Alex Song headed an 88th-minute winner as Arsenal snatched a dramatic victory to keep West Ham bottom of the table and keep the pressure on the leaders, Chelsea.
Both sides arrived off the back of morale-boosting victories in the Carling Cup, but a return to league action brought with it a reminder of the current disparity between the two clubs. While financially sound Arsenal appear well set to launch a sustained challenge for the Premier League title, cash-strapped West Ham have struggled badly in Avram Grant’s first season at the helm.
The visitors looked on course for a hard-earned point thanks to a string of outstanding saves from Robert Green. He reacted brilliantly to repel a Cesc Fabregas shot in the first half and later thwarted Theo Walcott and Fabregas for the second time. West Ham once again had Green to thank for a one-handed save from Fabregas and, with time ticking, Wenger introduced Nicklas Bendtner in place of Arshavin. Arsenal looked to have hit a brick wall as Green and the tireless Hammers defence saw off attack after attack in the second half.
Arsenal continued to press and it eventually paid off as Song rushed on to Clichy’s beautifully floated ball in from the left and won the match with a close-range diving header for a 1-0 victory. However, on another day it could’ve been three or four. Arsenal had many efforts on goal. Samir Nasri hit the bar and Walcott hit the post. Also, the busy Andrey Arshavin shot wide after a flowing move and it took a superb challenge from Danny Gabbidon to deny Samir Nasri, whose corner was then headed over by Alex Song. The Gunners carved out the best chance of the first half when Song and Bacary Sagna combined to set up Fabregas, but Green showed quick reactions to save the Spaniard’s curling effort with an athletic dive to his right.
Arsenal were not at their fluent best but still carved out chances and Green did well to thwart Song and Sebastien Squillaci before the break. There was a greater sense of urgency about the hosts after half-time and Samir Nasri rattled the woodwork with a 35 yard free-kick to set the tone. West Ham were working hard to keep their opponents at bay but Nasri, Fabregas and Arshavin began to station themselves higher up the pitch in support of lone-striker Marouane Chamakh and Walcott came on for Denilson as Arsenal went all out for the win. Chamakh glanced an Arshavin free-kick straight at Green before Walcott latched on to Fabregas’s sublime through-ball and watched his low strike come back off a post. est Ham once again had Green to thank for a one-handed save from Fabregas and, with time ticking, Wenger introduced Nicklas Bendtner in place of Arshavin.
So Arsenal can now head in to Wednesday’s Champions League game at Shakhtar Donetsk with lots of confidence and with high spirits.