West Ham vs Arsenal: Declan Rice profits from poor defending as Unai Emery's side struggle without Mesut Ozil

West Ham 1-0 Arsenal: Five things we learned from the London stadium

Jack Watson
Saturday 12 January 2019 13:32
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Arsenal suffered their first Premier League defeat of 2019 with a lifeless display against West Ham and miss out on the chance to put pressure on Chelsea in the fight for the top-four.

Declan Rice's first senior goal was the only of the game, a powerful finish from inside the penalty area after receiving a pass from Samir Nasri on his return to English football, as West Ham secured a welcome three points.

Without Mesut Ozil in the starting 11 or on the bench, Arsenal struggled to create a large number of chances and rarely troubled the opposition defence.

Here’s five things we learned from the London Stadium

1. Rice profits from dreadful defending

Rice score his first ever senior goal for West Ham to open the scoring just inside the second half and deserves plaudits for his good strike to break the deadlock, but questions will be asked about Arsenal’s dismal attempts to defend.

A cross from the right was cleared with little conviction by Granit Xhaka to Nasri, who reacted quickly to prod the ball towards Rice. Misreading the situation, Laurent Koscielny opens up the gap for Rice to curl in the opening goal of the game.

In a match with few chances, this momentary lapse in concentration ultimately cost the Gunners in east London.

Declan Rice scored his first senior goal for the club 

2. Emery must settle problem with Ozil

Mesut Ozil was due to return to the Arsenal side after missing the previous three matches with a knee injury. However, Unai Emery once against left the German playmaker out of the squad for tactical reasons.

For one of the most talented playmakers in football to not be getting onto the bench would point to his time under Emery being limited.

Ozil trained all week, pointing to the fact that this is not a fitness issue, which means something clearly is not right between him and the manager. Even Eddie Nketiah and three full-backs made the bench ahead of him. This confusing situation appears to be without an end in sight and it simply cannot continue to go on like this.

In a game that grew to become increasingly stretched it seemed to be the exact situation that Ozil could thrive in.

Mesut Ozil was left out of the squad despite being fit 

3. Nasri impresses on Premier League return as Arnautovic waves goodbye

On his first Premier League appearance since August 2016, Nasri put in a performance to justify West Ham’s faith in him. Having served a drug ban, the former Arsenal and Manchester City midfielder was offered a contract at the Hammers following a successful training spell with the squad.

The benefit of training with the side was evident when he began linking up with his teammates straight away. Some intricate one-touch play produced nice chances in the first half, including one that he dragged wide after being played through towards goal.

He added an assist to cap off a fine game when he reacted quickly in the area to prod the ball towards Rice to open the scoring.

Elsewhere, it seemed that Arnautovic was waving goodbye to the West Ham supporters as he came off in the 71st minute. The forward has told the club he wants them to accept a £35m offer from a Chinese club as he chances a new challenge and titles.

4. Emery’s first half woes continue

Just three sides have failed to be leading a Premier League match at half-time away from home this season: Burnley, Cardiff and Arsenal.

The first 45 minutes from Emery’s side was a laboured affair where they really struggled to establish themselves as the superior team.

Yes they’re playing away from home and against a decent West Ham side and that’s tricky, but, a team with serious ambitions should not be struggling to lead at the break or prevent the opposition from scoring.

Arsenal only have three clean sheets in 23 matches

5. Arsenal fail to master counter attacks

West Ham had the greater share of possession and largely prevented Arsenal from progressing up the pitch as a team. However, this seemed to be what Emery initially wanted to happen.

When Arsenal turned over possession, they quickly worked the ball forward to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Alex Iwobi in a bid to expose the West Ham defence without Declan Rice and Mark Noble there to shield it.

Arsenal’s best chances, certainly in the early stages, were a product of this move as they quickly advanced forward and relied on technical players to work chances with neat one-touch passes.

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