In a feisty London Derby, Arsenal and West Ham United split the points with a 3-3 draw at the Boelyn Ground. This will be the last match between the sides at this stadium as West Ham will move to the Olympic stadium next season.
The opening goals by Ozil (18’) and Sanchez (35’) were pegged back with a double strike from Andy Caroll (44, 45+1, 52). Koscielny would go on to score the equaliser in the 70th minute, and despite attempts from both sides, the deadlock would not be broken further.
Let’s go through the talking points from this match:
The most puzzling start to the match was the 3-4-3 formation picked by Billic. With Kouyate suspended, Obgonna, Reid and Tomkins formed a 3 man defence. Antonio and Cresswell were moved up the pitch. The Hammers, not used to this formation, suffered as Arsenal dominated the opening 35 minutes.
Towards the end of the half, they shifted back to their usual 4-3-3 and regained their stride. As expected, Tomkins was substituted for Emenike who went up front, allowing West Ham to play with the more familiar back four. The second half, which saw both teams attack and defend often, was a more even one.
2. Andy Carroll
He had 4 goals in his previous 24 matches in the Premier League. He has nearly matched that record with a hat trick. Despite picking up an early booking, he pulled a disarrayed West Ham back into the game with a brace just before half time. Early in the second half, he scored his 3rd goal to give the Hammers the lead.
A constant threat, he was linking up well not only with Payet but with Cresswell and Emenike as well. However, his aggressive play did cause one of the 2 disallowed goals of West Ham United to be ruled out, with his pulling of Koscielny adjudged a foul, just before the Hammers found the net. If he can up his game, he can be sure of playing a big role as West Ham try to make a challenge for 4th place.
3. Arsenal back line and Ospinia
Arsenal decided to continue with Ospinia in goal despite having a fit Petr Cech. The defence looked good when moving up to provide support to the attackers, but were fragile when trying to keep the Hammers out. Carroll and Payet were able to out muscle the Gunners backline with ease. They were just barely able to keep out some wonderful long passes, mostly through the last-second interceptions of Koscielny.
Ospina did not put up a very convincing deisplay, barely clearing the ball that fell to Carroll for his second goal. Gabriel also came in the way of his keeper for Carrol’s 3 rd, preventing him from trying to keep it out. This kind of miscommunication can prove to be costly for the Gunners.
4. Payet is the key.
Payet has been nothing short of a revelation this season. The most lethal free kick taker in the League and one of the most creative midfielders, its no surprise he is a contender for the Player of the season award.
When he gets into his grove, he uses his speed and creative skills to not only try and provide a long through ball, he can take on the entire defence on his own. This allows other players to get into the right positions. If teams foul the Hammers near the box, they could rue their mistake.
Arsenal, aware of his prowess made sure not to commit fouls near their box, to somewhat limit the effectiveness of Payet. Hector Bellerin did a commendable job, keeping him quiet for more than half the match.
If the Hammers want to make a 4th place charge, he is the man to lead them.
5. The realistic chance of the top 2 for Arsenal
The only challenging fixture remaining for Arsenal is Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium . The rest of their matches are going to be against struggling sides like Villa, Palace, Norwich, Sunderland and West Brom. While the title hopes of the most fanatic of supporters will now be dashed, the Gunners have a very good chance of taking second. If they win all their remaining matches, with a now fit squad, they should finish second in the Premier League.