If we are to be in the Champions League next season and attract better players, this game was a must win for us as will be the games coming up after.
The players must have got some much needed confidence from the gruelling 2-2 draw against fellow top four rivals Man City a few days before on the Sunday, but now we needed to win against a struggling West Ham side who had lost their last four games before the match.
Wenger was forced to make a risky change to the line up as both Cech and Ospina were injured so our third choice inexperienced keeper Emi Martinez had to start his first game of the season. From what I’ve seen of him before he has been ok but he hasn’t really been tested in big games.
Squad players Gabriel and Elneny also came into the team after Koscielny (Achilles) got injured from the City game and Coquelin missed the game due to personal reasons. Elneny deserved his change to play in the first team anyway though as he offers more than Coquelin and usually has a solid game.
I was at the match again with my step dad, but this time we travelled with my step dad’s work colleague, who was a West Ham supporter. We all joked about how badly our teams had been playing recently before the game with some beers/ciders of course!
So the game kicked off this time without any obvious protests before the game and West Ham started the brightest. Arguably their best player Lanzini looked dangerous every time he got the ball and nearly scored a free kick early on before captain Noble had a shot that just went wide of the post.
We struggled to create any chances but perhaps should have had a penalty when Walcott went down but the referee waved play on. From where I was sitting it looked like a penalty but we had to carry on.
This did give us some momentum as both Bellerin and Elneny had shots well blocked by the West Ham defence who defended in numbers as you would expect from a weaker team.
So it was 0-0 at half time and it was possibly the worst halves of football I have ever seen as there was very few chances and both teams looked scared to lose. We had been the better team overall with more possession and shots but West Ham had arguably had better chances to score. I expected a better second half from us with the substitutes perhaps making a difference.
Fortunately I was right as we did go up a level in the second half and got the opening goal just before the hour mark through Özil. It was a strange goal as it wasn’t the most powerful or best of shots from outside of the box but their keeper could only parry it into the net. West Ham appealed that Sanchez was obstructing the keeper’s vision by being in an offside position but the officials awarded the goal rightfully.
Keeper Randolph did however make amends and keep them in the game for a bit at least after a good save to deny Welbeck but it took us only 10 minutes to get a second goal through Walcott who got his impressive 19th goal in all competitions and 10th league goal.
It was a well worked team goal as Alexis Sanchez’s backheel found Özil on the left who perfectly picked out Walcott in the box who hit it first time into the net.
I then missed a good Bellerin chance which was brilliantly set up by Sanchez after excusing myself following a few too many drinks before I returned and we added a third near the end. It came from substitute Giroud with the goal of the day as he curved it in from outside the box after a good run from fellow substitute Chamberlain who also returned to the team following injury.
We were then denied another penalty in added time after their defender brought down Monreal but the referee was not having any of it. This didn’t matter at all in the end though as we finally got a much needed 3 points and are still very much in with a chance of finishing in top four.
Before today’s game against Palace (which I will be watching in Mallorca) we are in 6th position again (battling with United, who would have thought it 13 years ago) but we do have a few games in hand. We have to win these games though and if we do we will be right back up there. West Ham on the other hand should be ok after beating fellow strugglers Swansea at the weekend.
After the game there was no fighting (perhaps because we actually won) and hopefully this will continue even if we don’t win as the fans need to be united until the end of the season at least.
Hopefully we will finish in the top four again but will this be the year that we don’t? Also Spurs are surely finally going to finish above us for the first time in my lifetime (20 years) after thrashing Watford and playing well most of the season. Will they do it or will they somehow bottle it again? Where will we finish?