Arsenal send a powerful message to rivals after impressive 5-1 rout of West Ham United as Alexis Sanchez hits a stunning hattrick
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal sent a message to the rest of the Premier League after an impressive display of power and glory at the West Ham United’s London Stadium this evening by winning 5-1.
A late flurry of goals saw Alexis Sanchez netting a hattrick after Mesut Ozil put the Gunners 1-0 up on 25 minutes. Andy Carrol replied to make it 3-1 after Sanchez and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain netted to make it 3-0 – with the Chilean then hitting a late fifth.
West Ham, looking bewildered in their new ground had no response.
It was a far cry from the pre-match as a little girl clad in claret and blue held her dad’s hand and took short but decisive steps towards the stadium. She looked up at her dad and asked hopefully, ‘do you think Andy Carroll will play today?’
The shaven headed man, who was wearing not an inch of branded Claret and Blue on was a West Ham man to the core. He didn’t need to make a purchase in the shiny new Stadium Store – where Japanese tourists with selfie sticks were queuing outside in the shadow of the Orbit - it showed in his DNA.
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He looked at her kindly and said: ‘let’s hope so, remember his hattrick at Upton Park against them last season.’
The little girl considered the thought of the marauding Geordie lad and nodded. Dad’s are always right aren’t they.
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The 3-3 draw was the third last game at Upton Park. Grand old Upton Park, Evocative and passionate Upton Park. West Ham United’s home ground, playing their first game on the hallowed turf back in 1904.
However, since the thrilling draw at the end of last season, things have changed, changed utterly. Yes, we’re heading towards Brexit, and someone who takes joy in appointing a man nicknamed Mad Dog as Secretary of State may be heading for the White House – but to West Ham fans, old school West Ham fans, the most important thing that has happened this momentous year is that they have lost their beloved Upton Park.
Gunners fans can empathise with their loss. Even after a decade away from Highbury any fan worth their salt who sat – and stood – at long lost Highbury still misses Arsenal Stadium. Not just for the memories of matches played and won and lost – but for those more intangible moments when friendships are forged through glorious victories and bitter, painful defeats. Where favourite cafes, pubs, chip shops, tube stations are used so frequently they become as familiar as sights on your own street.
But not anymore. For Arsenal or West Ham fans. And the walk through what was the former Olympic Park only served to heighten that disconnect. The Orbit was still standing next to the – now named London Stadium – but the tangled jumble of iron only served as a metaphor for confused Irons fans.
Inside, the facilities were great, the wi-fi worked, the sightlines were good, and the pitch fine. And both sets of fans got on just dandy inside and outside by all accounts. But it wasn’t Upton Park.
And many are attributing that to the East Londoner’s poor season so far – especially after such a stellar one last term.
The Irons were missing top scorer Michail Antonio and left back Aaron Cresswell as the pair picked up groin injuries at Old Trafford in their 4-1 EFL defeat on Wednesday evening.
Former Boulougne striker Diafra Sakho was also missing and Arthur Masuaku started his first game since September – while Gunners’ nemesis from the last ever meeting between the two sides at Upton Park, Andy Carroll – who netted a hattrick in April’s exciting 3-3 draw – was on the bench for the East Londoners.
Wenger’s men started without the habitually-injured Mathieu Debuchy, who picked up a hamstring injury that sees him out for a minimum of six weeks.
French forward Olivier Giroud missed out with a groin issue. The influential Santi Cazorla has had ankle surgery and is not expected back until the spring
Arsenal underlined their hosts listlessness after a shapeless opening third before a slide-rule pass Ozil pass released Nacho Monreal who launched a raid down the right on 14 minutes, running into acres of space behind a lacklustre home defence before firing into the middle with Alexis Sanchez narrowly failing to make contact, after the briefest of touches from Winston Reid.
It was a warning the home side failed to heed 11 minutes later as a supercharged run by Sanchez through the heart of Billic’s defence saw him square the ball for Mesut Ozil to slot into the net to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal. In doing so he equalled his goal tally for the entire season last year.
It has to be mentioned in dispatches Francis Coquelin played a huge part in the counter attack – or as we’re in a brave new world now, the turnover – by blocking off Angelo Ogbonna. allowing the ball to fall to Sanchez to spark the move.
In between Petr Cech showed his reflexes are still good at the top level as he reacted well to turn a powerful drive by Manuel Lanzini away from his near post.
