A completely dominant display from Arsenal compounded the misery for West Ham and Avram Grant, a manager destined for the exit from West Ham.
A Robin Van Persie brace either side of Theo Walcott's goal was enough for Arsenal to gain all three points, but the gulf between the two teams was huge.
A terrific clearance from Julien Faubert was all that stopped Arsenal from opening the scoring in the first five minutes, as he hooked away with Cesc Fabregas waiting to head in Robin Van Persie’s knock-down.
Samir Nasri then let fly with a free-kick from 35-yards which seemed to be heading for the corner before taking a deflection and heading straight into Rob Green’s arms.
Having given thorough warnings, Arsenal scored in the 13th minute. Theo Walcott was given far too much time on the ball by Wayne Bridge, allowing him to pick out Nasri, who dummied the ball for Van Persie to sweep home from 12 yards on his right foot.
Faubert could then easily have seen red only minutes later, but his lunge towards Fabregas didn’t connect with full force. It was still bad enough to warrant a yellow, however.
Walcott could then have finished off the match before the 20-minute-mark, but having gotten the better of James Tomkins, he failed to show composure on the ball and his effort was easily saved by Green.
West Ham’s hopes of garnering anything from the match were dealt a further blow when Mark Noble was forced off through injury in the 21st minute. With Scott Parker already missing out after failing a late fitness test, the Hammers were reeling.
A seed of hope was then planted, and Arsenal’s main deficiency was exposed, as their centre-back pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Johann Djourou failed to deal with a long ball, a tactic which cost them dear against Ipswich earlier on in the week.
Djourou’s back pass was far too weak, allowing Carlton Cole a slight chance with a one-on-one which Wojciech Szczesny did well to block, and from the rebound Zavon Hines blazed his shot over when he really should have hit the target.
Arsenal’s lightning counter-attacking threat was displayed in the 28th minute, as Fabregas broke before feeding van Persie, who in turn found Alex Song, whose effort troubled Green due to a deflection which took it high to the keeper’s right.
Arsenal were playing some brilliant football, and could have added a second as Van Persie elected for power in his shot which cannoned off the foot of the post, after being found far too easily by Nasri, whose ball was perfectly weighted and timed.
West Ham were struggling to keep up at times, but their tactic of playing the ball long and putting the defense under pressure was certainly effective, with Cole bullying both central defenders and right-back Emmanuel Eboue.
Arsenal were in complete control, however, and finally added a second in the 41st minute, seconds after successfully making their 200th pass of the match.
They ripped the West Ham back-line to shreds with pace as Van Persie chased a ball to the goal-line before firing the ball across goal for Walcott to slam into the roof of the net - who, in the process reached double figures in a season for the first time in his career.
Only a minute later Cole should have made it 2-1 as he met Freddie Sears’ cross, but his header was poor, failing to make a proper connection with it. However, it took a deflection off Djourou’s head and almost found the corner of the net.
The Arsenal fans’ chants first of ‘Sacked in the Morning’, then followed by ‘Sacked in an hour’ regarding Avram Grant’s increasingly unstable position as West Ham manager were cruel, but with his West Ham team showing such little fight there was little to cheer about as the players departed to boo’s at half time.
A stat that came to light at half time was that Fabregas had touched the ball more than the entire West Ham midfield combined. It was a measure of how dominant the Gunners were, as well as how poor West Ham had been in possession.
Arsenal were also dwarfing West Ham in attempts, with 15 to five shortly into the second half, with Van Persie driving narrowly over in the 50th minute.
Wayne Bridge then had an effort deflected narrowly wide from a free-kick; and while there was a small sense of determination about the Hammers, Arsenal soon strangled it, keeping a choke-hold on possession.
The Arsenal tiki-taka style of play was in full flow, and West Ham couldn’t get close to the ball, with the Upton Park faithful struggling to find a voice.
West Ham almost found an equalizer in the 61st minute, as Song was dispossessed far too easily by Jonathan Spector who fed Freddie Sears. Sears attempted a cross, but it arced back round to cause Szczesny plenty of trouble as he palmed wide.
The Polish keeper was almost embarrassed straight afterwards, as Bridge’s cross bounced high, almost looping over the 20-year-old and in.
In the 76th minute Van Persie put the result beyond doubt, planting a penalty kick inside Green’s right-hand post, following Wayne Bridge’s scythe on Walcott just inside the box.
The England winger was just too quick for Bridge, who had looked off the pace for much of the match – though Walcott could make most left-backs look off the pace in all fairness to the man who started only four Premier League matches in the previous six months.
To say he’d made a good impression would be a lie, however, as blame for all three goals could easily be pinned on Bridge. Kicking a man when he is down is not pleasant though, and to say it was all his fault would be to ignore the brilliance of Arsenal’s display.
Arsenal were completely dominant in every area. The midfield was exceptional, displaying the form that if replicated often enough would see them end their five-year hunt for a trophy extremely swiftly.
West Ham will be glad they don’t have to play Arsenal every week. But with Avram Grant seemingly headed for the exit, they will need to make changes – and fast.
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