When a football club as big as Arsenal makes a managerial change for the first time in 22 years then it’s natural that the club, the players and the staff take time to settle in. To add to that, the new boss Unai Emery was handed a tough couple of opening fixtures against the champions of the last two seasons in Manchester City and Chelsea. In both those fixtures, the team looked under-cooked, lacking a clear plan and out of their comfort zone. It was obvious that the new manager needed more time to convey his ideas to the squad and have them playing his brand of football.
Saturday’s match against West Ham United looked like it was going to follow the template of the last few weeks for Arsenal until it finally didn’t. Arsenal, playing at home, had a nervy start especially in defence where only Nacho Monreal looked like he belonged. The new signing, Sokratis looked like he was still adapting to the new club and his partner Mustafi continued his characteristic of never exhibiting confidence. Hector Bellerin who constantly kept probing the right wing always looked over-burdened by his defensive duties. He was caught off- position constantly by West Ham’s pacey wingers and always came up short when covering overlaps. Soon came West Ham’s first goal when Arnautovic scored from outside the box placing it wide off Cech’s outstretched arms into the bottom corner.
For the first 30 minutes, Arsenal’s midfield trio of Xhaka, Guendouzi and Ramsey looked unsettled and Arsenal seemed to be playing off the cuff lacking in any plan or structure. The 19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi handed his 3rd successive start by Unai Emery was all over the place in midfield showing great attitude but lacking in awareness like most other excited youngsters playing their first few senior games. Barely 5 minutes after the West Ham goal, a quick attacking transition on the right flank with Mkhitaryan, lead to Bellerin putting the ball in the box which seemed to have been missed by all of Arsenal’s forwards until it reached Nacho Monreal who took a composed first touch and launched it into West Ham’s net for the equaliser like he so often does. The reliable Left back stood there celebrating with passion and a chest thump befitting the heart, maturity and the ability he possesses.
Petr Cech and West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski made some great stops to keep the score at 1–1. Alexander Lacazette and Lukas Torreira came on early in the second half and Arsenal seemed to have benefitted from those early changes by Emery as they constantly attacked West Ham’s goal. Xhaka played some great long passes from deep and Torreira’s distribution and passing abilities bought calm to Arsenal’s midfield making a strong case for him to be started in the next game.
In the 70th minute, the Hammers failed to clear an Arsenal attack with Ramsey heading the ball back into the area. It found Lacazette on the left who kept Sanchez at his back to turn and flick the ball into the centre. It was aimed for Aubameyang but West Ham defender Issa Diop was ahead of him and the ball goes into the back of the net off his stomach for an Own Goal. It was the first time Unai Emery’s Arsenal lead in a game this season and both the fans and the manager took a big sigh of relief with no care about how the goal came.
For the past few seasons, Arsenal have been a momentum side, in the sense that they always look sharp and different once they score and lose that flair and acuteness soon after. The same was true for this game as Arsenal started playing some great football and constantly threatened West Ham’s back line and took a motivated Fabianski to keep the Hammers in the game.
In injury time, Bellerin was once again away on the right flank and slotted the ball past Masuaku’s legs to find Welbeck who was unmarked and easily scored the 3rd goal for Arsenal.
West Ham have a lot to be proud of under new manager Manuel Pellegrini with impressive displays from the wingers Fredericks and Anderson as the late Welbeck goal only added gloss to an Arsenal win which in all honesty was a scramble. All in all, it was a very entertaining game with both teams attacking well in phases and with luck on Arsenal’s side, they opened their account on the points table under Unai Emery. Hope it only gets better from here.