A brace from Dutchman Robin van Persie and a single to Theo Walcott resigned West Ham to another demoralising home defeat and heaped the pressure on manager Avram Grant back in January 2011.
It was always going to be difficult for West Ham to take points against the Gunners – even at home. West Ham’s inspirational midfielder Scott Parker was missing through injury and talk of Grant’s imminent departure shrouded Upton Park. A rather sombre mood at Upton Park was prevalent for the match and Arsenal got to work early, employing fluent football to put the Hammers on the back foot from the onset.
West Ham’s loanee, Manchester City’s left back (and former England international) Wayne Bridge had a claret and blue debut he would rather forget. Arsenal’s opener came in the 13th minute, after Bridge allowed Walcott too much space on the right fl ank. The added space allowed Arsenal’s winger to send in a pass that was dummied by Frenchman Samir Nasri, allowing goal machine Van Persie to swivel and smash the ball past West Ham’s ‘keeper Rob Green.
To compound matters for the Hammers, Mark Noble was forced off through injury in the 20th minute. Already missing Parker in central midfield, the East Londoners would have to labour without talisman Noble. Despite Arsenal’s promising start, a mistake from Johan Djourou almost led to a West Ham equaliser. The centreback’s sloppy backpass let Carlton Cole through on goal, but Arsenal ‘keeper Szczesny made a superb save and Zavon Hines misfired the follow-up over the bar.
Arsenal had a few more chances of their own too, and the pressure eventually resulted in their second. Bridge played Van Persie on side and the forward cutback a ball for Walcott who buried his shot into the roof of the net from close range. West Ham’s youngster Freddie Sears was lively on the flanks and provided front man Cole with a chance to put the Hammers back in the match. Despite the excellent cross, Cole managed to put his header off target.
The Gunners continued to control the match and the game was put to bed after Bridge hacked down Walcott in the area. Van Persie stepped up to the spot and fired his second into the bottom corner. Our lads have had a great start to the season and we comfortably sit in the top half of the table. Despite the fact Arsenal walked all over us the last time we played, the Gunners better not expect an easy return to Upton Park. Buoyed by our recent good form and a steely attitude, the North Londoners will not be looking forward to their trip to East London. My heart always tells me to go with the Hammers, but so does my head this week.