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Premier League
Saturday, 6th October 2012

West Ham United 1
Arsenal 3

by Gordon Thrower


Apologies for the lateness of this one – unfortunately my home PC has been working with all the speed of John Terry making an apology.

Whilst it seems to be working properly now it means that events may not be as fresh in the mind as they might otherwise have been – I have vague memories of Sean Connery cheating at golf occurring during the second half but that may just be a function of falling asleep in front of the umpteenth rerun of Goldfinger the other night. As you do.

Team news was that, following his return from the bench on Monday night Andy Carroll was up to a start, meaning a return to the racing car seats for Carlton Cole. Winston Reid had recovered from his unscheduled interaction with JJ at Loftus Road giving us a starting line-up of JJ, Demel, McCartney, Reid, Collins, Noble, Diame, Jarvis, Nolan, Vaz Te, Carroll.

Pre-match we were invited to honour the memory of John Bond, possibly more famous to the younger of you as a manager of various clubs in the 70’s and 80’s but fondly remembered for his efforts in the Irons’ defence of the late 50’s-mid 60’s. RIP Muffin.

To the game then. For once it was the opposition who started brightly and we were chasing shadows for the first 20 minutes as the visitors played keep-ball. It was notable, however that, for all their possession, clear cut chances for the opposition were few and far between. I recall one save that JJ had to make down to his left from a shot from outside the box, turning the ball away for a corner.

Such is the way of football that, having barely had a kick for the first quarter of an hour we took the lead. And some goal it was as well. A series of passes down the left (lazy journalists please note) saw Diame receive the ball from Linda on the edge of the box. His turn made a mug of Ramsey and his curled shot past Manone was perfection to put us 1-0 up. It was Mo’s first goal for the club and his celebration was in keeping with that fact. It was far from excessive by any standards – with the unfortunate exception of the one man whose opinion mattered, ref Phil Dowd.

Mr Dowd has had well-documented fitness problems in recent months – his refereeing career was on the line during the summer when he failed the sprint tests – and the thought occurred to me that Diame’s yellow might just have been an excuse for Mr Dowd to have a few more seconds recovery time before the restart. Let’s put it this way, a cursory glance at Match Of The Day that night would have produced countless other celebrations that were “livelier” without prompting a yellow card – and rightly so.

Either way Diame was a lucky boy a few minutes later when Arteta was a millisecond quicker to the ball than Mo was and the Senegalese’s challenge brought the Arsenal man down. It put one in mind of the challenge that got the QPR lad sent off last week – whilst his first card had been deserved the second looked for all the world like a slightly mistimed challenge that lacked malicious intent.

I thought that the QPR yellow had been harsh but feared the worst as Dowd called Mo over for a chat. Thankfully common sense prevailed. Possibly realising the harshness of the first yellow, Dowd opted to give Mo a final warning, a luxury he might have been spared had the first yellow been for something a tad more serious. For our art we were grateful that Clattenburg was otherwise engaged that weekend.

For the next 20 minutes or so we looked comfortable as the roles were reversed. It was as if the goal had stopped us from giving the visitors too much respect and we could have doubled the lead when Carroll – who caused the visitors no end of problems throughout – got in a decent header from a corner. Sadly the contact was too clean – had it come off somewhere other than square on the forehead it might have gone anywhere other straight to Manone.

Nolan was guilty of a more glaring miss from another corner. Getting on the end of a loose ball from a set-piece – something at which the skipper is quite adept – he screwed his shot across the face of the goal – much as he did in similar circumstances against Sunderland a couple of weeks back.

Just when you think things are going well, football has a habit of coming back to bite you on the bum and this game was the living embodiment of that principle. Whilst, for the first goal it was Arsenal whose buttocks bore the teeth marks, we were repaid in kind five minutes before the interval.

A clearance from the back found Diame on the halfway line. However Mo’s touch deserted him and his mis-control ceded possession. A couple of passes later the ball was out on the left wing to Podolski. Collins lost Giroud who turned the near-post cross in for his first league goal for the visitors. From Diame’s touch to Collins’ lapse in concentration the whole thing was rather self-inflicted and, in the overall context of the game, it was one f a number of moments that were to prove costly.

Half-time: West Ham United 1 Arsenal 1


The second half saw us pressing for the lead and we had a number of opportunities to go ahead. The problem is you have to take your chances in matches like this – if you don’t Arsenal in particular are good at punishing wastefulness. How many times have we seen an opposition miss a goal at one end then go behind to them shortly after?

Whilst we looked capable of taking the lead a number of factors started to creep in to disrupt the flow of our game. Firstly, we lost the right hand side of the team. This process started shortly after Jarvis had put one over from close range. Vaz Te chased down a ball that was running through to Manone who won the race easily. From my angle it appeared that RVT tried to leave his foot in.

I may be doing the player a disservice, and, if that’s not the case, I unreservedly apologise. However, I’ve not seen the incident again but it looked a bit naughty to me. Not something I want to see from West Ham players. Post-match it appears that RVT has been debited with a caution – I don’t recall another incident involving the player so I presume that Dowd was similarly unimpressed with the challenge.

It’s entirely possible that RVT was also unaware of the caution as, following the challenge, he went base over apex landing in a heap in front of the Bobby Moore stand. It looked serious because it was and, after a lengthy delay for treatment – despite the player being off the pitch – RVT left with what turned out to have been a dislocated shoulder. Again I may be wrong but there is a suspicion that the severity of the knock may have saved RVT from receiving a card of a different hue. In any case Taylor replaced the Portuguese winger.

