Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal players were under no illusions going in to this game against West Ham. While our away form is pretty shaky, the Hammers have a great record at home and were always going to put is under pressure and test the physical qualities that have been known to let the Gunners down.
So it was great to have Koscielny back with Mertesacker in central defence and Wenger gave the back four some extra protection by playing Coquelin in midfield with Flamini. And they had to get through an awful lot of work, especially in the first half as we were pushed back and stretched for most of it.
But we got two crucial bits of luck, which certainly helped. In the first minutes, the linesman gave offside as Song volleyed in. It was hard to see whether the two West Ham players got a touch or obscured Szczesny’s view but the decision went our way for one.
And towards the end of the first half, a fortunate rebound as Cazorla burst into the box led to Reid’s foul and a penalty which the Spaniard converted with aplomb. No giving it to Alexis this time. And as the home fans got on to the ref’s back, Arsenal got on our bike and doubled the lead soon after, with Welbeck on hand to finish a great run and cross from the Ox on the right. Alexis almost made it three before the break as well but was denied by a last ditch block.
And the second half was an absolute corker, with West Ham getting one back about 10 minutes in and then both teams going at it hammer and tongs. The home side pressed and kept sending crosses and corners into our box, while we always looked a threat on the break and nearly got a third to clinch it many times, through Welbeck, Cazorla, the Ox and Alexis.
But with a few minutes left to play, Wenger brought on Gibbs and then Chambers and it was backs to the wall. I have got no fingernails left and six minutes of extra time did not help the nerves, but the Gunners hung on for a great away win that sees us move up to firth.