Two centre-back goals give Arsenal win over West Ham to stay fourth

Moyes mixed and matched his Hammers team with Europa League to come

West Ham 1 Arsenal 2

Two goals from central defenders, both following corners, and an overall performance that did not convince. Mikel Arteta did not care. To the Arsenal manager, it was not about how the victory came or in what kind of style. It was only about the result.

Arsenal could feel the pressure, with Tottenham having beaten Leicester earlier in the day to jump above them into fourth place – also known as the Promised Land. Arteta's team had to react and they did so, keeping the dream burning of a first Champions League qualification since 2016.

Rob Holding, in for the injured Ben White, had not scored since September 2019 but he did so when he capitalised on loose West Ham marking on a Bukayo Saka delivery to make it 1-0.

With one eye, understandably, on Thursday's Europa League semi-final return at Eintracht Frankfurt, David Moyes had mixed and matched with his lineup, starting Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio among the substitutes and the West Ham manager might feel that they were missed on defensive set-pieces. He was also without three of his key centre-halves.

Jarrod Bowen got an equaliser that was merited on the balance of the first half but the game turned when West Ham could not defend the second phase of another Saka corner. When Gabriel Martinelli crossed, Gabriel Magalhães was all alone to power home his header.

According to the Arsenal support, Arteta knows exactly what they need. What he did not want was an injury to Takehiro Tomiyasu, the right-back, who had started for the first time since 20 January. But for the manager, the smooth outweighed the rough. The history was on Arsenal’s side – they had lost only two of the previous 27 league games against West Ham, winning 20 – but it was all about how they imposed themselves here. It was an opportunity that they could not allow to slip.

How much did West Ham really want this? Eintracht had to be on their minds. Moyes asked Aaron Cresswell to play on the left of a central defensive two, with Ryan Fredericks away from his preferred flank at left-back and Bowen filling in up front. It was plain that Arsenal's need was greater but they made one of those slow starts that so frustrate Arteta; the movement telegraphed, the basic oomph missing.

Arsenal did little until the 38th minute. That was when Bowen gave away the ball and Martin Ødegaard released Eddie Nketiah, who sliced left to right, into a large seam of space. His low shot forced Lukasz Fabianski to tip behind, although it might have been more precise. Arsenal did not mind because, moments later, they were in front.

It was strange to see Holding up against Maunel Lanzini on the corner from Saka. He duly brushed him aside and, when he rose, there was nobody close enough in claret and blue. The header was glanced into the bottom corner.

West Ham had been a little more proactive up until then. Kurt Zouma had a header blocked while Lanzini saw Holding throw himself in front of a shot after Vladimir Coufal's cross had taken a slight deflection. Declan Rice also side-footed weakly at Aaron Ramsdale.

West Ham were deservedly level at half-time. Ramsdale had needed to throw up a hand to keep out Rice's near-post flick from a Pablo Fornals corner and the equaliser followed a raking pass from Rice out to Coufal, who cut back for Bowen.

The striker’s first touch set up the shot and the technique on it was excellent, conjuring power, the ball flicking off Gabriel and beating Ramsdale inside the far corner.

West Ham felt that Ramsdale got away with one on 53 minutes when he tore out of his area and threw himself into a high challenge on Bowen, who had chased a ball forward. Ramsdale unbalanced Bowen, who went down but Mike Dean saw that there was no contact. Even if there was, it would probably have only added up to a yellow card. – Guardian

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