Arsenal’s win against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-finals provided renewed morale to the Gunners and they proved that they are fighting for the second spot in the League (if not for the top spot) by following it up with a seemingly comfortable 3-0 win at home against West Ham United in their London Derby.
Arsène Wenger chose to go with in-form striker Olivier Giroud ahead of Danny Welbeck as the one up-top striker. He also chose to give Santi Cazorla a rest and replaced him with Aaron Ramsey in midfield. In the absence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott got the nod to start. At the back, David Ospina retained his league goalkeeper spot as Calum Chambers replaced Hector Bellerín at right-back.
The visitors have been plagued by injuries recently and yet former Arsenal holding midfielder Alex Song was confident that his current West London team could cause an upset at the Emirates before the match. Sam Allardyce had to go with a make-shift centre-back pairing of Cheikhou Kouyaté and James Collins. This temporary partnership frustrated the Gunners in the first-half as the North London club created plenty chances but failed to convert any of them. Walcott was the beneficiary of an early chance but squandered it as he delayed in his decision making. It wasn’t until the stroke of the half-time interval that Giroud managed to break through the barrier with a wonderful finish from the right side of the box with his left foot, which rammed into the far post and in past the dispairing dive of Adrian.
The late goal in the first-half sparked a second half revival from the visitors as they resumed the game strongly. Arsenal were on the back foot and had to concentrate with discipline to dispel all the dangers caused by the West Ham attack. Giroud laid his claim on the Man Of The Match award by assisting the second goal and linking up with substitute Cazorla before the latter provided the assist for the third. A dummy from a throw-in led the ball to Ramsey in the box who played Giroud in, a neat pass back towards the Welshman was neatly finished into the back of the net. Within a matter of minutes, Giroud played in Cazorla on the left side of the box who made a low cross across the face of the goal for an unmarked onrushing substitute midfielder Mathieu Flamini who had the simple job of tapping the ball in from close range.
In his post-match interview Wenger acknowledged West Ham’s efforts by stating that their 'keeper kept them in game in the first-half with fine saves from Alexis Sanchez and Ramsey. West Ham assistant manager Neil McDonald was also of the opinion that his team were hurt that they conceded so late in the first-half when they were expecting to keep a clean sheet.
Until the 80th minute, West Ham had a decent shout at sharing the spoils but the quick-fire goals of Ramsey and Flamini all but extinguished the flames of a revival. The victory put Arsenal within one point of second placed Manchester City who lost their late kick-off 1-0 away at Burnley. The race for the second spot is surely heating up and with momentum on their side, Arsenal could soon find themselves in unchartered territory than they have been in recent seasons.