Arsenal drag point away from comedy thriller at West Ham
Lacazette's late header completes a comeback
21 March, 2021 — By Richard Osley
FA Premier League
WEST HAM UNITED 3 (Lingard 15, Bowen 17, Soucek 32)
ARSENAL 3 (Soucek og 38, Dawson og 61, Lacazette 82)
ARSENAL spent Sunday afternoon trying to fix a disastrous start to their visit to West Ham United in a match which showcased their fumbling frailties but also the defiant hope that it won’t always be like this.
With this mixture of slapstick and skill, it was hard to pick a genre, but in the film world they would file under ‘comedy thriller’ and be done with it. A dark comedy, however; one where the blunders are almost fatal.
The schoolyard kickabout unfolded as such: Arsenal fell three goals down in little more than half an hour.
First an old foe, Jesse Lingaard, crashed a shot into the back of the net from the edge of the box with a decent strike, but this was quickly followed by the sort of dunderheaded defence which has let the Gunners down all season.
They were simply sleeping as West Ham played a quick free kick to Jared Bowen. His shot wasn’t a netbuster but somehow it squirmed past Bernd Leno at his near post.
These moments do not look great when reviewing Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta’s Leno-Martinez decision at the start of the season.
It is also Arteta who keeps playing David Luiz and the wholly unpredictable Brazilian defender was easily outjumped by Michail Antonio for the third. West Ham’s Thomas Soucek got the final touch as it whistled past Leno.
Such high class calamity required an outlandish escape, and Arsenal naturally secured it with the help of two own goals.
It’s true that Alexandre Lacazette had belted the ball goalwards and it had found its way past Hammers keeper Lukasz Fabianski seven minutes before half time, but a touch from Soucek on the way ensured the Irons midfielder would have his name on the scoresheet at both ends.
The second own goal was more of a classic, a humdinger. The sort of bull in a China shop moment that Craig Dawson, the culprit for West Ham, will be wondering about this evening. Was smacking the ball into his own goal at top velocity really the only thing he really could have done to a quickfire cross?
At 3-2, West Ham looked slightly more rattled, particularly by Martin Odegaard’s clever passing. Arteta had the good sense to remove the ineffective Granit Xhaka and later even Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was rightly hauled off after a low key appearance stuck out wide.
The home side, however, really should have added to their lead before being pegged back.
The laughable defending continued and Kieran Tierney had to make two last ditch stops in one self-inflicted attack, while Antonio hit the post with the goal open as he stretched for a cross.
It was quite hard to compute how the ball did not end up in the net.
As often is the case with missed chances like that, Arsenal rode the good fortune and drew level in the final ten minutes.
Nicolas Pepe, a sub, raced away out wide before crossing well and finding Lacazette to power in a close range header.
Had they deserved to rescue a point? Maybe.
They hadn’t given up, it’s true, but it could have been oh so much worse due to the chuckles provided by Luiz and co at the wrong end of the pitch.
Instead, Arsenal’s management will no doubt concentrate on the spirit of a comeback, but when you peel back the drama, a point here is of little use to their stale league campaign.
Arteta said afterwards: “We have two faces. The first face is about giving goals to the opponent and it’s not good enough.”
He added: “We got really close to winning but the first half really worries me.”
WEST HAM UNITED: Fabiankski, Coufal, Cresswell, Diop, Dawson, Soucek, Rice, Lingard, Bowen (Noble 74), Benrahma (Fredericks 79), Antonio
SUBS NOT USED: Alves, Balbuena, Johnson, Lanzini, Martin, Odubeko, Trott
ARSENAL: Leno, Chambers, Tierney, Luiz, Mari, Xhaka (Smith Rowe 74), Partey, Odegaard, Saka (Pepe 74), Aubameyang (Martinelli 81), Lacazette
SUBS NOT USED: Ceballos, Elneny, Holding, Gabriel, Ryan, Soares