Shaun Botterill - Getty Images
3-1 at full time looks like quite a comfortable scoreline, in the end. But did Arsenal cruise against West Ham? Not even close. For a while, in fact, it didn't look like it was going to be their day.
Everything seemed to be going Arsenal's way at Upton Park. They were thoroughly in control of the match, and all the play was in the home side's half of the pitch. Then, suddenly, it wasn't. Mohamed Diame, a thoroughly astute summer signing from Wigan Athletic, popped up on the Hammers' left, bamboozled Aaron Ramsey with a clever flick, and then dispatched a well-taken shot past Vito Mannone for the 1-0 lead. It was the 21st minute.
Diame was lucky to stay on the pitch, is it turns out. He'd been booked for an overly enthusiastic celebration, but, appeared to forgetting that he was on a yellow card, opted to scythe down Mikel Arteta five minutes later only to be let off the hook by a bizarre (and incompetent) act of kindness from referee Phil Dowd. The Hammers had their noses in front, and they nearly doubled their lead via the head of Andy Carroll shortly thereafter.
But Arsenal are always a threat, and Olivier Giroud's first Premier League goal saw the visitors back on level terms before halftime. Lukas Podolski fed the former Montpellier striker with a whipped low cross, and Giroud stole in just ahead of James Collins to tip the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen at his near post.
Kevin Nolan nearly restored West Ham's lead after some awful defending in stoppage time, but the off balance Hammers captain mis-hit his attempt and saw the ball trickle well wide of Mannone's net. That chance was an indication of things to come, however, as the hosts continued to press for another goal shortly after the break.
They were probably certain that they'd gotten one after excellent play from Diame played in Nolan for a two-on-one against Manonne, but Carroll's eventual shot hit the post and the offside flag was raised anyway. Then Ricardo Vaz Tê decided to get in on the action. Unlike his teammates, he decided to threaten Mannone's person rather than his goal, going in far too hard with his leg on the unprotected goalkeeper's face. Miraculously, Mannone emerged unscathed, and it was Vaz Tê who was forced out with an injury -- later revealed to be a dislocated right shoulder.
West Ham were wasted some clear-cut opportunities, none more obvious than when Carroll beat Mannone to the ball and then missed the open net with his header, and against a team of Arsenal's quality that's always going to be a problem. After a flurry of end to end play, substitute Theo Walcott eventually found himself free of the Hammers defence, finishing first-time past Jaaskelainen to make it 2-1.
That goal had been coming. Arsenal were somewhat unlucky not to have a penalty when Ramsey was hacked down by Matty Taylor (there's some question as to whether the foul was in the box or not, but it certainly was a foul, which Dowd ignored entirely), and Podolski had come reasonably close to putting his side ahead with a thunderous volley minutes earlier.
But despite Arsenal being in the ascendancy, West Ham still threatened. Nolan, who'd wasted a chance very similar to the one Walcott put away prior to the Gunners' goal, blazed just over Mannone's bar in the 79th minute when he should have done better, and it was clear that the visitors would probably need to score again in order to secure the victory.
Santi Cazorla provided the cushion they needed with a stunning shot from range. Fed by Walcott, the midfielder managed to wrong-foot James Collins before smashing a dipping, swerving strike into Jaaskelainen's top corner. Game over.
Arsenal will be very pleased with the victory, because West Ham provided extremely stiff opposition. A week after disappointment against Chelsea, the Gunners have managed to get back to winning ways, rising to fifth in the table. West Ham, meanwhile, put in a pretty good effort against a very good team -- Sam Allardyce won't be losing too much sleep over dropping points here.