Arsenal clinched a vital victory in the race for fourth place in the Premier League by beating West Ham 2-1 on Sunday afternoon. Rob Holding gave A
Arsenal clinched a vital victory in the race for fourth place in the Premier League by beating West Ham 2-1 on Sunday afternoon. Rob Holding gave Arsenal the lead when he headed home Bukayo Saka’s pinpoint corner to net his first ever Premier League goal. West Ham went in level at half-time thanks to Jarrod Bowen’s deflected finish, but the away side re-took the lead shortly after the break through Gabriel Magalhaes’ diving header from Gabriel Martinelli’s back-post dink. Eddie Nketiah had a few chances to make it 3-1 after the Hammers pushed for another equaliser, but it never came as Arsenal moved back in fourth place following Tottenham’s 3-1 win over Leicester. Here are the four things we learned from the game at the London Stadium.
Gunners find a way
Goalscoring has been a bit of a problem for Arsenal this season. Their one-month dip from mid-March to mid-April, which saw the Gunners lose four of their five Premier League games, had many roots but the major one was a lack of killer instinct in front of goal, with just two goals scored in that period.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is gone and, as things stand, Arsenal will lose their other two senior strikers come July 1. The transfer window can provide a fix to that problem but for the meantime they need to find a way to secure fourth place without a prolific striker.
They did so against West Ham, with centre-backs Holding, who was replacing the injured Ben White, and Gabriel coming up trumps with headers in the penalty areas. Mikel Arteta’s side are not renowned for their set pieces or aerial prowess but both defenders timed their runs well to bury the chances presented to them. Their contributions could prove absolutely vital come the end of the month.
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Nketiah making his point
The vast majority of this season has been a deeply frustrating personally for Nketiah, who has found his opportunities extremely limited by Arteta. The 22-year-old striker has done all he can to impress, scoring five times in as many Carabao Cup games, but, until recently, had not been considered good enough for the Premier League.
With Aubameyang gone and Alexandre Lacazette out of favour and soon to be out of contract, Nketiah is suddenly the flavour of the month. He appears determined to show his manager that he deserves a regular starting spot.
His two-goal performance in the 4-2 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge turned heads and he has maintained momentum since. After a quiet opening 30 minutes, it was Nketiah who brought the game to life with a driving run and curling low shot which forced a good save from Lukasz Fabianski and it was he who provided a constant threat in behind when West Ham pushed up in search of an equaliser, curling one wide and testing Fabianski once more.
Like Lacazette, Nketiah is out of contract on July 1. Arteta wants to keep him, and will no doubt have to give him assurances over his involvement next season, but the young striker holds all the cards.
Bigger fish to fry
Moyes left Antonio and Tomas Soucek on the bench for this game as he continued his recent rotation policy. It is completely understandable, given the fact they are competing on two fronts – and that the other competition is more important.
West Ham’s hopes of a top-four finish have disappeared and there is comparatively little to be gained from moving up from their current position of seventh. Yes, a place in next year’s Europa League, instead of the Conference League, is desirable. But really, all eyes are on Thursday and the semi-final second leg against Frankfurt.
Win that and move into the final at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville on May 18 and the league position will be all but forgotten. The Hammers have a 2-1 deficit to overturn in Germany and Moyes’ focus is therefore spot on.