I am honestly displeased and disappointed when the full-time whistle was blown and the score remained at 2-0 in the favour of West Ham United. I don’t hate West Ham for defeating Arsenal. They played well, and they played with such fervour and ferociousness that they had every right and reason to win. Arsenal, on the other hand, played limply and as though this was just a friendly match.
Prior to the official kick-off of the 2015-2016 Barclay’s Premier League season, they had won the Barclay’s Asia Trophy, defeating Everton 3-1, and the Community Shield 2015 against Chelsea with a score of 1-0. So what happened last night against West Ham? What went wrong?
This was what I thought that went so horribly wrong last night: they lacked the precision in their fancy footwork.
Let’s start with former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. Famous in the world of football for being a tall and lanky shot-stopper. Well-known among the Blues at his former stadium for being able to tip shots over the post to keep clean sheets. Feared by strikers for being an incollapsible Great Wall of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But do we wholly heap the blame on Cech for his inability to keep both West Ham goals out of the Gunners’ net? Do we point fingers at him and say that he’s old, and not as lithe and flexible as the younger goalies? Would Wojciech Szczesny, Damian Martinez, or David Ospina have done any better? No. I don’t think so. You can have the best goalkeepers at your front door but if your defense is a “holey matrimony” on the field, then no great goalkeeper will be able to keep your rivals’ goals at bay.
Next up for dissection is the defensive back four. Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny, Mathieu Debuchy, and Per Mertesacker. This should have been Arsenal’s game. What began as a promising match ended up in a lacklustre performance for Arsene Wenger’s men as West Ham proved time and time again that the Gunners has a shaky defense. And from what I’ve seen so far, they’ve got a lot of work to do to improve this part of the team. Koscielny and Mertesacker aren’t newbies in this role and they should have been more careful the moment the ball comes back into their half of the field.
Now what were Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doing? These players are no strangers to scoring goals either. So what caused them to slip and slide last night? How was it possible that they so easily lost possession? One minute they were running with the ball. Next minute, they’ve fallen over and lost the ball. I noticed, on numerous occasions, that Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain were guilty of dancing around the field with their fancy footwork. What is the point of dazzling your fans with magic when you can’t convert it into goals? Then again, I suppose players have their bad hair days too.
Last but not least, the strikers. Wenger went for the 4-2-3-1 formation, instead of his usual 4-4-2. Which meant that Olivier Giroud was given the lone striker role. Giroud had his chances but squandered them all. For someone who used to score quite frequently, during the match, he failed to score even one goal. Perhaps he didn’t quite get the support he needed from his teammates? We’ll never know.
One could see frustration mounting towards the end of the match, when the Arsenal players stupidly gave away free kicks and committed mistimed tackles. Luckily for them, the referee had not brandished any yellow cards at the Gunners, allowing them to escape with only a warning. Arsenal should have won, not because West Ham was a lousy team. Arsenal should have won, because: (1) Arsenal had the upper hand, creating many chances and opportunities but failed to convert them, (2) Arsenal was seen as the favourites to win, and West Ham were the underdogs, and (3) Arsenal had the manpower to overcome their rivals.
To quote BBC, “West Ham were able to beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium because they got their tactics right and also because they had the discipline to stick to their plan and make it work.” (Match of the Day 2 Analysis, August 2015)