An incredible match at the London Stadium saw Arsenal battle back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 against West Ham in a blow for David Moyes and his side’s Champions League aspirations.
Jesse Lingard put the home side in front with a brilliant strike from the edge of the penalty area before Jerrod Bowen made it two while Arsenal failed to organise themselves for a free kick.
Thomas Soucek made it three just after the half hour but went from hero to villain when he deflected Alexandre Lacazette’s effort beyond Lukasz Fabianski for 3-1.
Arsenal reduced the deficit further in the second half when Craig Dawson scored his second own goal in as many weeks after turning in a Calum Chambers cross from the right.
After heavy pressure, the Gunners equaliser eventually came with less than ten minutes to play when Lacazette headed in a cross from Nicolas Pepe.
As we get out breath back, here are the main observations from hugely entertaining London derby.
1. Hammer blow
West Ham have confounded expectations this season to find themselves in contention for a top four place and their performance here was the kind of Jackel and Hyde display that suggests they may just fall short.
Moyes’ side came flying out of the blocks and Arsenal had no answer to the four-pronged attack of Michail Antonio, Lingard, Said Benrahma and Bowen.
However, the Hammers allowed the Gunners back into the game, and were unable to weather the storm and see out what at one stage looked like a comfortable victory.
A win would have taken them level on points with Chelsea in fourth but more than the result, the nature of the collapse suggests they are not quite ready to rub shoulders with Europe’s top sides.
2. Lionheart Lingard
Eyebrows may have been raised when Gareth Southgate named the on-loan Manchester United midfielder in his latest England squad but anyone who has been watching him closely since his move to East London will know the call-up was fully deserved.
Having been the scourge of Arsenal on a number of occasions during his United days, the midfielder scored his fifth career goal against the Gunners with a stunning drive from the edge of the penalty area having been criminally left unmarked by the hapless opposition defence.
The strike was also his fifth goal in seven matches since his move south and on current form, is both worthy of his call up for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and perhaps even consideration for the Euros in the summer.
3. Unhappy Ever After
Mikel Arteta played for six years under David Moyes at Everton and ahead of this latest meeting on the touchline, described his former manager as a ‘huge influence’.
Given that Moyes’ reputation is that of a manager who stressed defensive organisation when the two were on Merseyside, there was none of that evident from either manager in a frantic encounter.
Arteta had got the better of Moyes in their two prior meetings but today the spoils were shared leaving both men with a lot to think about on the training ground.
4. Arteta’s defensive woes
It’s clear the Arsenal manager isn’t sure of his best defensive set up and that was evident as he named a changed back four with Pablo Mari recalled and the surprise inclusion of Chambers.
An almost trademark slow start from the Gunners invited early pressure from the Hammers onto their reshuffled backline but as they tried to adjust, the discipline to cope was lacking.
Chambers was perhaps guilty of allowing Lingard the freedom of the London Stadium to open the scoring, before the Gunners defence were caught napping as the United loanee’s quick free kick allowed Bowen to double the advantage.
Every subsequent West Ham attack rattled the Arsenal backline and when Soucek redirected Antonio’s header beyond Leno with barely half an hour played, it was no less than the home side deserved after a shambolic defensive display from the visitors.
Even after fighting their way back into the match, it was panic stations as West Ham had chances to extend their lead before Lacazette’s equaliser.
Despite his side showing incredible fortitude to secure a point, Arteta will be concerned his side has now gone 12 matches in all competitions without a clean sheet with the solution to his problems not exactly clear.
5. Has Leno Bernd his bridges?
Part of the problem for Arteta might lie in goal. When Arsenal brought the German stopper to the Emirates in 2018, it looked as though they had finally found a long-sought-after reliable presence in goal following a string of questionable purchases down the years.
However, this season Leno has brought back years of painful memories with some poor displays between the sticks.
A ridiculous red card at Wolves as well as his involvement in the goals conceded away at Burnley and Olympiacos had already raised questions over the player, so allowing Bowen’s near post effort to squirm through his body certainly wouldn’t have helped his cause.
Arteta would have been pleased with a couple of late saves but will also be hoping his number one can find some consistency again quickly, or else the Gunners boss might unexpectedly find himself in the market for a replacement when the transfer window opens again.
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6. Not for Lac of trying
Almost all the discussion this week at Arsenal this week has concerned Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his issues both on and off the pitch.
The Gabonese hitman had another poor game in front of goal but his strike partner was on hand to steal the headlines instead with the kind of ‘number 9’ performance Arsenal fans would love.
Although his first effort to get his side back in the game went down as a Soucek own goal, the Frenchman made a nuisance of himself throughout the second half and eventually got his reward when he powered in his late header to level the scores.
Lacazette’s display comes off the back of his match-winning display in the north London derby and the player may have cemented his place up front going into the final months of the season.
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