This match was set up to be the typical Arsenal Euro tie.
A necessity for rotation would see a weakened side rock up to St Jakob Park and lose with an insipid performance – only to see the result they were hanging on for come to fruition.
Well, the script didn’t come into play, as the Gunners ran riot and won handsomely – all while rotating the squad just enough to rest some first teamers.
Not only that, but Ludogorets defied the odds and grabbed a point in Paris – thus handing the Gunners top spot in the group.
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid may lay in wait in the knockout stages, but Arsenal have finished top of their group for the first time in five years.
A hat-trick from Lucas Perez and a fourth from Alex Iwobi earned the win in Switzerland, and the potentially tricky match against Stoke on Saturday will be a lot easier knowing Mustafi, Cech, Theo and a few others will be far fresher than if they were to have played against Basel.
Also, confidence will have been imbued within some of our players who have flitted in and out of the side.
Here are 5 key points from the 90mins: Lucas Perez up to speed
The Spaniard was only declared fully fit last week, and played in the EFL Cup loss to Southampton. Yet he showed great instinct to score his first two and grabbed his Hattrick with his right foot with a smart finish. Lucas could be a great option with so many fixtures coming up. Gibbs with 3 assists
Gibbs has been the epitome of professionalism while Montreal has been enjoying first choice status, but he hasn’t been resting on his laurels. The Englishman has improved, and his final ball and attacking runs caused havoc against Basel. Great to see. Alexis and Özil given 40winks
Much of the talk before the game was whether our two star players would be given a rest. They weren’t, as Wenger chased the unlikely prospect of top spot in the group. It paid off, and the two players were taken off in the 74th minute. Not much, but better than the whole 90. Every little will help with the slew of games coming up. Holding highly regarded
Rob Holding was given another start, and the young lad continues to impress. Alongside Koscielny, he showed excellent positioning and aerial prowess. If he continues this progress, what a player we will have in the future. Top spot matters
People will deride the fact that we have finished 1st, stating that we will still likely get a tough draw with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid potential opponents. What does come into play will be home advantage – the second leg will be at home. A slim plus, but a plus nonetheless – and any advantage is a good one in the knockout stages.
There was more to take from the game, such as another solid game from Gabriel and Iwobi looking a little more assured than of late, but the above really stood out as the big talking points of the game.
We took top spot, we won convincingly again and we took care of our squad.
Good times. As Arsenal fans, we should enjoy them when they’re here. That’s why we are fans.
After months of underwhelming, unconvincing and ill-fitting performances on the pitch, the Arsenal that we all know exists roared into gear – and destroyed West Ham in devestating fashion.
Goals from Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a blazing-hot hat-trick from Alexis Sanchez first put the home side on the ropes, and then sent them to the canvas.
Both sides were carrying injuries – Arsenal were missing Santi Cazorla, Hector Bellerin, Olivier Giroud and their long-term injured, and West Ham were missing Diafra Sakho, Michail Antonio, Aaron Cresswell and Gunners-terror Andy Carroll could only make the bench – but it was the quality of replacements that showed the gap between both clubs.
Arsenal brought in Gabriel, Granit Xhaka, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to fill the gaps in the eleven, whilst West Ham drafted in Fernandes, Ashley Fletcher and Arthur Masuaku. The difference in quality is marked, although all the back-ups for both teams were still more than able to cause damage.
The pattern of the match was visible from the start – Arsenal bossed possession, and West Ham looked to counter through Lanzini and Payet – but the lackadaisical ball carrying that has been the Gunners hallmark over recent outings was not on show. Instead, we moved the ball with purpose, with Ozil prying and poking in every cranny and Alexis looking to cause damage every time he received the ball.
West Ham’s game plan was being foiled by the awareness of Xhaka and Coquelin, who then offloaded quickly without fuss, to either of Oxlade-Chamberlain or Walcott. The end product may have been missing from both, but they were tireless and full of running, which took defenders out of position.
In short, Arsenal looked dangerous, vibrant and unplayable. The deadlock was broken, and predictably, it was Alexis and Ozil who were the architects. It began with Angelo Ogbonna attempting to play out from the back, but his tardiness meant that the alert Coquelin could block his pass. Alexis sniffed out the ball and ran into the box, before squaring it to Ozil to finish from six yards.
A simple goal maybe, but the positioning from the 3 Arsenal players completely built that goal.
The first half ended with Arsenal on top, and West Ham playing in fits and burst, but not truly troubling Petr Cech – the only threatening moment came when Obiang headed over from a decent position.
