FA Cup. Ever since we last won it in 2005, we haven’t come close to winning it again. With the demands on the squad, that’s no surprise.
The fact is the rewards for a decent Champions League campaign and Top Four finish in the league is far more beneficial financially than lifting the FA Cup will ever be.
So the starting eleven for today’s game would depend on both our league position and the number of injuries to the squad. We’ve already lost Van Persie, Bendtner, Clichy, Gibbs, Denilson and Fabregas so there’s no point risking our title challenge by losing more big players – and we’re in a decent position going into a gruelling January/February schedule (Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool in consecutive league games) so I would put those 6 pointers as a greater priority than the FA Cup.
Surprisingly, Arsene decided on starting Sagna, Vermaelen and Gallas in defence. Silvestre slotted in at left-back and Ramsey, Song and Merida started in midfield. Vela, Eduardo and Wilshire made up the forward line.
With our defensive situation precarious and no real cover for Gallas and Vermaelen at the heart of our defence, I was surprised they both started but with Senderos failing a fitness test I guess we had no choice. And I suppose them both starting highlights the lack of options we have in defence.
So we had a relatively strong team out. With Song leaving for the ACN we had nothing to lose starting him, and Ramsey deserved his chance to prove he can step up as a Premier League starter after his impressive display at Portsmouth midweek. Wilshire and Vela would always be involved and Eduardo is in need of minutes under his belt.
The first half was scrappy, and there was no real cohesion from Arsenal.
Eduardo had a shot from distance which tested Green after a West Ham error and Vela had a shot that was comfortably saved from the angle. Vermaelen also had a half chance from a corner when Green flew off his line but his half volley sailed high and wide.
Both sides were trying to find their game and Arsenal’s attempts to find their free-flowing football was nullified by West Ham’s high-tempo performance.
And in first half stoppage time, West Ham got their break.
Silvestre tried to play a suicidal offside by jumping forward and raising his arm but Kovac’s through ball found Diamanti who slotted the ball into the corner.
West Ham 1, Arsenal 0.
Crazy defending from Silvestre, who is so over the hill he’s on a different continent. Seriously, I find it hard to name another Premier League footballer who is more passed it than Silvestre. He is simply awful now.
Arsenal stepped up in the first half without really troubling West Ham. Eduardo really does look like a shadow of his former self and you worry about this form going into the massive games at the end of the month. He takes far to many touches, and just doesn’t seem decisive in his play. It’s strange because after his first comeback from the horrific injury he was back to his clinical scoring ways (remember the cheeky side-footed volley that went into the top corner last season?) but his second comeback has been tentative and has no sign of improving.
On 65 minutes Arsenal brought on the in-form Nasri and Diaby for Wilshire and Merida.
Arsenal immediately had more purpose about them and Diaby had Arsenal’s first real chance to equalise. Song went on a run and found Diaby, who’s shot was saved by an on-rushing Green.
Then Aaron Ramsey, who was probably Arsenal’s Man of the Match scored a well deserved equaliser. Nasri picked up the ball on the right hand side, and found Diaby, who played the ball onto Song. He then fed the ball inside to Vela who flicked the ball into Ramsey’s path and the Welshman lashed the ball into the bottom corner with his left foot. A fantastic goal and richly deserved from the midfielder.
Ramsey looked decisive, accurate and very composed throughout the game and was much more effective once Nasri and Diaby came on to compliment his style.
Diaby was almost studded in the face after a ridiculously high foot from Jimenez and got off without even a booking. But Karma kicked in almost immediately as Song found Vela on the left, who sent in a wonderful, sweeping cross into the middle. It found Eduardo, and he amazingly found the top corner with a header from the penalty spot.
The header couldn’t have been more accurate! And a stunning goal which will hopefully help Eduardo raise his confidence.
After that Arsenal were stepping up the gears and really pressurised the West Ham defence. Eduardo had a header from a corner flash over the bar and Arsenal were getting in behind the defence time and time again. Vela also had a well made chance saved on the line after more impressive play from Ramsey.
It was interesting to note that Eduardo, Vela and Ramsey’s performances became more effective once Diaby and Nasri were introduced, and once Eduardo went into the centre and Vela moved out to the left. Encouraging in the least part as Ramsey, Eduardo and Vela may need to be called upon in the coming weeks. Arsenal struggled with too many changes (Vela, Wilshire, Ramsey and Merida) but today showed that one or two introductions (Ramsey and Vela) into the first team doesn’t have to disrupt the Arsenal style of football.
The difference in cohesion from the first half to the last 30 minutes was massive. But it showed that players like Vela and Ramsey are up to the task.
A great day for Arsenal and an encouraging performance.
Update: Arsenal drew Stoke Away in the FA Cup draw.