Arsenal resisted some intense West Ham United pressure to hang on for a 2-1 win at Upton Park in the Premier League - a win that takes them above the Hammers and fifth in the table.
Arsene Wenger’s men were 2-0 up at half time against the run of play and were forced to work extremely hard to resist a spirited West Ham performance that perhaps deserved more.
Santi Cazorla was fortunate with a bobble to get beyond Winston Reid in the area on 41 minutes, but there was nothing lucky about the award of a penalty - Reid clearly tripped him and the Spaniard buried the penalty.
Two minutes later and the Gunners doubled their lead. West Ham were asleep for a throw and Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain exploited this by driving to the byline and squaring the ball through Reid’s legs for Danny Welbeck to tap home.
Cheikhou Kouyate pulled one back with a close-range header ten minutes into the second half, but the home side could not create any sustained pressure and the Arsenal defence, boosted by the return of Laurent Koscielny, was resolute.
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It was a crucial win for Wenger’s men and took them level on points with Southampton, behind only on goal difference. So a win in their next game, a trip to St Mary’s on New Year’s Day, will guarantee a return to the top four.
Here are the Arsenal player ratings from the 2-1 win over West Ham…
Wojciech Szczesny - 9
Could do little with the West Ham opener and was an assured presence behind the back four. Collected countless crosses before they could reach the head of Andy Carroll.
Per Mertesacker - 7
A strangely quiet afternoon for him, despite the defence being put under quite a bit of pressure, as most crosses went to the back post. Was largely in control when called upon.
Laurent Koscielny - 7
Had a similar game to his partner in the middle and his mere presence seems to improve the Gunners’ solidity. Did not look fully fit, but attacked the ball impressively.
Mathieu Debuchy - 5
Was targeted by the Hammers and had a bit of a torrid time while defending. Was beaten by Kouyate for West Ham’s first and was out-jumped countless times by Carroll - an area where he is usually quite solid.
Nacho Monreal - 6
Did not have as much trouble in the air as his fellow full-back, but was beaten a couple of times on the ground by Amalfitano and Downing.
Mathieu Flamini - 6
It has not been a good couple of weeks for him and he was subdued again here, though didn’t make many mistakes. Kept it simple but could not impact the game enough.
Francis Coquelin - 7
A big ask to start away in the Premier League after being recalled from Charlton a week or so ago and acquitted himself very well. Worked extremely hard, made lots of important tackles and played well all round. Did not look flustered in the slights.
Santi Cazorla - 7
Got a bit of good fortune for the penalty, but buried it and created a number of dangerous situations for Arsenal. He atrocious shooting from earlier this season has well and truly disappeared, but was one of a number of Gunners players to squander chances in the second half.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - 9
Has really come of age this season and was excellent again at Upton Park. Set up the second with a great driving run and square ball to the byline. Was a constant danger throughout the second half on the break and should really have scored. Ran himself into the ground and was subbed for Calum Chambers late on.
Alexis Sanchez - 9
While not being able to get on the scoresheet or get an assist, the Chilean was once again crucial to Arsene Wenger’s side. He never stops running and was a constant danger in the second half on the break-away. Should perhaps release the ball more quickly at times, but took the pressure off the defence so often he can be forgiven.
Danny Welbeck - 8
Scored Arsenal’s second goal from close range and was another Gunners forward to work himself into the ground. Held the ball up well at times and nearly scored a goal of the season contender with a run from his own half. Another who should have scored in the second half, but played very well.
Kieran Gibbs (on for Welbeck on 85 mins) - 6
Brought on to shore up the right hand side and mostly did what he was supposed to.
Calum Chambers (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain on 90 mins) - n/a