Goals from Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski kept Arsenal in the hunt for the top four
All of which means that Arsenal go fourth, a point above Everton, whose game in hand is against Crystal Palace at home tomorrow. In the end, Arsenal got the job done, although they struggled to find their feet in the first half and fell behind to Matt Jarvis's goal. But they took advantage of slack West Ham defending to equalise through Lukas Podolski and were dominant from then on. Further goals from Olivier Giroud and Podolski in the second half sealed a gritty win as West Ham faded. Thanks for reading. Night.
90 min+4: A careless header falls to Nocerino but his looping volley from 18 yards out hits Vaz Te on the back and flies wide.
90 min+2: Ramsey's shot from the edge of the area is straight at Adrian.
90 min: There will be four more minutes.
89 min: Vaz Te crosses from the left. His lack of match practice shows.
88 min: Santi Cazorla is replaced by Carl Jenkinson.
85 min: Nocerino's free-kick from the right is headed well wide by Carlton Cole.
84 min: West Ham replace Andy Carroll with Carlton Cole, so my night is complete.
82 min: Demel's cross is easily caught by Szczesny, who has not made a save in this second half. "Of all Wenger's recent tactically-suspect decisions, surely not playing Podolski at centre forward ahead of Sanogo and a misfiring Giroud has to rank amongst the worst?" says Matt Loten. The problem with Podolski is he does not offer much beyond being a good finisher.
79 min: West Ham respond by bringing on Ricardo Vaz Te and Joe Cole for Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing.
This is a brilliant goal and it is all down to a wonderful piece of improvisation from Aaron Ramsey. When Giroud had the ball on the left, there didn't appear to be much danger for West Ham, especially when he clipped a high ball to the edge of the area to Ramsey. The pass, hit at head-height, forced him away from goal but he used his noggin in more way than one, directing a preposterous header through to Podolski, who blasted the ball high past the helpless Adrian with that hammer of a left foot. The points are Arsenal's.
76 min: Giroud glides past Reid and slips a pass to Ramsey. It opens up for him to shoot from the edge of the area but he wonks one high and wide from the edge of the area. At the moment, there is not even the slightest hint of a West Ham equaliser, with Arsenal far more comfortable than they were in the first half.
73 min: It would be handy if West Ham had anyone who could deliver a decent set-piece.
72 min: Oh. You now all own my house. Aaron Ramsey replaces Tomas Rosicky. Bye!
71 min: Aaron Ramsey will be on shortly. I'll bet my house on him replacing Kim Kallstrom.
70 min: Armero swings a cross in from the left. From 15 yards, Carroll mistimes his leap and heads well wide. GET CARLTON COLE ON.
66 min: Nocerino curls a cross from deep into the area. Carroll skims a header miles wide. GET CARLTON COLE ON.
64 min: Santi Cazorla goes agonisingly close to scoring a stunner. Arsenal broke from a West Ham free-kick, Giroud releasing Cazorla on the right with a clever hooked pass. Cazorla romped inside, on to his left foot and whistled a wonderful effort inches past the right post from 20 yards. West Ham are hanging on a bit at the moment.
63 min: Kim Kallstrom is booked for a scythe on Nocerino. "That's a red," screams a man who sounds suspiciously like Sam Allardyce. I'm not saying it is Sam Allardyce but it sounds like him.
62 min: Podolski takes the free-kick and draws a good save out of Adrian, bending it fiercely round the wall and to the goalkeeper's right. Adrian reads the flight of the ball and beats it away.
60 min: Giroud is bundled over by Armero on the edge of the area, just to the right. Diame is booked for dissent.
58 min: "Yep, looks like he did read that Bergkamp article," says Tom Jenkins. I'm not sure that goal would trouble a Bergkamp top 20, let alone a top 10.
56 min: Mertesacker is momentarily down after a clash of heads with Diame but he should be fine to continue.
Arsenal score a route-one goal against a Sam Allardyce side. Of course. Why not? West Ham cleared the second Arsenal corner and the ball came to Vermaelen around 45 yards out. He took a touch and then knocked a high ball towards Giroud, who showed great strength to hold off Reid and Carroll, take the ball down and then ram a low finish past Adrian from close range!
