Arsenal finally end winless run with victory at West Ham
Pepe scores stunner as Gunners battle back to beat the Hammers 3-1 and end nine-game streak without a win
10 December, 2019 — By Paul Cowling at the London Stadium
WEST HAM 1 (Ogbonna 38)
ARSENAL 3 (Martinelli 60, Pepe 66, Aubameyang 69)
GABRIEL Martinelli scored on his full Premier League debut to set Arsenal on the way to ending their wretched nine match winless run.
The young Brazilian popped up in the 60th minute to equalise for the Gunners at the London Stadium after they had been trailing to a first half goal from the home side.
Further goals from record-signing, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang warmed the hearts of the travelling fans, who had stood and sat shivering in the December cold.
But, make no mistake, up until Martinelli’s equaliser Arsenal were terrible, failing to muster a single shot on target.
The win does paper over the cracks – giving interim coach Freddie Ljungberg and the club a much-needed confidence boost and a little wriggle room – but there is still plenty of hard work ahead if the Gunners are going to get out of the mire they are in.
“In the first half we were slow and didn’t move,” reasoned Ljungberg. “We gave it a go in the second half, and the players did amazingly.
“We could see they (West Ham) were getting tired. We played some good football.”
Ljungberg had made four changes from the side that lost to Brighton, with Pepe, Martinelli, Kieran Tierney and Calum Chambers all featuring in the starting line-up.
But there was an immediate blow for Arsenal when Hector Bellerin was injured in the warm-up. His place went to Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Sead Kolasinac moved on to the subs’ bench.
On paper, it was still an attacking line-up, with the youthful zip of Pepe and Martinelli looking to link up with Mesut Ozil and Aubameyang.
Pepe, went on a mazy run in the opening stages, which left three West Ham players trailing in the Ivorian’s wake. But the run came to nothing.
That was the trouble for the Gunners early on: After 25 minutes, they had 84 per cent possession but not a single effort on goal.
In the 29th minute, the unfortunate Tierney trudged off clutching his shoulder following a tussle with Michail Antonio and was replaced by Kolasinac.
On 34 minutes, Antonio then went on a run into the penalty area and his angled, low drive, drew a save from Gunners’ keeper Bernd Leno.
The game was threatening to warm up. And in the 38th minute it did when the Gunners failed to clear a corner.
From a goalmouth scramble, Angelo Ogbonna’s header bounced off Maitland-Niles back and into the net. Advantage West Ham.
Arsenal were no better at the start of the second half. Then came the turning point.
Granit Xhaka played a shockingly lazy hospital pass across the field that went straight to Robert Snodgrass.
The Scottish midfielder had time and options, but the chance was wasted. And how costly that chance was to prove.
Arsenal should have been 2-0 down going into the last third of the match. Instead they racked up three goals in nine lethal minutes.
They drew level on the hour mark when, against the run of play, Martinelli scored following a rare Gunners attack, sweeping home a Kolasinac cross.
“He (Martinelli) is a fantastic player. He is young and has that energy with no fear. He gives you a smile,” said Ljungberg.
Arsenal had been an absolute shambles, but now they were growing in confidence.
Pepe showed a little of the class that Arsenal’s performances had been missing when he found room to curl home a magnificent second into the top corner on 63 minutes.
“We are staying up,” chanted the Arsenal section, rather dryly. The north Londoners were fired up and going for the kill.
Pepe was the provider for the third when he crossed for Aubameyang to neatly volley home in the 69th minute.
The perplexed stadium announcer got his frizzy perms mixed up late on, welcoming substitute David Luiz as the replacement for Granit Xhaka – when it was, in fact, Matteo Guendouzi.
Arsenal fans were laughing loud for once. And why not, as the club’s worst run since 1977 had thankfully, finally, come to an end.
Ljungberg added: “We are a famous football club. We haven’t won in a long time, and it has been tough for the players.
“We did well to turn the game around, but we won’t get carried away. There is a lot of work to do.”
WEST HAM: Martin; Fredericks, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Creswell (Masuaku, 51); Snodgrass (Holland, 78) Noble, Rice, Fornals, Anderson (Haller, 70); Antonio
Substitutes not used: Roberto, Zabaleta, Sanchez, Diop
ARSENAL: Leno; Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Sokratis, Tierney (Kolasinac, 29); Torreira, Xhaka (Guendouzi, 86), Pepe (Nelson, 88); Ozil, Martinelli; Aubameyang
Substitutes not used: Martinez, Lacazette, Luiz, Saka