|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Alexandre Lacazette’s late double seals Arsenal rout against West Ham
Daniel Taylor at the Emirates Stadium
Date Published Sun 22 Apr 2018 15.46 BST
Until the final 10 minutes it was tempting to wonder whether a few Arsenal supporters might even be impertinent enough to subject the tall, grey-haired man on the touchline – hands on hips, elbows out, wearing a worried look that has been seen here too often in recent years – to a smattering of boos at the final whistle. The score was 1-1, West Ham looked relatively comfortable and Arsenal were heading towards a result that would have confirmed another finish outside the Premier League’s top four and meant a second successive season behind Tottenham Hotspur for the first time since 1983.
Unfortunately for Arsène Wenger, the late flurry of goals only delays the inevitable bearing in mind his team are still 11 points adrift from the leading pack and, staggeringly, 33 behind Manchester City. Yet the three-goal blitz did at least ensure a happy ending in the first game since Wenger announced he would be cutting his ties with Arsenal at the end of the season. The sun was shining and the Emirates, once again, felt like a happy place. He will miss these moments.
In the process, Arsenal warmed up nicely for the first leg of their Europa League semi-final against Atlético Madrid on Thursday, the only downside being the injury to Mohamed Elneny that led to the Egyptian being taken off on a stretcher and could threaten his World Cup participation.
Alexandre Lacazette scored twice in the late drama but the key moment came in the 82nd minute when Aaron Ramsey crossed from the left and Declan Rice and Joe Hart left it to one another. The ball went between them both and bounced into Hart’s net for Arsenal’s second goal before Lacazette’s quick double, in the 85th and 89th minutes, lifted the volume by a few more notches.
It was the 1,000th top-flight defeat in West Ham’s history and Arsenal’s supporters willingly designated Hart as the scapegoat, reserving ironic cheers for the moments when he touched the ball without making a mistake. That, however, was not exactly fair and the blame should be apportioned Rice’s way for committing the centre-half’s sin of ducking when Ramsey’s cross came his way.
Hart had expected him to clear it. The communication was poor, to say the least, and it was noticeable that Moyes criticised the 19-year-old Rice more vehemently than he had done Hart after the goalkeeper’s mistake against Stoke City last Monday. Hart, to give him his due, had made a couple of outstanding saves, particularly at 1-1 when Danny Welbeck’s curling shot was heading into the far corner.
West Ham were obliging opponents in the final exchanges and Lacazette duly took advantage with two penalty-box finishes. Yet it was a strange afternoon overall and, despite everything, not the Wenger love-in that might have been anticipated. Wenger took his seat to mild applause and, briefly, some of the fans behind the dugout serenaded him. Then the game kicked off and it was not until just before the hour mark, once Nacho Monreal had given Arsenal the lead, that we heard the manager’s name being sung with any volume. The atmosphere at other times, just like the man’s cardigan, was grey and low-key. The television cameras found one child with a homemade banner to thank Wenger for the last 22 years. But only one.
Perhaps those of us who expected it to be different – emotional, even – had underestimated the apathy that has engulfed the Emirates this season. The banners that are permanently in place here pay tribute to “Old Trafford 02”, the Invincibles season – “P38 W26 D12 L0” – and many of the other highlights from the Wenger years. Yet it was a mistake, plainly, to think the news of his abdication might tempt back some of the thousands who have stayed away. Again, there were large expanses of empty seats. “Merci Arsène” read the front cover of the programme. That apart, however, there was nothing to distinguish this from any other Arsenal match bar the extra numbers in the press seats. It was standing room only while outside a swarm of television crews were conducting vox pops on the roundabout between the stadium and the Little Wonder Cafe.
West Ham began encouragingly and could reflect on reasonable first-half chances for Marko Arnautovic and João Mário as well as a corner when Cheikhou Kouyaté’s looping header landed on the top of the crossbar. After that, however, David Moyes’s team lost their early momentum. Arsenal finished the first half strongly and when Monreal volleyed in Granit Xhaka’s corner six minutes after the interval there was a 10-minute spell when the home side were so much in command it came as a jolt when West Ham, on the counterattack, levelled through Arnautovic’s splendidly taken left-foot shot.
Afterwards, it was quite something when Wenger removed some of the barriers that might normally have existed and questioned whether Arsenal’s supporters had gone against the club’s values – in his view, potentially damaging the club’s reputation worldwide – because of all the rancour and divisions that have existed in recent years.
Here, though, the mood was light and Lacazette’s double added some extra sheen under the blue skies. Wenger’s gamble not to include Mesut Özil and Petr Cech, with Thursday’s assignment uppermost in the manager’s thoughts, had worked out and, strange as it still feels, his next Premier League game at this stadium will also be the last.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Elneny (Maitland-Niles 45), Iwobi (Aubameyang 70), Ramsey, Welbeck (Chambers 88), Lacazette
Subs not used: Mertesacker, Holding, Macey, Nelson
Goalscorers: Monreal 51, Ramsey 82, Lacazette 85, 89
Booked: Xhaka, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi
West Ham: Hart, Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Zabaleta, Kouyate, Noble, Masuaku (Carroll 86), Fernandes (Lanzini 60), Joao Mario (Hernandez 60), Arnautovic
Subs not used: Hugill, Adrian, Evra, Cullen
Goalscorers: Arnautovic 64
Booked: Zabaleta, Arnautovic
Referee: Lee Mason