Club Focus – Arsenal – Walcott and van Persie gun down a beleaguered West Ham

After a harrowing week in the domestic cups, Arsenal appeared glad to return to league action for the first time since their insipid draw against Manchester City. A far cry from the flat and less-than-flattering performance against Ipswich Town, the Gunners were vibrant in possession against West Ham United and dominated from start to finish in the 3-0 victory.

With the Hammers dogged by uncertainty over the future of manager Avram Grant, Arsenal did not know whether to expect the Hammers to rally behind the Israeli or turn in a performance befitting of their position at the foot of the table. Eventually the latter occurred, as the Gunners’ midfield triumvirate bossed the play and created the decisive opportunities for Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott to exploit.

Despite the conjecture surrounding Grant’s position and the potential effect on the team, it appeared certain that Arsene Wenger’s men would be in for a battle at Upton Park. At the Emirates, Scott Parker and former Gunner Mark Noble provided a stern test for Arsenal’s engine room, as their energy and tenacity largely stifled the Gunners’ creativity. On that occasion, Alex Song snatched a dramatic last-minute winner, but such a nail-biting climax was not required this time around. Parker’s absence, combined with Noble’s withdrawal through injury, prevented the Hammers asserting the same pressure as Cesc Fabregas and co. found ample time on the ball to pick passes out to the dynamic front men.

Whilst the midfield had a relatively comfortable game, the result may not have been so comprehensive but for the finishing of Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott. The English wing-forward set up van Persie in the 14th minute after some dynamic play and the Dutchman returned the favour just before the break to send the side in 2-0 up at half time. The No. 10 eventually went on to bag a brace in the 10th game of his comeback from injury, and 10 was also a significant number for the day’s other scorer, Walcott. The England winger’s strike just before the interval was his 10th of the season (the first time he has reached double figures for Arsenal) and also marked the 21-year-old’s 100th Premier League game.

Since his arrival as a 17-year-old, Walcott has long been dubbed as the successor to Thierry Henry, although his development has been curtailed by numerous injury setbacks. The man whose No. 14 shirt he inherited has returned to train with the club in the MLS off-season and the manager anticipated the benefit to his starlet: “Of course Theo will benefit… In front of goal, Thierry was somebody who was very sharp. He can give you good advice because he analysed the defenders very well.” Walcott still has a long way to go to emulate the flamboyant Frenchman, but he has shown a marked improvement this term; with Thierry’s tutelage resuming, Arsenal fans can hopefully look forward to more from Walcott.

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