54 min: Arsenal muster their first spell of pressure in the second half, Vermaelen's low cross diverted behind by Tomkins at the near post. Tomkins then flicks a header behind for another corner. West Ham get that clear, but...
52 min: I'm not sure if Nocerino meant this, but it would have been a Hall of Fame pass if it had come off. His body shape suggested that he was actually trying to hook a deep cross into the area but did not catch the ball properly. That meant it curved round Koscielny and almost through to Carroll, only to skip away from him. Giving Nocerino the benefit of the doubt, and why not, it was outstanding imagination from the Italian.
50 min: "Not sure if this is a deliberate effort from tactics-extraordinaire, Samuel Allardicio, but Andy Caroll has only been mentioned within 3 minutes of the 45 or so played in the first half," says Gary Wraith. "You'd have thought West Ham would be battering the Arsenal defense left, right and centre, in a similar fashion to the Liverpool game, even with Mertesacker playing. Are West Ham actually trying to "knock it abaat on the floor" to paraphrase Harry Redknapp? I think the earth just came off its axis for a moment."
He's been relatively quiet, but it's more a case of Arsenal just about keeping the many crosses from Jarvis and Downing away from his reach. West Ham are playing some neat stuff at times but need to be more incisive and decisive.
49 min: Diame leaves Arteta on the floor with a lovely backheel in the middle of Arsenal's half, before launching the ball into orbit from 25 yards with his left foot.
47 min: There's an microphone near the pitch - I assume - which is picking up shouts from what I'm guessing is a member of West Ham's coaching staff. "GOOOOOOO ONNNNNN!" bellows a man who sounds suspiciously like Sam Allardyce as Stewart Downing saunters down the right flank, leading a West Ham counter. He cuts inside, on to his left foot, and arrows one wide of the near post. The ball took a nick off Arteta, so it's obviously a goal-kick to Arsenal.
46 min: Arsenal begin what is a big 45 minutes for them. They must play with more urgency. They cannot afford to drop points here.
Credit to England's Brave Matt Jarvis for heading the ball in, by the way, despite Laurent Koscielny almost decapitating him with his attempt to clear.
As Brian Hudner points out, perhaps Olivier Giroud read this stunning article by Rob Smyth on Dennis Bergkamp today and just wanted to be him.
Muted applause greets the half-time whistle. But Arsenal fans shouldn't be too worried given that this was the score at the break in this fixture last season and they went on to win that match 5-1. It's all going to plan.
45 min+2: West Ham have been rocked by that goal and are struggling to clear their lines. Giroud tries to turn and shoot from the right, but his effort is blocked and Adrian saves.
45 min: There will be two minutes of stoppage time.
Just as he did in this fixture last season, Lukas Podolski equalises for Arsenal. West Ham have never really been set since the goal, allowing themselves to be pushed back far too deep, and when the ball came to Cazorla on the edge of the area, he dropped a shoulder and played a delightful reverse-pass through to Podolski. For a moment, he looked to have got the ball stuck under his feet but he sorted himself out and then hammered a low drive past Adrian. He's good at that.
43 min: Kallstrom looks to make amends for losing Nocerino in the build-up to the goal with a thunderous drive from the edge of the area. It's straight at Adrian but too hot for him to hold and he beats it away.
42 min: As you all know, however, West Ham have taken the lead in each of their previous three matches against Arsenal and have ended up losing all three.
West Ham take the lead with an extremely untidy but hugely welcome goal, thanks to Matt Jarvis! Over on the right touchline, Guy Demel spotted Nocerino making a peeling run into space, away from the dawdling Kallstrom. Suddenly Nocerino was free in the area, with a sight of goal on the right, and once the ball had dropped for him, he hit a shot that was pushed out by Szczesny. However the rebound came back to Nocerino, who kept it alive and when the ball spun up into the six-yard box, Jarvis was on hand to head home for only his second goal of the season. Arsenal can't say they haven't been warned.
37 min: Guy Demel momentarily puts West Ham in trouble, taking too long to clear deep on the right, but Tomkins ushers Giroud out of play for a goal-kick. Meanwhile I neglected to mention that Nocerino was booked a minute ago for holding back Giroud.
36 min: With Bacary Sagna caught out of position, Jarvis fails to make the most of the space left to him, his cross easily cut out by the covering Arteta.
