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Arsenal’s exceptional forwards bail out the Gunners’ incompetents in unlikely comeback at West Ham

Arsenal’s exceptional forwards bail out the Gunners’ incompetents in unlikely comeback at West Ham

The great thing about football is that sometimes things happen that years of knowledge, observation, conversation and analysis can’t explain. For the first hour of their 3-1 win over West Ham, Arsenal were absolutely desperate, heading for a 10th winless game in a row, staring down the barrel of a devilish run of fixtures over the next six weeks with only a four-point cushion to the relegation zone.

Then Gabriel Martinelli, a cross between a young Luis Suarez and an enthusiastic puppy, gave Declan Rice the slip and equalised. Nine minutes later, they had scored twice more, and before too long, their fans were chanting “Ole!” as their team merrily knocked the ball around to close out the game.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

What happened? What changed? Who knows, really. Arsenal’s interim manager, Freddie Ljungberg, put it down to West Ham tiring, but that seems unlikely. Whatever it was, a light seemed to turn on in the heads of the Arsenal players, and suddenly swirling despair turned into giddy optimism, the travelling support seeing a glimpse of a football team again, that something does indeed live inside this collection of players. Hope is what they saw.3

With that in mind, it almost seems churlish to point out that this win didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know about Arsenal. We have known for some time that their strength has been in attack and essentially everything else is up in the air: a team uncertain in midfield, shaky in defence.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Imagine where Arsenal would be without those guys, plus Alexandre Lacazette. If you have those attackers, you need to put a few of them on the pitch in only a vaguely coherent manner, and they will dig you out of a hole every now and then. Dig them out of this hole they did, and it’s worth pausing to discuss again just how abysmal they were for the first hour.

In the first half, Arsenal had 65% possession but translated that into two efforts on goal: one was a free header that Mesut Ozil skewed way over the bar, and the other came when Aubameyang briefly decided that he should probably do something about the howling incompetence around him, drove at the West Ham defence on his own and shot from outside the area, only to slice it 10 feet over the bar. It barely classified as football, and they looked like a set of broken players heading for another dispiriting loss.

In short, Arsenal would have been absolutely buried by a better team in that first half. Manuel Pellegrini said afterward that “for 65 minutes, there was just one team on the pitch,” but in truth, West Ham were nearly as bad as Arsenal. They took the lead through a header deflected by a player, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who was trying to get out of the way, a goal as shambolic and incompetent as the general play. Arsenal were there for the taking, but Pellegrini’s side couldn’t muster a second and thus deserved everything they got after the hour mark.