On the whole, it was a pretty perfect half from Arsenal – aside from a little profligacy in front of goal.
The second half was the fruition of wishes from Gooners everywhere – for Arsenal to return to the potent side they always threaten to be.
For the first twenty minutes or so, Arsenal continued to press and push the Hammers. That in turn created openings that really could have seen a shedload of goals and which would have killed off our London rivals.
West Ham at least woke from their slumber for five minutes. Dmitri Payet and Lanzini could have created an equaliser if it weren’t for Koscielny’s intervention – and Ashley Fletcher drew a smart save from Cech.
Then, Alexis made the difference again. Mustafi’s attempted pass was too strong, but the Chilean controlled it almost like he had boots covered in glue. He then turned sharply and angled a shot past Randolph in the Hammers goal.
The spirit had been dampened, West Ham were reeling, and seven minutes later, the Gunners had three.
Ozil attempted to outwit a defender, and the foiled attempt fell to Alexis, who fired past the keeper yet again. Clinical, and West Ham’s corner were ready to throw in the towel.
It wouldn’t be Arsenal without a wobble – and it was perennial Arsenal-botherer Andy Carroll who provided the drama. The big man had hobbled off the bench, and he was the first to react to a Payet free-kick which had pinged off the bar.
Jitters? Newcastle 4-4? Banterlecht? Last season against West Ham? Not this time.
Only a minute after conceding the goal from Carroll, Arsenal reapplied their foot firmly upon West Ham’s throat. It was lovely to see The Ox grab the goal with a great finish, especially after his previous minutes were not the most productive. It was a fantastic curling shot from outside the box.
The next goal was typical Arsenal – if there is such a thing.
Again, just a minute later, Arsenal threw a haymaker which connected flush with West Ham’s jaw.
Mesut Ozil laid a through ball on a plate for our wonderful Chilean. He was right on the threshold of offside, but his finish was a delightful dink over Darren Randolph. The assist and finish were pretty much the special moves from the respective players. Look out for Alexis’s little dummy before applying the chip – it was special.
Full time, and in truth, Arsenal deserved more. If it weren’t for some off-finishing and Randolph’s saves, West Ham fans would have left far earlier than they actually did.
There was so much to take from this game, but here are five big talking points from the ninety minutes:
Alexis MUST be signed long term
The Chilean’s dynamism, movement, desire and intensity were arrows the Hammers could not shield from. He is one of the leading lights in Europe and if Arsenal have any objectives this coming year, signing Alexis up long term must surely be top of the agenda. Imperative.Six of our last seven goals have come from him in one way or the other. He is the future. Pay him what he deserves.
Ozil was EVERYWHERE
There is an upcoming blog from myself objectively looking at Ozil and whether he has underperformed this season. It gets released tomorrow, and it is going to make me look like an idiot after this performance – as he showed the changing role he is playing this season. His touch map for the first half showed he was instrumental in everything we did. He is the catalyst, and he was the finsiher too for the first goal. It would be great if he could bag assists like they were going out of fashion, but his touch and vision can be implemented anywhere on the pitch. The German is genius.
Arsenal’s press was on point
At times this season, our harrying was not exactly efficient enough to cause our opponents problems. We didn’t see it through to all points of the pitch, but this game we didn’t give the Hammers makeshift backline any time to settle. We capitalised on a weakness, like a ruthless hunter. It will be needed throughout the season.
Xhaka and Coquelin worked
Coquelin is a destroyer, perhaps one of the best in the League. He does have his limits though. What he did do well in this game is he offloaded quickly and simply. He won the ball as he does, and then gave it to someone who can cause damage. Xhaka was just as protective, but his passing really did bypass any lurking Hammers midfielders, setting off Arsenal attacks regularly. While Ramsey may be a more conductive option, this combo is safe, and as long as Coq doesn’t go full Alexandre Song on us, we have options.
Revenge is sweet
West Ham recorded our first ever defeat at The Emirates. So to beat them so convincingly in our first match at the Tesco Arena really did add a cherry to the five-tier cake that was our win. Records stay around for a long time, so this blot on the Hammers copybook will always show that the Hammers were hammered by us in our first match together in the London stadium.
There was so much more to feast on in this game. Koscielny was solid, as was Gabriel at right-back.
It was so great – and relieving – to see Arsenal steamroller a side rather than tentatively poke at them with weak jabs whilst dancing around them. We showed the power we possess, and the confidence we can take from this will stand us in good stead for the flurry of tests which will follow in December and January.