35 min: "When you were generously assuming that a lot of people were held up in traffic and would arrive late for the match, were you including the Arsenal team in that?" says Robin Hazlehurst. Actually @arsereview on Twitter points out that it may be down to the second Seder night. You'll notice that I'm being a terrible Jew.
34 min: After dominating much of the first half, now the ball is coming back at West Ham with increasing regularity and they are having to defend diligently. Cazorla is starting to see too much of the ball for their liking.
32 min: Arsenal have suddenly found their feet. Rosicky feeds a pass into Giroud's feet and then runs on to the clever return from the striker. He drives into the area but is unable to take the ball in his stride, allowing Tomkins to hack clear.
30 min: Olivier Giroud should give Arsenal the lead but pays for his self-indulgence. The chance came from an over-confident pass by Noble, who handed possession straight to Santi Cazorla inside West Ham's half. Cazorla instantly split the West Ham defence with a glorious pass through to Giroud, who only had Adrian to beat. However he mistook himself for Dennis Bergkamp and produced an awful, Welbeckian chip which was pushed away by Adrian. Dearie me, that is poor. Just put your foot through it. The replay suggests he might have been offside, by the way.
27 min: "Is Rosicky's pass completion rate at like 20% right now?" You'd have to ask Opta Joe but no one in an Arsenal shirt is distinguishing himself just yet. The problem for West Ham is that they haven't made the most of an impressive start and there will surely come a point when under Arsenal place them firmly under the cosh.
26 min: "A FIFA Fair Play award doesn't help Matt Jarvis - the genuine reward for his honesty would be a penalty kick," says Peter Raleigh. "Everyone purports to be outraged about diving, but it would be easier to recognize and punish the genuine cheats if going to ground weren't a necessary precondition for getting a foul call. As long as it remains true (as it virtually always is) that attackers won't get penalties when they attempt to continue the attack, the incentives point firmly towards going down as easily as you possibly can."
A player has to be cuter in that situation, though. If he goes down, penalty. An Arsenal player would have gone down.
24 min: Arsenal finally get something going in attack, Rosicky turning neatly and finding Giroud on the edge of the area. But his turn is rather more laboured and a challenge with Armero only leads to a West Ham goal-kick.
23 min: West Ham are increasing the pressure, forcing a couple of corners. This is becoming uncomfortable for Arsenal, who look lethargic.
21 min: Arsenal are not doing very much at all. "I expect Podolski, having not played in the semi-final, will give a tiring West Ham fits tonight," says Lou Roper. "More clever man-management from M Wenger."
19 min: Mo Diame wastes a great chance to put West Ham ahead. Downing's corner from the left was overhit, but Carroll managed to make something of it at the far post. He turned a ball back into the six-yard box, where Diame leant back and helped himself to an inept hoick over the bar. He really should have scored. That's the kind of sharp-shooting that has Liverpool sniffing around!
18 min: Carroll can't complain about a lack of service from his midfield. An accurate pass from Diame sends Jarvis on another scamper down the left flank and his cross to the far post has Carroll charging in, only for Vermaelen to head behind excellently. That's fine defending because Carroll was gearing up there. Anyway, corner to West Ham.
17 min: If Matt Jarvis doesn't receive a Fifa Fair Play award, then I don't know what the game's come to.
16 min: Matt Jarvis's honesty may have got Bacary Sagna out of a hole here. After a loose ball broke to Jarvis, Sagna produced a wild hack in an attempt to clear the ball, only to connect with the winger's shin. Jarvis stumbled momentarily and it was a foul, but then stayed on his feet and collected the ball over on the left touchline. If he had gone down, it was a clear penalty. Instead he turns and curls a cross to the far post, where Carroll heads well wide under pressure from Vermaelen.
15 min: Tomas Rosicky is booked for a reducer on Pablo Armero. Typical Wenger tactics against an Allardyce side.
14 min: Here's the first real moment of threat from Arsenal. Podolski finds room to whip in a cross from the left and it's a beauty, impossible for defender or goalkeeper to deal with, but it's just too quick for Giroud, six yards out, to connect with.
