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Five things we learnt from the Arsenal thrashing of West Ham

Five things we learnt from Arsenal’s outstanding 6-0 victory over West Ham United at the London Stadium on Sunday.

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Well, that was ridiculous, wasn’t it? In a fixture that many touted as a potential banana skin in the Gunners’s title bid, Arsenal ran out as 6-0 winners (yes, SIX) at the London Stadium. It was the Gunners’ biggest away win ever in the Premier League, as well as West Ham’s joint-heaviest home defeat in their history.

Yes, the Hammers were terrible and devoid of any attacking impetus, but Arsenal were magnificent in every facet and played David Moyes’ side off the park. What really pleased me was that we kept our foot off the gas no matter the lead we had.

Last season, we made a habit of gifting teams glimmers of hope after dominant starts, and it eventually came back to bite us, ironically in exactly the same fixture as today as we carelessly threw away a 2-0 lead to hand the impetus to Manchester City in the tital race.

Today was a different story: Mikel’s boys have developed a ruthless streak and an ability to kill off games beyond reasonable doubt. The game was so ridiculously one-sided that it’s difficult to develop any sensible analysis, but I will do my best: here are five things we learnt from today’s affair. 

Arsenal finally dispell their woes in front of goal

Just over a month ago, we were defeated by West Ham at the Emirates. In that game, we utterly dominated the ball in a manner akin to today’s match, taking 30 shots and generating 2.77 expected goals. However, on that fateful Boxing Day, we failed to put the ball past an imperious Alphonse Areola in goal as Tomas Soucek and former Gunner Dinos Mavropanos capitalised on our wastefulness in a match that perfectly encapsulated our season-long issue with chance conversion. Today, however, we didn’t even give the Frenchman a chance to stop us despite his best efforts, although it briefly seemed like today was going to be a repeat of the same old story.

Early in the first half, Leandro Trossard missed a quick-fire string of three chances and Bukayo Saka failed to make contact with a straightforward header from beyond the penalty spot. However, once William Saliba towered above the West Ham defence to nod home from Declan Rice’s corner in the 35th minute, there was only going to be one winner. The first half was brutal: Saka smashed home a penalty before Gabriel latched onto another Rice delivery and Trossard struck a magnificent effort into the far corner of Areola’s net from the edge of the box.

While I was slightly worried that we would try to sit back and see the game out as the second half began, I was pleasantly surprised to see the dominance continue. Saka cut inside from Odegaard’s inch-perfect through-ball to finish with aplomb, before Rice smashed a stupendous effort into Areola’s top right corner to put the final nail in his former club’s coffin: more on him later. All in all, it was brutally clinical as we finally converted dominance into a big derby win.

West Ham United 0 - 6 Arsenal - Match Report | Arsenal.com

Declan Rice imperious once again: our main man for years to come

This guy can quite literally do anything. Nearly every time I see Declan Rice step on a pitch for Arsenal, I wonder just how we have managed to acquire a player of his quality. Prior to today, I was worried that he would be rattled by his full league return to his former club, as he was poor in the reverse fixture, giving away a penalty and looking a shadow of his usual self. However, he quickly dispelled any worries as he put in yet another dominant display in the middle of the park. His goal was utterly superb, whipped with monumental venom from all of 30 yards and leaving Areola without a prayer in net. 

Although that will undoubtedly be the talking point of today’s game, it only put the icing on the cake on another superb all-round display. He was solid defensively, unerring with his passing and most importantly, 2 of our goals came from his inch-perfect deliveries from set-pieces. We are already the top scorers in the league from set-pieces this season, but deliveries from Saka, Trossard and Gabriel Martinelli have often been poor. Having Rice as our primary taker will maximise the aerial dominance that our tallest players offer in the area, and further increase our conversion rate from those situations. 

EPL: Rice scores on return as Arsenal smash West Ham 6-0 - Vanguard News

Heavy right-sided focus as Ødegaard and Saka dominate but Havertz and Martinelli kept comparatively

It is hard to eek out any serious criticism of today’s showing, but I have to say that the left side was once again underwhelming in its productivity, as the vast majority of our chances in open play were generated down the right.

While part of that can be attributed to the presence of natural centre-back Jakub Kiwior attempting to fulfil unfamiliar duties on the left in Alex Zinchenko’s absence, Kai Havertz and Gabriel Martinelli still do not seem to have clicked to nearly the same degree as Ødegaard and Saka on the other side.

Admittedly, this isn’t much of a problem in games as comfortable as today, but it will be necessary to offer more of a consistently tangible threat on both sides of the pitch against stronger opposition. Havertz has had a quietly decent season this year, linking play well with shorter passes and manipulating play superbly with his off-ball movement.

However, when he does play on the left side of midfield rather than up front, a system where he can assert his technical ability and create more fruitful chances will be a good option in future, especially with the electric Martinelli in front of him. 

READ MORE: Pundit stunned with how good one Arsenal star was against West Ham.

A promising cameo from Nwaneri as Arteta finally gives the youth a chance: a sign of things to come or just a flash in the pan for now?

In the 77th minute today, 16-year-old attacking midfielder Ethan Nwaneri was brought on for the first time since September 2022, where he became the Premier League’s youngest-ever player in a 3-0 win at Brentford.

A common gripe that Arsenal fans have had with Arteta recently is that he hasn’t given young players sufficient opportunities in low-pressure situations. While today’s appearance for Nwaneri won’t be enough to dispel such complaints, it certainly demonstrated that Arteta is not ignorant of the up-and-coming players at the club and that more chances for Nwaneri, and debuts for other youngsters like Reuell Walters and Miles Lewis-Skelly will not be too far in the future.

A word on Nwaneri: while I haven’t seen much of him outside his games in the senior team and a few compilations, today he looked astonishingly accomplished and mature for a player of such a young age. He tried his hardest to involve himself in all phases of play, averaging well over a touch a minute and fitting in seamlessly to the senior team’s dynamic.

Nwaneri has been training with the senior team fairly consistently since his debut last season and seemed very well-versed in the patterns of play that Arteta looks to implement. My feeling is that Arteta is waiting for younger players to develop their understanding of the team’s style of play before throwing them into a game. Hopefully, we will see similar signs from other youngsters when they get their chance, but ultimately only time will tell. 

READ MORE: Arteta reveals a surprising factor in why Arsenal signed Declan Rice.

Arsenal fans say 'love my club' after learning what players were whispering on bench during West Ham demolition | The Sun

Critics silenced: Arsenal are back in the title race

Finally, and most importantly, today solidified the notion that Arsenal are very much contenders in the race for the league title.

Many rival fans, along with the wonderfully non-biased and insightful ‘pundits’ in the mainstream media, were quick to write us off after our poor run of fixtures in December, but ever since the Arsenal squad returned from the heat of Dubai, they have been imperious, scoring 12 goals and conceding just one with Gabriel’s calamitous own goal against Liverpool in the three games since the end of the winter break.

How Guardiola risks being left behind by Klopp, Mourinho and even Arteta | Goal.com English Oman

That we have so convincingly won the last two fixtures against Liverpool and West Ham, teams against which we have traditionally struggled in recent times, particularly asserts our potential to challenge at the top.

While Liverpool will be motivated by the impending resignation of Jurgen Klöpp, and the ever-dangerous City look back to full force with the recent returns of Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne, Arsenal have ensured that they will be amongst the fight as the latter stages of the season approaches, barring a string of horrendous injuries or an inexplicable drop in form of course, not that we’ve ever seen those before.

If I were a betting man, my money would still be on City to take home the title due to their experience and strength in depth, but one would be a fool to say that any of the top three teams can’t win the league this season.

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