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Wilshere returns as Arsenal are held by West Ham

14 December, 2017 — By By Paul Cowling

Premier League

JACK Wilshere made his first start for Arsenal since May 2016, but the mercurial talent couldn’t impose his will on a dull game that saw the Gunners held by the cast-iron determination of West Ham.

Arsene Wenger said he was pleased with Wilshere’s contribution: “Jack did very well, especially in the first half. He also defended well, so it is satisfying.”

Wilshere was one of four changes from the weekend draw at Southampton, with supersub goalscorer Olivier Giroud also coming into the side, along with Ashley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi.

It was Iwobi who had Arsenal’s one and only real chance of the first half, when his shot cannoned back off the post, while earlier at the other end West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic thought he had given his side the lead on 14 minutes, but he was marginally offside with his header. Granit Xhaka had stepped out at the crucial moment to preserve the status quo of a dire, attritional first half played in bitterly cold winter conditions and in teeming rain.

The second half was certainly an improvement on the first, but not by much.

The home crowd roared on the Hammers at every tackle, hassle and rare intrusion into the Arsenal half of the London Stadium pitch.

Wilshere continued to snap away with tackles and find his man with some crisp passing, and he could have easily fired the Gunners into the lead on 69 minutes.
The ball fell invitingly to him, but his scooped effort sailed over the bar.

Javier Hernandez, on as a late attacking replacement for West Ham, could have snatched victory for them in the last minute. The Mexican had already been more of a nuisance then any other home player, so when his header looked goal-bound, Arsenal looked consigned to defeat against the run of play. But the ball bounced back over the crossbar, and onto the goalline, and that was that on a disappointing night for Wenger and his side.

“There are some draws that are frustrating, and this is one of them,” said Wenger.

“We couldn’t find an opening against a defensively focused side. We lacked a bit of sharpness in the final third.”

West Ham: Adrian; Reid, Ogbonna, Creswell, Zabaleta, Obiang, Noble, Masuaku, Lanzini, Antonio (Hernandez, 82), Arnautovic.
Subs not used: Hart, Carroll, Sakho, Collins, Ayew, Rice.

Arsenal: Cech, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles, Iwobi (Welbeck, 70), Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Sanchez (Lacazette, 82); Giroud.
Subs not used: Ospina, Chambers, Kolasinac, Coquelin, Elneny.

Attendance: 56,921


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