11 min: Now Arsenal have a free-kick on the right. It's headed up into the air by Tomkins and drops to Kallstrom on the edge of the area. He winds back his left foot and suddenly there's a heroic moment in the making, but the Swede doesn't catch his shot properly. The ball runs through to Podolski but he's offside.
10 min: A free-kick to West Ham in a central position, around 35 yards from goal. Noble stands over the ball and the big men trot forward from the back, but you know where this is heading. Sure enough, Noble chips a straight ball towards Carroll, who looks to have got the run on his marker. He heads back across goal but Arsenal get it clear with some difficulty, allowing Rosicky to break down the right with West Ham exposed. Cazorla is all alone over to his left and Rosicky tries to find him, but the pass isn't quite good enough and West Ham survive.
8 min: Diame is causing numerous problems for Arsenal, mainly because they've taken the novel approach of not tracking his runs, which appears to be asking for trouble. Again he locates space on the left but his inviting chip is headed away. Liverpool will like what they see of the Senegalese midfielder! What an honour for West Ham!
7 min: Arsenal look nervy at the back. Appalling defending from Arsenal, totally failing to read Diame's run to the left byline, allows Armero to find him with an insultingly simple throw. Diame hooks a cross into the six-yard box. No one is there to meet it but the ball finds Nocerino at the far post. His tame shot is blocked. He might feel he should have done better.
5 min: Mo Diame, once a target for Arsenal, threatens with a winding run from the left. He was found by Downing and he twisted and turned his way past Kallstrom, loping into the area and attempting to curl one into the far corner. Nothing doing, however. Mertesacker proved a tough obstacle to manoeuvre the ball round. Arsenal speed up the other end but Rosicky's pass through the middle eludes Sagna and Adrian collects.
4 min: There are loads of red seats visible in the lower tier opposite the television cameras. I'm not sure I've seen the Emirates this empty for a league game, but perhaps people are arriving late.
3 min: "Hmm," hmmms Charles Antaki. "The prospect of moving Thomas Vermaelen out to left back doesn’t instil confidence - he looks as comfy there as a tank commander having to get out and heave. Master tactician Allardyce will have duly noted." Expect West Ham's raiders to attack with vigour and gusto down the right flank!
2 min: It's Cazorla to take the corner on the left. It's an inswinger but Tomkins heads away at the near post, only for Nocerino to make a mess of his header on the edge of the area, allowing the ball to drop to Rosicky. But it sits up unkindly for the Czech midfielder and his awkward volley is comfortable for Adrian.
And we're off! West Ham, in their white shirts and blue shorts, get the game going, and they'll be defending from right to left in the first half. You know what Arsenal are wearing. Arsenal are quickly on the attack down the left, Giroud taking a high ball down on his chest and winning a corner off former Arsenal man, Guy Demel.
Before kick-off, a minute's silence for the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough. A few shouts here and there, but perfectly and respectfully observed in the main. "Watching Dortmund vs Braunschweig in the German Cup semi-final and just witnessed an moving rendition of "you never walk alone" in memory of the Hillsborough 96," says Jegs McGregor.
Here come the teams. On Sky, Paul Merson reckons that Arsenal need to get the crowd on their side quickly, seeing as if they've been in something of a mood recently. "It's quiet at the moment," Merse understates. He's also spotted a lot of empty seats, but let's be kind and presume that's down to transport problems. It'll be buzzing soon! Bit of Premier League football about to go down!
"Couldn't help noticing in that there video that both of West Ham's goals were scored by Paulo Wanchope, against his old club ," says Rob Marriott. "And that he celebrates, properly, excitedly, thrilled to score. None of this looking shamefaced and apologetic malarkey. Where did it all go wrong? Who do we have to blame for today's uncelebrating nonsense?"
Robbie Keane. He's had so many clubs he can't celebrate any more.
A Joy of Six on cringeworthy celebrations would see this from Dean Sturridge feature prominently. Look at my muscles! Look at them ripple! Look at me flex! Hark at my magnificence! Look at my ... WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT'S OFFSIDE?
There's not a lot of pace in that Arsenal side. Which is strange, given that coruscating speed was one of the hallmarks of Wenger's greatest sides.
