After 3 games in charge, Unai Emery finally has some points on the board in the Premier League – and it wasn’t easy either.
Arsenal played host to London neighbours West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium, and managed to end the day with a 3-1 victory, with a Nacho Monreal finish, an own goal and an injury time addition from substitute Danny Welbeck seeing the Gunners come from behind following an Marko Arnautovic opener.
The Gunners weren’t the only side with a new manager looking to get some points on the board – Manuel Pellegrini was no doubt wildly eager to announce his return to England with a win at the Emirates after losses to Liverpool and Bournemouth in the opening two matches, but it wasn’t to be.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of West Ham’s line-up was the return of Jack Wilshire to the club he spent so much time with, with the English midfielder being kept pretty quiet throughout the game.
There were two surprises in the starting line-up: firstly, Mesut Ozil would be absent, as he was ill – he had reportedly missed training yesterday due to the ailment and was deemed unable to pay. The second thing was that 22 million Summer signing Lucas Torreira’s wait for a Premier league start continued, with the midfield remaining the side remaining the same as last week with the exception of Aaron Ramsey taking over Ozil’s position.
Coming into the game, Ozil would have been a player that West Ham fans would have been fearful of: he had been involved in five goals against the club in his past four Premier League appearances. Thankfully for Arsenal, there was enough quality in the team to see them through.
The Hammers made big changes to the side that gave away a one-goal lead to Bournemouth last weekend, with four players coming in.
Arsenal started on their home soil strongly, with former goal keeper Lukas Fabianski doing excellently well to prevent an effort from Henrikh Mkhitaryan after 10 minutes. After Hector Bellerin teed him up nicely, the Armenian winger hit a fine low effort, that the West ham stopper got down and parried away into the path of an offside Ramsey.
Petr Cech remained in the side for his 3rd start of the season, and his play-style seemed to vary between he traditional getting the ball up the field and playing from the back. In the long-term, the latter seems the more sensible, cohesive option, but at the moment seems risky at times, with an early pass between Cech and Sokratis nearly being capitalized upon by an onrushing Arnautovic.
The Austrian attacker silenced the Emirates soon after when, after his side had ramped up the pressure, found the breakthrough when he and new signing Felipe Anderson began exchanging passes on the edge of the Gunner penalty area. Arnautovic found himself with a yard of space and did not require an invitation to shoot – finishing low and making it 1-0.
While the atmosphere dipped, the performance picked up proceeding the goal. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found himself in lots of space and slid a neat ball in for an oncoming Ramsey, who was only stopped by a resilient challenge from Fredericks.
One minute later though, they’d done it – the equalizer. Mkhitaryan and Bellerin combined once more, with the Spanish full-back in lots of space on the right. Looking for Aubameyang, he placed a cross into the area, and after it dropped short and an ensuing kerfuffle in the box, the ball landed at the feet of Nacho Monreal.
Monreal had the patience to take a touch, tee himself up, and then blasted the ball past Fabianski. Back level.
A credit to Monreal, whose future appeared to be in doubt over the Summer, he has a tendency to come up with the goods. Amazingly, in 2018, only Alexandre Lacazette (6) and Aubameyang (10) have more goals than the defender in 2018.
The opening half hour of the game was an undeniably even contest, and the remainder of the first half continued to be end-to-end pay, with Arnautovic continuing to look particularly dangerous for the visitors.
Just prior to the half time whistle, Arsenal’s defence was nearly caught out to high up the pitch by the Austrian, who nearly found Anderson in the box. It’s not the first time this has cost or nearly cost the Gunners this season, so it was good the whistle came almost immediately afterwards so Emery’s side could regroup.
When the sides remerged, it was clear that Arsenal were playing with a far deeper backline in an attempt to avoid any further mishaps.
Lacazette was introduced in the stead of Alex Iwobi for the second half, and it was the Frenchman who brought about what would be the winner, offering much-needed urgency going forward.
Arsenal looked strong, and all they needed was a bit of luck – which arrived in the 70th minute in rather bizarre circumstances.
The ball was chipped into Lacazette, who took the ball down nicely on chest and then attempted to play the ball inside for Aubameyang. Trying to intervene, Issa Diop got in the way and deflected the ball straight past Fabianski, who could do nothing. An unexpected one, but they all count: 2-1 Arsenal, and the Gunners were ahead for the first time this season.
When the goal went in, the enthusiasm around the Emirates was clear to hear. This noise transferred to thee pitch, where now the Gunners had finally seized control. Shortly after the goal, Lacazette and Aubameyang had efforts saved, as well as Danny Welbeck, who took to the field in the place of the Gabonese striker with 15 minutes to go.
It was Welbeck who put the icing on the cake of Emery’s first Premier League win when, in the 93rd minute, he found the net.
Bellerin, who had been a constant attacking threat all day, surged forward once more, getting in behind Diop and finding the Englishman in the box. He was free enough to compose himself with a touch and made no mistake in rifling the ball into the roof of the net.
And with that, it was full-time and a 3-1 victory for Arsenal.
West Ham United were threatening at times, but unfortunately for them, they have now lost their opening 3 games for the 3rd time in the past decade.
For Arsenal, some points are finally – and ultimately, deservedly – on the board. After an at-times questionable first half performance, the side looked better in the second half, especially after going ahead.
Next up is Cardiff City away on Sunday week, and Emery will be hoping some momentum can be built upon following this result and the account can be opened on the road as well.