9th April 2016: Arsenal waste comfortable lead at West Ham

Welcome back. If the title was unlikely before today’s match at West Ham, it’s now all but gone after we were pegged back from 2-0 up to eventually draw 3-3 at Upton Park.

I missed the opening portion of the game but tuned in just before Mesut Ozil latched onto Alex Iwobi’s pass to fire us into the lead after 18 minutes. When Alexis Sanchez then doubled our lead 17 minutes later, with a very similar goal and again with Iwobi the architect, in truth, the scoreline felt a bit flattering because the hosts had seen a legitimate goal by Manuel Lanzini ruled out for offside and the contest was pretty even.

Remarkably, the Hammers hauled themselves level and went ahead inside 10 minutes either side of the half-time break. Andy Carroll grabbed all three, heading home Aaron Cresswell’s cross after 44 minutes, equalizing in the second minute of first-half added time, and then powering in another header at the far post seven minutes into the second period.

A friend texted to goad: “Oh look, Arsenal have Arsenal’d”, and it was difficult to disagree. From cruise control to chaos in the blink of an eye, we continue to make unforced errors in games, providing our opponents with just the boost in confidence they need to capitalize on our shortcomings and it’s as predictable as it is infuriating. Unless we’re eight-nil up and playing against seven men, it’s impossible to feel confident Arsenal will see out a win.

I think it was Iwobi who gave the ball away under no pressure in the build-up to their first, just as I was willing us to get to half-time with our two-goal cushion intact. But given his role in our first-half goals and overall display, it would be more than harsh to be too critical. And in fairness, aside from those costly ten minutes, we played pretty well, looked fluent and although it’s a pointless hypothetical, if the game lasted another ten minutes or so, I’d have backed us strongly to grab a winner.

Unfortunately the reality is we’re now 10 points behind the league leaders with just six games to go and another top four finish is the best we can hope for for yet another campaign. After the game, Arsene Wenger had his say on Carroll’s impact, why Arsenal struggled and where it leaves our hopes of the title. He said:

First of all because he [Carroll] is good in the air. We lost a bit of urgency when we were 2-0 up after 43 minutes. We had a good game today but a bad result. We played with a weakness that is redundant in the season. If you look at the goals we have conceded since the start of the season, [most of them] are headers in our box. That happened today. It is difficult to go into any assessment of [our own] performances. I have to look at it again. I don’t think Koscielny was at fault at the goal. The first goal, when you are 2-0 up with 43 minutes played, with the experience we have and the way we mastered the ball, then at 45 minutes it is 2-2, you [put] yourself [in] a decline. This is because you give hope to the other team, that is where that little moment in the game made us pay heavily. Third in the league with 59 points. That is not where we want to be but we have made it much more difficult for ourselves now to have a chance to win the Premier League. We have to keep going no matter what and hope. You never know what can happen. As well, we have to look behind us as people are chasing us. We have to be serious and focus on finishing as high as possible. Where that is, I don’t know. This is one of the places where you could drop points but you see the game and feel guilty you have dropped points.

There’s isn’t a lot more to add really. A slim chance of the title is now flickering on the verge of invisibility. All we can do is hope Leicester choke dramatically, Tottenham do likewise, and we win our remaining games. I’m not holding my breath.

Enjoy your Saturday nights if you can folks.

See you on Sunday.

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