In truth Wenger’s team were superior in all aspects in the opening half. The defence – so shellshocked by Carroll’s juddering aerial assault last year – looked calm and unpeturbed by the ineffective Masuaku, Edmilson Fernandes and even the technically superb Dimitri Payet.
Arsenal may have won nine of the last 11 league matches between the two sides, even if they had only garnered a point from both matches last term – but they looked nailed on to win this game – certainly on the first half performance.
It was instructive to witness so many empty white seats as the game headed for half time, as frustrated home fans headed for the debatable lure of the concourse. Never has this correspondent seen such an exodus outside of Wembley and The Emirates. The two other new grounds in London this century.
And as referee Craig Pawson blew for 1-0 at half time, even the boos were half-hearted and not particularly authentic. Just like an awful lot of things at this perfectly fine stadium – for athletics.
On 54 minutes former Mancehser United starlet Fletcher fired inches wide after a powerful shot from just outside the area, prompting a loud if disjointed rendition of ‘Bubbles’ from the West Ham faithful – who it must be noted were on their best behaviour.
The home side started to offer much more of a threat, roused by the crowd, as if collectively they realised why we were all here. Andre Ayew came on just after the hour mark for the ineffective Fernandes.
Minutes later Randoplh, a replacement for the gifted but beleagured Adrian, pulled off a double save from Ramsey and Ozil after good work down the left flank from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Monreal again.
However, as the atmosphere and home team intensity rose a pitch, Arsenal showed their talent with 19 minutes remaining.
The world class Sanchez – despite what plodding pundits such as Alan Shearer think – must be offered a new contract at all costs. Evidence of why was when he spun off his marker Masuaku with the deftest of touches with the outside of his right foot, and powered into the box before – sizing up his options and angling a low shot across keeper Randolph and into the far corner of his net to make it 2-0.
As the 3,000 away fans celebrated wildly in the away end he cemented hero status with them by proceeding to run over to them and join in the fun. And why not – it sealed the three points for his team.
Unnoticed in the fuss Carroll replaced the disappointing Canning Town lad Mark Noble. But it made no difference. For the heavyweight Geordie looked less than match fit and cumbersome.
Sanchez then struck a third with ten minutes left when he let the ball move across his before unleashing a low shot that wrong footed Randolph after he took a step to the left – as Sanchez disguised his shot by cleverly aiming for the far corner for a sublime fiinsh.
Centre half Shkodran Mustafi picked up a booked for an illegal challenge on Ayew on the edge of the Gunners’ box after challening for the ball on the wrong side of his man and taking him down.
The quiet Payet took the resulting free kick from 30 yards out, and was unlucky to see his curling, dipping right footed shot strike the apex of the bar and post. However the ball fell to a lurking Carroll who nodded it past a motionless Cech to make it 3-1 with his first of an injury-hit season. Memories of the 3-3 came rushing back for all of two minutes before Alex Oxlade Chamberlain made it 4-1 with six minutes left – with wags noting that Carroll only had three touches during his short spell on the pitch – with all three being to kick off.
Oxlade-Chamberlian has the power, pace and technique to become an influential player for club and country – but he must deliver on a regular basis. He showed his undoubted promise by firing in from outside the box with a low right-footed curler that evaded Rudolph’s despairing dive after right back Gabriel – who also had a good game – teed him up.
The irrepressible Sanchez then netted his hattrick with two minutes left to make it 5-1 after a flurry of late goals sparked a huge exodus – leaving West Ham with far more questions than answers.
Sanchez’s third was a joy to behold as Oxlade-Chamberlain sent him through – albeit looking offside.
The Chilean then edged past Reid before delightfully stepping over the ball with his right foot – dummying the Irish international to the ground, buying him a vital moment to lift the ball over the unfortunate former Birmingham City man.
If it could be said it was a case of Randolph the red-faced keeper, then it was instructive to note Sanchez’s exquisite dink came from the same leg as the stepover was executed by – a rare feat.
For Wenger’s men however, it was a clear message that they mean business this term – and with big games coming thick and fast this month many will be delighted they’ve started the month of December with a bang – and left their traditionally troublesome November travails behind.
West Ham United:
Randolph, Reid., Lanzini, Obiang, Noble, Collins (Arbeloa 9), Ogbonna, Fletcher, Masuaku, Payet, Fernandes (Ayew 62).
Cech, Gabriel, Koscielny, Sanchez, Ozil, Walcott (Ramsey 65), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Monreal, Mustafi, Xhaka, Coquelin
Referee: Craig Pawson.