Declan Rice scored his first West Ham goal to secure a hard-fought 1-0 home victory over London rivals Arsenal on Saturday afternoon.
The game started at a frantic pace, with both sides looking to claim an early advantage in the fixture. The first real chance came for the Gunners when Alexandre Lacazette was thwarted from close-range by Lukasz Fabianski, who was facing his former side.
The Hammers grew into the game and had a couple of decent opportunities of their own, firstly through Samir Nasri, who dragged his shot wide of the post after a neat build up. The former Arsenal midfielder then turned provider for Felipe Anderson, who was unfortunate to not add yet another long-range effort to his growing list.
After the break, West Ham started the better of the two sides and took the lead just three minutes into the half. Following some good wide play from Anderson, the ball fell to Nasri and he teed up Declan Rice for a delightful finish – his first in claret and blue.
The Gunners had a lot of the ball after Manuel Pellegrini’s side nudged ahead, but they failed to really test Fabianski too much, with Alex Iwobi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wasting their best chances of the half.
The Hammers defence soaked up the pressure, dug deep and held on for a deserved three points, as they moved up to ninth in the Premier League table.
Now, let’s analyse how they performed at either end of the field.
Analysing West Ham defensively
It was a much better defensive performance from the Irons than what they have displayed in recent weeks, having kept just one clean sheet in their previous seven league outings.
Issa Diop, who hasn’t looked as assured since Fabian Balbuena was struck down with an injury, put in a dominant display at the back. The young centre-half ensured that Aubameyang and Lacazette were unable to get in behind and have much of an impact on the game whatsoever.
Diop and his fellow centre-back, Angelo Ogbonna, made three tackles, five interceptions, two blocks and won two aerial duels between them, in what was a commanding defensive display.
Aaron Cresswell had his best game in claret and blue for a long time. The left-back got up and down the field superbly all afternoon and stopped Unai Emery’s men from having any success from their right-hand side. Cresswell made three tackles, three interceptions, four blocks and won two aerial duels.
Pablo Zabaleta also had a decent game, as he dealt well with the pace of Iwobi and ensured that the powerful Sead Kolasinac was unable to have an impact on the overlap. The right-back made two tackles, three interceptions, three clearances and two blocks, in what was a professional performance.
Not only did Declan Rice claim the only goal of the game and the man of the match award in the process, but his role in front of the back four was also absolutely crucial. The youngster ensured that Arsenal’s midfielders were unable to link up with the forwards, whilst making three tackles, three interceptions and two blocks.
Analysing West Ham offensively
Although the Hammers could only muster three shots on target during the game, they did create several good opportunities and should have probably scored at least another goal. It was more a lack of composure than anything else for the Irons, but given their solid defensive display, it didn’t really matter in the end.
After all the speculation surrounding Marko Arnautovic this week, his attitude and respect that he showed to the fans and the club’s hierarchy, was disappointing on the day. The Austrian did hold the ball up well at times, but he shirked a number of challenges and didn’t really give it his all. The forward had just one shot, completed zero dribbles and had only 25 touches in the game.
Samir Nasri showed real composure in and around the box for the East Londoners, in what was a performance of real promise from the new signing. Alongside his assist, the creative midfielder had one shot, completed two dribbles and didn’t lose possession throughout the entire afternoon.
Felipe Anderson struggled to really get into the game during the first half, but he was unlucky not to find the back of the net after linking up well with Nasri before the break. He was much better in the second half, though, as he got on the ball much more and brought others into play. Anderson had two shots, made seven successful dribbles and, surprisingly, chipped in with six tackles.
On the opposite flank, Michail Antonio really put in a shift for his side, as his work-rate and fitness continue to improve. The winger had one shot, completed seven dribbles and won one aerial duel.
Three points and a clean sheet is all West Ham can really ask for against Arsenal, even if the opposition were pretty poor on the day. Although Pellegrini will be looking for his side to be a bit more clinical with their chances, the boss will be delighted with the way his team defended, against two of the best strikers in the league.
Importantly, this Hammers team once again proved that it is capable of giving anyone a game on their day, and it should give them confidence ahead of the next few matches.