David Moyes’ West Ham United conceded three goals in the final ten minutes to lose to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon, in the first match since the French manager announced his departure from North London.
The Gunners first took the lead early in the second period after a relatively even first 45, defender Nacho Monreal getting a rare goal from a set-piece with Marko Arnautovic then equalising for the visitors in the 54th-minute of the affair.
A lapse in communication between Declan Rice and Joe Hart at the back for the Irons allowed Aaron Ramsey to restore the home side’s advantage with just under ten minutes remaining, forward Alexandre Lacazette adding an additional two later on to ensure a 4-1 scoreline that wasn’t entirely reflective of the encounter.
Three points in a hotly-contested London derby for the Gunners saw them stay in sixth place, moving within six points of Chelsea above them and four points clear of Chelsea below, meanwhile, the Hammers did move their position by dropping a point, falling a single place to 15th and a mere six in front of relegation danger.
From the start in a Sunny North London, home manager Wenger, just days after announcing that he will leave Arsenal after 23 years at the end of the season, made five changes to his starting Xl from last Sunday’s league defeat to Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
Departing from the side was goalkeeper Petr Cech, defenders Rob Holding, and Nacho Monreal, youngster Joe Willock who helped the Gunners’ U23s to beat the Hammers on Friday night to win the PL2 Division 1 title and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, they were replaced by David Ospina, back four members Hector Bellerin and Laurent Koscielny, further forward Aaron Ramsey and England forward Danny Welbeck.
Meanwhile, visiting boss Moyes went for zero alterations to his own team from the last time that they took to the field, a draw a day later at the London Stadium against fellow strugglers Stoke City.
Controversially, Three Lions shot-stopper Joe Hart kept his place in goal despite a critical error in the stalemate with the Potters, while the man who earned them a point on his return from injury on Monday night Andy Carroll remained on the substitutes’ bench, so too fellow comebacker Manuel Lanzini.
Once the match could begin on an emotional afternoon in North London, with appreciation for Wenger rife, the team that enjoyed the better of the early play weren’t the ones many expected to.
In fact, the away side looked to be the bigger threat inside the first 20 minutes, this was after Laurent Koscielny had wasted a superb early chance for his team, rising to head inches wide from a corner.
This allowed the East Londoners to get forward for one of the first time in the game, looking to capitalise on their fortune in one box, Joao Mario was the man causing the problems, very nearly playing Edimilson Fernandes in for a one-on-one and then testing Ospina himself with a low shot from the edge of the area.
His comrade up there Arnautovic, West Ham’s leading goal-scorer then had two opportunities of his own to open the scoring, first being played through and being denied by a Shkodran Mustafi tackle and then getting to force an Ospina save after Aaron Cresswell’s clever ball forward, one of the best opportunities of the opening 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate saw his close-range header loop off the top of the crossbar from a Mario corner, but the away side’s advances almost woke up the home side.
Danny Welbeck was a threat match-long and when he got in behind on 23, he could only lay off to Hector Bellerin to smash high into the stand behind the Hammers goal.
The next time that the Three Lions man had a sight at goal, Welbeck decided to pull the trigger and it proved a much better option this time around, his long-range effort flying inches wide of the post.
A large portion of the North Londoners’ goals this season have come from set-pieces and they nearly had another just before the break, Swiss International Granit Xhaka struck a sweet free-kick that Hart was able to get in the way of.
In terms of first-half action, that was just about it in the warm temperatures as it ended with an Arsenal worry, Mohamed Elneny having to be substituted off through injury, taking up several minutes on the floor receiving treatment.
Ramsey striking wide on the stroke of half-time brought a fairly even first half to an end, both teams had enjoyed their moments, but had come up with nothing to separate each other thus far.
However, the two weren’t going to be locked together for much longer as the second half began with a bang for the league’s sixth-placed team and no one could say their start didn’t warrant it.
A corner delivery from the left found Monreal, who had seen his effort from a similar position saved by Hart moments earlier and lost his marker from the set-play.
The Spaniard was left to smash home a delightful first-time volley from inside the box, although questions were asked of the defending between Arthur Masuaku and Hart, more questions would follow.
A period of Arsenal dominance, in which the Hammers did well not to concede would follow, but the hosts just couldn’t make things a little more comfortable for themselves, they would pay the price soon after.
Moyes’ men, buoyed by the introduction of Lanzini and Javier Hernandez from the bench, started to look like they might stand a chance of getting back into the encounter.
Just moments after Arnautovic fired a volley on the turn over the bar, the Austrian International was presented with a second opportunity that he just couldn’t miss.
A ball was flighted into Arnautovic with Ospina punching and the outfit from East London recovering possession, Kouyate found substitute Lanzini to poke it to the lone striker on the left side of the area.
Arnautovic controlled and pinged a racy volley with his weaker foot into the far bottom comer and send the vocal travelling Claret & Blue Army into delirium, his tenth of the campaign and his tenth in the last 16 in the league.
A key relegation point was now in sight for Moyes’ men in a clash that had followed a similar pattern to their draw at Stamford Bridge weeks earlier and if they were to get it, Hart would have a key role to play, much like in West London.
Fresh from his notable mistake in the most recent daw with the Potters, the shot-stopper pulled off a pair of stunning saves to deny, first Xhaka from range and then Welbeck’s curling attempt from the edge of the area.
But, his hard work was about to be undone, a swift Gunners break saw a cross, that was flicked away well by Rice, come in from the right, Ramsey picking up the pieces on the near touchline.
The Welsh International, his fellow countryman for the away team Janes Collins looking on from the Hammers end, delivered what was little more than a speculative and under-hit delivery.
Rice came to meet it at the near post and ducked out, believing Hart would be behind him to claim, though he was nowhere to be seen and the ball fell away into the far corner as the Young Irishman despaired.
This heartbreak for the visitors would well and truly open the floodgates and present Wenger’s men with a chance to significantly improve their goal difference, which they would take.
Frenchman Lacazette who had worked hard to reap the reward of a pair of late goals, initially added to the lead a mere three minutes after his team had regained their advantage.
A silky move involving Welbeck and substitute Aubameyang worked the ball out to Lacazette, looking to beat Hart at his near post and doing so from just inside the box with the help of a Cresswell deflection to well and truly put the game to bed.
The Gunners decided that they wanted another for good measure and Lacazette was the man to get them up to the even number, with Ramsey adding an assist to his goal.
The Wales star cut the ball back for the Frenchman to take a touch and open up the angle, firing past Hart from the centre of the box with the Englishman’s touch not enough to keep it out.
And with that, the home side, in rather fortunate circumstances, got a convincing win for their long-standing boss in the blistering heat, leaving the visitors bemused and frustrated at how they’d let the scoreline slip so drastically in the Gunners’ favour late in the match.
There will be very little time for Wenger’s side to reflect on a sixth-straight home win before they welcome Atletico Madrid to the Emirates for the first-leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final.
Whereas, the top six opponents keep coming for Moyes’ boys after they lost a three-game unbeaten run, welcoming Premier League champions Manchester City to London Stadium for another pivotal home match next Sunday afternoon.