Chances continued to fall our way. Carroll beat Manone to a header only to see the ball drop agonizingly a foot or two the wrong side of the post. Nolan got into good position on the right but over-elaborated and lost possession.

With a quarter of an hour left the final part of our right hand side left. Demel had been hobbling for a bit and, when the physio finally got on to treat him that funny revolving hand signal that indicates a player’s evening is over was pretty much instantaneous. Tomkins was the replacement. The change was probably one too many and it was not long before we were behind for the first time.

Just after Diame had got into good position on the left but wasted it with one of those efforts that should have either been a shot or a cross but ended up being neither, the visitors took advantage of our committing numbers forward to attack. Giroud fed Walcott on the break and, one on one with JJ, Walcott’s finish was tidy enough to put the visitors in front. My initial thought was that Walcott had looked well offside but subsequent replays showed that Ginge hadn’t moved out nearly fast enough and had played the striker onside.

Walcott received a yellow card for his celebration which, like Diame’s, was nothing out of the ordinary. At least Dowd was consistent in that respect though if he’s that desperate for a rest there must be better ways of getting one. There again, if Dowd is waging a one-man campaign for a return to the days when goal celebrations consisted of a firm manly handshake (with the occasional pat on the back allowable for last minute for extra time goals that win Cup Finals), then I for one would applaud that campaign.

From that point we were pretty much done for. For the last ten minutes it was the visitors who, taking advantage of the disruption to the side, looked the most likely to score. Carlton Cole replaced Diame in a final attempt to chase the game but within a minute of his arrival we were 3-1 down. The impressive Cazorla found himself with space on the edge of the box to bury a dipping effort past JJ. Good as the goal looked, on repeated viewing one was forced to speculate on what might have happened had JJ not decided to pull away from the shot at the last second. May be a bit harsh on the ‘keeper but I thought that it looked possible for him to have got something on it. He didn’t and, after 5 minutes of stoppage for the injury to RVT, that was that.

Full time: West Ham United 1 Arsenal 3


Pleasingly, from my point of view, the crowd applauded the team off despite the defeat. It was good to see the effort appreciated and the fact that the visitors had had to work their socks off to take the points well-noted. Though ultimately Arsenal were worthy winners, 3-1 slightly flattered them and, had we taken any of a number of chances, particularly at 1-1, then we might have received more reward for our efforts.

But, as the old saying goes, if my Granny had wheels she’d be a skateboard. Still as this opening phase to the season comes to a close there’s been much about which to be optimistic and, on this showing, we can be mildly satisfied with the team’s efforts. Keep it up guys.



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Player Ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen
One or two of his parries were a little unconvincing and I thought he could have made more of an effort with the third.


Guy Demel
Stuck to his task well under difficult circumstances up to his untimely departure.


George McCartney
Had a hard time but the visitors never quite got the better of him. Nice involvement in the build up to the goal.


James Collins
Good in the air but yet again slight lapses of concentration proved costly.


Winston Reid
Had a tough game but again it is a measure of his improvement over the past year or so that the debate is now over which player is the best to play alongside him.


Mark Noble
Puller of innumerable strings in the midfield. Whilst the clamour for him to represent his country may be premature, the notion that he should be behind Jonjo Shelvey in the pecking order is ludicrous.


Mo Diame
Fine goal and worked hard but could have had a second and his touch deserted him just at the wrong time for the equaliser.


Kevin Nolan
Got into his usual good positions in combination with Carroll but his profligacy in front of goal was a major contributory factor in the defeat.


Ricardo Vaz Te
Seemed to be a bit in awe of his opponents and just as he seemed to be getting the measure of the game he managed to do himself some mischief.


Matt Jarvis
Good in parts but failed to really grab the game by the scruff of the neck.


Andy Carroll
Epitomised the spirit of the team. Deserved a goal for his efforts up front and was awesome in helping out at the back when we were defending. Probably made the post-match teas as well for all I know. MOTM.


Substitutes


Matt Taylor
(Replaced Vaz Te, 64)
Made little impact when replacing Vaz Te.


James Tomkins
(Replaced Demel, 73)
As has often been the case in the past he was a fish out of water playing at right back in place of the injured Demel.


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Diame, 82)
They got their third just after he came on so he was on a hiding to nothing really.


Stephen Henderson
Did not play.


Gary O'Neil
Did not play.


Yossi Benayoun
Did not play.


Modibo Maiga
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Phil Dowd.

Attendance: 34,974.

Man of the Match: Andy Carroll.

West Ham United

Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, George McCartney, James Collins, Winston Reid, Mark Noble, Mo Diame, Kevin Nolan, Ricardo Vaz Te, Matt Jarvis, Andy Carroll.

Goals: Momo Diame 21                  .

Booked: Momo Diame 22 Winston Reid 36 Matt Taylor 86      .

Sent off: None.

Arsenal

Vito Mannone, Carl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta, Yao Gervinho, Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski.

Substitutes: Kieran Gibbs (Clarindo Andre Santos 56), Theo Walcott (Yao Gervinho 61), Laurent Koscielny (Lukas Podolski 85).

Subs not used: Damian Martinez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Francis Coquelin, Andrey Arshavin.

Goals: Olivier Giroud (21), Theo Walcott (77), Santi Cazorla (83).

Booked: Yao Gervinho (45+1), Theo Walcott (77).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Andy Carroll


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