West Ham 0-0 Arsenal: Soulless and goalless in East London
PUBLISHED: 21:53 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 21:53 13 December 2017
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It was soulless and goalless at the former Olympic Stadium as Arsenal drew 0-0 with West Ham in East London.
Arsene Wenger started Jack Wilshere in a Premier League match for the first time in 577 days, since May 15, 2016 against Aston Villa.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi also started from the side that performed disappointingly against Southampton but snatched a late equaliser through Olivier Giroud who also started in the East End.
Sead Kolasinac dropped to the bench alongside Alexandre Lacazette who was said to have a small groin niggle. Aaron Ramey was missing due to a hamstring strain he picked up at St Mary’s while Shkodran Mustafi was missing again after a thigh complaint.
The opening stages were largely shapeless, punctuated by Alexis Sanchez firing a shot at Adrian – who has deservedly dislodged England keeper Joe Hart at the Hammers first choice keeper which the Spaniard gathered comfortably on nine minutes.
The visitors had a let off on 15 minutes after a cross by the impressive Arthur Masuaku was met by an unmarked Marko Arnautovic, who headed past Petr Cech.
Referee Jonathon Moss immediately dampened the celebrations at the former Olympic Stadium by correctly disallowing the goal, even if it was marginal.
What could be understood more than anything from the move was the statue-like Arsenal backline, once again proving they neither man-mark or zonal mark effectively enough to be challengers for serious silverware.
The game was shapeless and lacking in passion for a London derby. Mark Noble at least showed some fervour by winning a free-kick along the right flank. Aaron Cresswell’s subsequent in-swinger was pushed away by Cech on 37 minutes.
Moments later Sanchez performed an overhead kick in the home box which was inadvertently blocked by his hands. It could well have been a penalty, but again Moss made the right call in denying the visitors a spot-kick as the Liverpool-born 27-year-old left back made no intentional contact with the ball.
But as Moss blew for half-time it was very much a case of soulless and goalless.
By the time the second half started it was ‘Bubbles’ in the rain as the evocative Hammers anthem which used to sum up this proud club blasted out.
The hymn to ‘dreams that fade and die’ is no longer appropriate for legions of long-term supporters as many feel they simply don’t recognise the club since the painful parting from Upton Park.
Arsenal fans could sympathise with the feeling of loss confusion at the new surroundings as well as anyone, displaying terrace wit that spoke volumes on so many levels by singing: ‘Is this the Emirates?’ to a deathly quiet stadium.
The torpor was briefly broken by Bellerin as he drilled a low shot wide on 48 minutes. Granit Xhaka’s long-range effort two minutes later was gathered by Adrian as the rain cascaded down.
Maitland-Niles then then crossed for Giroud to aim a header on goal that was deflected away for a corner which came to nothing.
A well-worked Arsenal move that saw Ozil show neat control by calming a bouncing ball on his knee before flicking just wide saw the tempo and noise levels rise.
On 69 minutes Wilshere missed a chance after firing the ball over when well-placed in the box after a nod-down from Giroud.
With 17 minutes remaining Sanchez had a long-range free-kick beaten away by Adrian but as the clock ticked down the best you could say was that the ‘Javelin’ from Stratford International Station was ready to transport Arsenal fans back to North London in only seven minutes.
As Sanchez was taken off for Lacazette late on it was instructive to recall his superb hat-trick in a 5-1 rout against the Irons around this time last year in arguably Arsenal’s finest performance of the season.
There was still time for late West Ham substitute Chicarito to strike the crossbar after poor Arsenal defending allowed him far too much time and space.
But as the whistle blew as both teams claimed a point you were left with a real sense this Arsenal side is simply not good enough – certainly compared to the great Gunners sides of the past.