Arsenal moved into the top four of the Premier League for the first time this season with a 2-0 victory against London rivals West Ham at the Emirates on Wednesday
When you make big decisions that exile men who know where the goal is – you have to win.
No excuses. No hard luck stories.
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side did just that here, following up last Saturday’s win over Southampton with a victory here to suggest they could yet be contenders for a European place during the second half of the season.
The top four might still be stretching it a bit. This was the first time they’d beaten anyone above them in the Premier League this season.
But Arteta’s side edged it here with a performance of spirit, belief and endeavour. They looked to be struggling for cutting edge without Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, the man who tended to find a way when all others couldn’t.
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Offside via Getty Images)
Bukayo Saka continued to do the donkey work as usual.
Martin Odegaard has decent touches without necessarily being effective and Kieran Tierney continues to have some shot on him, as evidenced by his ferocious, left-footed howitzer from 25 yards, within the shadow of half time.
But fears began to grow that this would be another of those nights when Arsenal dominated with little to show for it.
Not to mention the possibility of a night when THAT decision could have come back to haunt the Arsenal head coach.
Instead, Alexandre Lacazette, razor sharp as always in front of his own fans, released young Gabriel Martinelli with a peach of a through ball between Vladimir Coufal and Craig Dawson.
The Argentine 20-year-old accepted the invitation and raced clear to curl a sumptuous effort around Hammers keeper Lukasz Fabianski.
It was the least Arteta’s side deserved for their enterprise and their industry. The first half wasn’t pretty as they rolled up their sleeves to dig in against a West Ham side that have beaten Liverpool and Chelsea this season.
In fact Arsenal were fortunate to catch West Ham on a day when their radar was out of whack and striker Michail Antonio continues to find himself horrendously out of form.
Pablo Fornals’ curling effort, bent around Aaron Ramsdale late in the first half, left a few home hearts in mouths.
And just after half time Arsenal keeper Ramsdale arched his back to push Jarrod Bowen’s curling effort over the crossbar.
But that was pretty much the closest David Moyes’ side came to finding the net.
Instead it was Arsenal who earned the right to express themselves in the second half.
They even enjoyed a touch of fortune with referee Anthony a touch too proud to accept Vladimir Coufal had got the ball before catching Lacazette for the 66th-minute penalty decision.
A second yellow card – he’d earlier picked one up for an arm across the face of Tierney – meant West Ham were down to ten man and handed Lacazette to wrap things up.
Fabianski denied him to at least take one decent memory back from another return to his former club.
It didn’t matter much. Emile Smith Rowe entered the fray to finish things off with a goal to continue his hot streak.
Bukayo Saka scorched down the right on the counter-attack, sent the 21-year-old clear into space and Smith-Rowe rolled the ball into the bottom corner. Arsenal’s fans serenaded them both to the tune of Status Quo’s Rockin All Over The World.
Work it out. They’ll be singing it quite a few times this season.