Last night I was at the Emirates to assess Arsenal’s chances of obtaining a Champions League berth and a West Ham side that has comfortably survived but whose manager Sam Alladyce is derided by their fans. In a scrappy first half West Ham took the lead only for the Gunners to equalise almost immediately. In the second half Arsenal ran out comfortable winners with goals from Podolski and Giroud.
West Ham played five at the back and a bank of four in front of them. In the first half Arsenal, with Giroud as lone striker, played their normal fluid passing game but this rarely troubled a well organised defence who had had sufficient numbers to cope. The Hammers’ only tactic was using the wide men, Stuart Downing and Matt Jarvis, to feed Andy Carroll with crosses. They did take the lead with a headed goal from Matt Jarvis which the Arsenal defence might have have cleared. This did seemed to ignite a passive Arsenal into action and Podolski equalised. Arsenal’s dominance continued in the second half.
Arsenal do not have the efficient power of Chelsea, nor the depth of talent of Manchester City, nor the passion of Liverpool, and their league table position of fourth seems the correct one. They will probably fight off the Everton challenge as they have the easier games (Everton still have to play Manchester City at home) but you can see why the teams above them beat them with ease. Of course they have Wilshere, Walcott, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ozil to return, but again you feel that the big boys have the squad to overcome these injuries.
My stance was that Arsene Wenger should stay and a replacement would not bring the same success, but watching them I began to understand the alternative view – expressed by many Arsenal fans – namely that, to restore the club to its giddy heights atop the Premier and win silverware, they need a significant investment in players and a fresh approach that a new manager would provide.