Arsenal have moved up to fourth in the Premier League table after an impressive performance and a 2-0 win over West Ham at the Emirates. It was their first match since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stripped of the club captaincy over disciplinary issues and he was left out of the squad for the London derby.
They did not miss the prolific striker, with youngsters Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe scoring the goals that see the Gunners leapfrog Manchester United and the Hammers into a Champions League spot.
Stand-in captain Alexandra Lacazette could even afford to miss a penalty after a controversial spot-kick was awarded against Vladimir Coufal, which saw the West Ham defender receive a second yellow card.
It was a first half that took a while to get going although Arsenal were certainly the better side and offering more of a threat than the visitors.
The Gunners had the better chances to take the lead before the break, with Kieran Tierney seeing a fierce shot tipped onto the crossbar by Lukasz Fabianski and the Hammers ‘keeper making a double save from Lacazette and Martinelli on the follow up.
There was also a reasonable shout for a penalty from Bukayo Saka in the first stanza, but referee Anthony Taylor was probably right not to give it. Things spiced up quickly after the break, though, with Martinell’s excellent finish just a couple of minutes into the second half.
Lacazette received the ball midway into the Hammers half and picked out the run of the Brazilian between right-back and centre-back.
Arsenal fans will have been reminded of Thierry Henry as he ran onto it at pace, opened up his body and curled the ball into the far, bottom corner.
West Ham were struggling to make much of an impression on the game and things got much worse for them on 66 minutes when controversy struck and Vladimir Coufal was sent off. The Czech made a sliding challenge on Lacazette in the penalty box and despite seemingly getting the ball, the referee pointed to the spot and handed him his second yellow card.
There were strong protests but VAR did nothing to help the Hammers and Coufal departed. However, Fabianski cheered up the travelling fans by pulling off an excellent save from Lacazette, diving far to his left and keeping the score at 1-0.
It always felt like Arsenal’s night, though and their victory was sealed by substitute Emile Smith Rowe in the 87th minute. West Ham were pushing for an equaliser but that allowed Arsenal’s youngsters to launch a swift counter-attack, with Saka breaking and then laying the ball to Emith Rowe.
The young Englishman was on the right flank but cut in and then fired in a crisp left-footed finish leaving Fabianski standing and wrapping up the three points.
- A Tell / Metro report