It was a much better performance from Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United, but in the end, they fell short against Unai Emery’s Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, losing out 1-3, today, we take an in-depth look at Five Massive Moments from the end-to-end London derby.
The afternoon’s and our first Massive Moment arrived on the 25-minute mark and it was something that very few were expecting to happen before kick-off in the capital, the visitors taking the lead.
In fact, up until that stage, Pellegrini’s men had been the better of the two teams, creating more chances and likely more likely, with stand-in captain Marko Arnautovic at the centre of their play.
He would be pivotal in helping to set up and scoring the first goal of the 3 PM kick-offs in the PL, heavily involved in the move and capping it off with a magnificent long-range finish.
Club-record man Felipe Anderson picked up the ball from Ryan Fredericks and Jack Wilshere and burst through the Gunners midfield line, exchanging passes with Arnautovic before the Austrian International shot first time with his right foot, besting the dumbfounded Petr Cech from outside the area.
After the ball hit the back of the net and the 3,000 travelling members of the Claret & Blue Army were sent into delirium, there was much promise for the Irons, the belief that they could go on to grind out their first point of the season, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The Gunners’ Leveller
The new-found optimism of the visitors was somewhat crushed on the half-hour mark at the Emirates, when Emery’s Arsenal levelled, scoring their first-ever home goal.
It was arguably the biggest in this list of Massive Moments as the away side were firmly in the ascendency for most of the first half and in truth, the North Londoners were extremely fortunate to be level at the break.
While the East Londoners spurned chance after chance at the other end, they also looked frail defensively, something that the hosts were able to expose with one of their only meaningful attacks before the break.
Right-back Hector Bellerin bombed down the right side, to get in behind Arthur Masuaku, once inside the area, he drilled the ball across the face and it reached defender Nacho Monreal, who was bearing down on a half-empty net.
The Spaniard only need set himself and fire home, which he did, making Pellegrini’s boys pay for their missed opportunities, which we will get onto later, and really reminding them of who they were playing against, setting up their second-half doom.
Hammers’ Missed Chances And Injury Woes
We have reached the part where we finally get to mull over one of the most wasteful Hammers attacking performances in recent history, a wealth of missed chances throughout the match, and a big injury woe, to boot, Massive Moments.
One positive to come from having so many chances is that West Ham were far more creative than the opening two matches, defeats to Liverpool and AFC Bournemouth, but what also comes with this reality is a great frustration.
The likes of Arnautovic, despite being the scorer of all the club’s strikes this season, Michail Antonio, Robert Snodgrass, Anderson, Javier Hernandez, Lucas Perez, Andriy Yarmolenko were all in the guilty party.
Arguably the pick of the chances arrived on the stroke of half-time, Arnautovic’s clever dummy allowed Snodgrass a close-range one-on-one with Cech, he could only fire straight at him, however, a familiar theme as the PL great was, remarkably, only ever left with simple saves to make.
The flow of Irons opportunities significantly slowed due to a second-half knock to Arnautovic, who was forced off after feeling the back of his knee in the wake of taking on an awkward shot, he is to be monitored in the next few days, and having been replaced by Chicharito, the attack never looked the same without him.
Pellegrini’s Second-Half Tactics
For the second week in succession, the tactics and team selection of Pellegrini, in his first few competitive games as Hammers boss, are being called into question off the back of a hat-trick of losses to begin his reign.
Ahead of kick-off in North London, the former title-winning gaffer with Manchester City decided on four changes to his starting Xl from the Cherries defeat, Fredericks, debutants Issa Diop and Carlos Sanchez, and Antonio came in, replacing Pablo Zabaleta, Angelo Ogbonna, injured captain Mark Noble and Hernandez.
However, these selection-based decisions, pound-for-pound, paid off for the visitors against their London rivals, so we are going to zero in on the calls made in the second period, following Arnautovic’s injury.
As aforementioned, Chicharito was introduced to replace the talisman, a move that made sense given the amount of chances that Arnautovic had been enjoying, however, Pellegrini immediately cut off one of the supply lines.
A mere four minutes later, wide man Antonio was subbed off for out-and-out striker signed from Arsenal in the summer, Perez, and he could offer very little in terms of service to Mexico’s all-time record goalscorer up front, had the gaffer decided to go with Yarmolenko, this Massive Moment could have kept West Ham in the match, even without their star man.
The Hosts Seizing The Advantage And Sealing The Deal
Of course, despite the fact that the opposition now looked depleted after muddling up the formation and personnel that worked so well for them before the hour-mark, the home team still had to finish the job, something they did emphatically, in a pair of the game’s Massive Moments.
Emery’s men grew more and more into the affair after the break and especially, after the injury, starting to create more chances than the boys in blue and yellow, it was only a matter of time.
However, it would take a huge moment of fortune for them to hit the front and take a 2-1 lead with 20 minutes remaining and it came courtesy of a Hammers player, young Frenchman Diop, on debut.
His poor clearance led to the Gunners working the ball to Alexandre Lacazette in the area, when he turned and volleyed, looking for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the ball hit the chest of Diop and went straight into the back of the net.
The second was more conventional for the Gunners, the strike that put the game to bed, substitute Danny Welbeck met a smart low delivery from the left, took a touch and drilled it past Fabianski, high into the net in added-time, and that was that, 3-1 at the Emirates.
So, now that all of the Massive Moments from yet another afternoon of sheer disappointment for Pellegrini’s bottom-of-the-table West Ham have been well and truly covered, will we be analysing more positive Massive Moments come this time on Wednesday afternoon, after the Hammers have paid Neal Ardley’s AFC Wimbledon a visit in the Carabao Cup? Join us once again then, to find out.