Premier League Match Report: Gunners soar after Giroud finds his feet
West Ham United 1 Arsenal 3: Misfiring Frenchman finally shows signs of true value with blistering finish to spark comeback
Arsenal's supremacy over West Ham goes back a good way in terms of results and League position and a ninth successive game against them without defeat carried the North London side back above their East End rivals after a vibrant derby.
With Andy Carroll proving a handful on his return, Sam Allardyce's side were briefly in front, only to be pegged back by Olivier Giroud and then overwhelmed in the last quarter of an hour. Giroud, having his best game for the club, set up substitute Theo Walcott for a fine finish, and with eight minutes left the ever excellent Santi Cazorla ensured West Ham's first home defeat since promotion.
As Arsène Wenger pointed out, Arsenal have recovered well from last weekend's home defeat by Chelsea to record successive 3-1 wins, first against Olympiakos and now here. "We started with a lot of questions raised around the team this season," Wenger said. "Overall it was a very important test for us and it was a convincing performance." Wenger – the object of tasteless abuse from West Ham fans during the match – admitted it was "impossible" to control Carroll for 90 minutes, although for the first 20 the big striker, starting for the first time in a month, was as busy heading away corners as feeding off what few scraps there were at the other end. He even had to block one fierce drive by Giroud from one of Arsenal's seven first-half corners, so it was all the greater a shock when West Ham took the lead.
The goal followed good work by George McCartney down the left, although there seemed no great danger until Mohamed Diamé suddenly turned inside Aaron Ramsey and swept a delicious shot across Vito Mannone into the far corner of the net. Booked, absurdly for an over-exuberant celebration, Diamé was treading a thin line and should technically have been dismissed when he clattered into Mikel Arteta with under half an hour played.
It would have been too much had West Ham doubled their lead, which they almost did when Carroll's firm header from a corner flew straight at a grateful Mannone. Instead, justice was done five minutes before half-time. Shortly after failing to direct his header from Per Mertesacker's flick on target, Giroud produced the sort of finish for which Arsenal paid some £10 million in the summer. The Frenchman began the move himself by sweeping a pass out to Lukas Podolski down the left, and then lunged forward to meet the cross with the equaliser.
The home side might have been ahead at the interval as a result of the revived partnership between great friends Carroll and Kevin Nolan. A long free-kick was nodded down effectively by the big striker and as the ball sat up his former Newcastle team-mate (and briefly landlord) could not quite set himself properly to guide it the right side of the post.
In the second half West Ham's early momentum was halted by a rash of substitutions. Arsenal lost their left-back Kieran Gibbs, who Wenger described as "very doubtful" for England's forthcoming World Cup games with a thigh injury. Andre Santos replaced him, but there was no evident injury to Gervinho, who had been playing down the right despite his recent scoring run of goals from centre-forward. Walcott came on for him. Next Ricardo Vaz Te suffered a dislocated shoulder after Mannone dived at his feet and be out until Christmas.
West Ham continued to look for Carroll at every opportunity and were almost rewarded when he climbed above the goalkeeper to reach McCartney's long cross, holding his head as the ball drifted wide. It was a key moment, as was the instant when Diamé lost possession and Giroud sent Walcott through for what he later called an answer to his critics. Cazorla has no critics, only admirers, and he rewarded them with a glorious third goal.
West Ham (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Demel (Tomkins, 73), Reid, Collins, McCartney; Noble, Nolan, Diamé (Cole, 82), Jarvis; Vaz Te (Taylor, 64), Carroll.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Mannone; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs (Santos, 56); Arteta, Ramsey; Gervinho (Walcott, 61), Cazorla, Podolski (Koscielny, 85); Giroud.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: Giroud (Arsenal)
Match rating: 7/10
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