Five things we learned from Arsenal's frustrating goalless draw with fast-improving West Ham

Arsenal's attack mis-fires again, David Moyes works his magic and Jack Wilshere stakes his claim

Grant Dalton
Wednesday 13 December 2017 23:28
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West Ham held Arsenal to a goalless draw
West Ham held Arsenal to a goalless draw

Arsenal were held to a goalless draw by West Ham United at the Olympic Stadium as they struggled to break down a packed Hammers defence, a result which leaves them without a win in three games.

After a quiet first half, which saw Marko Arnautovic’s header rightly ruled out for offside and Alex Iwobi’s low shot cannon off the post, Arsenal came out with more energy in the second half, with Mesut Özil and Olivier Giroud going close before the hour mark.

But the breakthrough never arrived for the Gunners, leaving them frustrated at the final whistle. They looked shaky in defence too by the end, with Javier Hernández striking the underside of the bar with the best chance of the match in the 90th minute, after some sloppy defending from Arsenal.

The north London side dominated possession but struggled to break through the massed West Ham defence, which kept a second consecutive clean sheet after going nine games without one.

Here are five things we learned:

Gunners’ sharp-shooters misfire again

Arsène Wenger decided to mix up his attack for this match, with a formation change and Olivier Giroud coming in for his first league start of the season, after a late goal against Southampton on Sunday. But they were blunt once again here, with Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil offering little cutting edge and Giroud starved of service up front.

The Frenchman was always alert in the box, and had a good chance after winning a 53rd minute header in the middle of the six-yard box, but Aaron Cresswell did enough to divert the ball out for a corner. Otherwise the West Ham defenders kept the 31-year-old fairly quiet though, and this was not a convincing audition for a starting berth from the Frenchman. Most of his team-mates did little better though, and Özil’s disinterest was palpable at times as his side struggled to make the breakthrough.

Giroud failed to make an impression

Moyes works his magic

David Moyes may not have been the most popular or imaginative choice for the West Ham job, but he has shown his qualities as a Premier League manager in the past few weeks, as West Ham have been transformed from an ill-disciplined defensive unit into one of the best-marshaled defences in the league.

They kept their shape well in the face of Arsenal’s passing and movement, and were prepared to put their bodies on the line to tackle and block Arsenal shots, Aaron Cresswell in particularly taking a blow when blocking Olivier Groud’s first-half attempted bicycle kick.

In Cresswell, Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna he the basis of what could be a very good defence, and the squad is clearly responding well to his tutelage. Mark Noble looked especially fired up for the game, as he so often is for London derbies, and he has taken up the mantle of Moyes’s organiser on the field well, receiving regular instructions from the bench.

Moyes has worked his magic on West Ham

Wilshere stakes his claim

After waiting 577 days for a Premier League start for Arsenal, Jack Wilshere took his opportunity to impress Arsène Wenger with an accomplished performance in central midfield. His touch looked sharp for a man short of first team football, and he was key to most of what Arsenal did right in attacking terms. He certainly offered more spark than Granit Xhaka alongside him, and made a good case to retain his place even after Aaron Ramsey returns from injury.

He missed a decent chance in the 70th minute from Olivier Giroud’s knockdown, shooting well over the bar, but he was not put into this Arsenal side for his shooting ability and can’t take too much responsibility for the Gunners’ stalemate. He was certainly short of the sort of runs in front of him that he thrives on, as West Ham denied the Arsenal forward line any space to play in. The Englishman is unlikely to have to wait so long for his next Arsenal appearance on this evidence.

Wilshere was finally handed his chance by Wenger

Does the London Stadium finally feel like home?

Four points from two home games against Arsenal and Chelsea represent a dream return for David Moyes, but they also suggest that the Hammers might be bedding in at last at the London Stadium. Their struggles at the stadium, and its lack of atmosphere compared to Upton Park, have been well-documented, but it played its part in this encounter.

The stadium still feels a little hollow much of the time, but it also can bring some unexpected waves of noise, like the roars of West Ham supporters for a penalty after Manuel Lanzini went down in the first half. West Ham are now unbeaten in three home games, and considering their dreadful away form the London Stadium could be crucial to West Ham’s hopes of staying up.

Back four causes problems up front

This was the first appearance of a back four for Arsenal in the Premier League this season, after Wenger tested out their return to a 4-2-3-1 against BATE Borisov last week. It is partly a matter of expediency for Arsenal, with Shrodran Mustafi out with a thigh muscle strain for this game. But it was also perhaps a recognition of the threat West Ham pose in the channels, with Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles playing deeper in the system.

It worked on the defensive side, with West Ham restricted to relatively few chances. But Arsenal struggled to spread the play effectively without the unconstrained overlapping runs brought by their wing-backs, and it was often too easy for West Ham to repel their slow and narrow attacks. The 3-4-3 that Wenger has previously employed was at least more effective at creating chances, with the Gunners scoring in their previous 11 league games. It remains to be seen whether Wenger will persevere with the system, especially after Mustafi’s return.

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