Arsenal make changes to the side that beat Wigan. Wojchiech Szczesny, Laurent Koscielny, Kim Kallstrom, Tomas Rosicki and Olivier Giroud all come in. Kim Kallstrom! But with both Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs injured, Thomas Vermaelen moves to left-back, something West Ham will hope to exploit. They are without their hamstrung captain, Kevin Nolan, who is replaced by Antonio Nocerino, while Matt Jarvis plays instead of Matt Taylor.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Arteta, Kallstrom; Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski; Giroud. Subs: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Fabianski, Sanogo, Jenkinson, Akpom, Bellerin,
West Ham: Adrian; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, Armero; Noble, Diame, Nocerino; Downing, Carroll, Jarvis. Subs: McCartney, Vaz Te, Taylor, Jaaskelainen, Carlton Cole, Joe Cole, Johnson.
Referee: Kevin Friend
Evening. Seven years have passed since West Ham escaped north London with the spawniest victory ever recorded in footballing history. It was Arsenal's first season in their shiny new Emirates Stadium, the move a few miles down from Highbury intended to give them the funds to match the spending of their rivals it says here, and Alan Curbishley's struggling West Ham were not given much hope of becoming the first away team to win there. Indeed on the balance of play and after careful reflection, it is not an exaggeration to say that Arsenal should have recorded a victory to the tune of 473-0. They battered West Ham but found Robert Green in stretchy-armed form and then fell behind in the 45th minute to some quick thinking from an opportunistic Bobby Zamora and when the final whistle went, West Ham's fans were singing "we've only had one shot", to which Arsenal's fans might have replied that they'd had one million. It was hard to know which was the grander achievement – West Ham winning or Arsenal contriving to lose. Probably the latter. It really was a remarkable feat of attacking ineptitude.
Whichever conclusion you reach, one thing that is beyond debate is that Arsenal cannot allow something similar to happen tonight. Nothing but victory against Sam Allardyce's Great Entertainers, who will probably be treating us to some 19th century football, will do if Arsenal are to breathe life back into their faltering league campaign and put the frighteners on Everton in the race for the top four. Arsenal are fifth, two points behind Everton, who crushed them 3-0 at Goodison Park last Sunday. The heat is on and that has too often been the cue for Arsenal to melt faster than a witch confronted with a splash of water, although ecent history in this fixture favours Arsenal, though. Since West Ham's promotion in 2011, Arsenal have won all three of their meetings, scoring 11 goals and conceding three. West Ham have taken the lead in all three of those matches but that has only served to anger Arsenal, who beat the Hammers 5-1 at the Emirates last season, scoring four goals in a blistering 10-minute spell in the second half.
Yet doubts plague an increasingly sluggish Arsenal and the reaction to Saturday's win over Wigan in their FA Cup semi-final was more grudging than ecstatic, the mood at Wembley threatening to boil over as they laboured for inspiration against Championship opposition who were eventually beaten on penalties. God knows what the Emirates would have been like tonight if Arsenal had not held their nerve in the shoot-out. Instead the hope must be that victory will have restored a bit of momentum, enough to carry them over the line, and that they will have a spring in their step against West Ham. But confidence is a fragile thing and no one's confidence is more fragile than Arsenal, who have been running on empty, mentally and physically, since the turn of the year. Their performance against Wigan, slow, timid and predictable, did little do dispel the doubts and West Ham will back a defence which has kept 13 clean sheets this season to frustrate an Arsenal attack which desperately needed refreshing in January.
There it is. This was a season that promised so much but it is now threatening to deliver only disappointment and it is difficult to shake off the feeling that finishing in the top four now would be nothing more than the bare minimum, the same old, nothing to get excited about, given the position Arsenal were in two or three months ago. Depending on your standpoint, this could yet be a successful season, Arsenal's first Double since 2002: the FA Cup and Fourth Place Shield. That would be something to build on. Yet Arsenal were top of the league not so long ago, only to suffer yet another spectacular collapse once the season reached its business end, winning just two of their past 11 league matches. For all the talk of injuries, it is impossible to be sympathetic about muscle strains and it all goes back to the failure to improve the squad adequately during the past two transfer windows. Their favourable fixture list means that they may well crawl over the line ahead of Everton – they should certainly win this match – but is it really enough any more? Roy Keane wouldn't stand for it.