Arsenal climbed into the top four for the first time this season with a 2-0 victory over 10-man West Ham, thanks to goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe.
Mikel Arteta took a risk by removing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as captain and leaving him out of the squad again tonight, but with Saka shining and Martinelli and Smith Rowe scoring, it appears that youth is the way forward for the Gunners.
Bukayo Saka was causing havoc down the right, linking up with Martin Odegaard to feed Granit Xhaka; his show was heroically blocked by Craig Dawson, before Tierney’s crashing half-volley from outside the box was tipped onto the bar by Fabianski.
Fabianski could only parry Lacazette’s drive from the edge to Martinelli, but the Brazilian only committed halfheartedly to diving into the rebound under pressure from both the goalkeeper and Dawson, turning wide.
West Ham needed the break more than Arsenal, but it was only a temporary reprieve as the Hammers came out firing after the break.
They took the lead when Lacazette found a gap in the West Ham defense and threaded a perfect through ball to Martinelli. The striker calmed down before slotting bottom right for his second Premier League goal of the season.
Arsenal briefly turned on the style – a Martinelli nutmeg on Tomas Soucek and a brilliant Saka turn of pace were cheered like goals at the Emirates – but West Ham nearly silenced the home fans instantly as Aaron Ramsdale superbly tipped away Jarrod Bowen’s deflected effort.
The game widened dramatically, and Arsenal capitalized on the gaps that appeared in both final thirds. Midway through the second half, Coufal slid in on Lacazette in the box; he made slight contact with the ball first, then Lacazette, but it was enough for Taylor to award.
Coufal received a second yellow card, and despite Fabianski saving to his left from Lacazette’s spot-kick, West Ham felt unfairly treated by the numerical disadvantage.
Arsenal should have won with 10 minutes to go, but Saka’s shot from Tierney’s cross was somehow blocked by Issa Diop, but they did get a two-goal cushion thanks to a move made at the Hale End Academy.
Sub Smith Rowe received the ball from Saka and drove towards the box, finding the smallest of gaps between Diop’s legs and into the bottom right corner of the net.
West Ham, who have only taken five points from a possible 18, can point to the debatable decision to dismiss Coufal, but Arsenal were deserving of their victory, as Arteta begins to turn The Emirates into a fortress in their pursuit of a first top-four finish since 2016.
10 – Players aged 21 or under have scored 10 of Arsenal’s 23 Premier League goals this season (Smith-Rowe x6, Martinelli x2, Saka x2), the most by any team in the tournament this season.
In the Premier League this season, no team has won more points (22) or recorded more victories (7) at home than Arsenal, while only Manchester City (19.7) and Liverpool (19.4) have averaged more shots per home game than the Gunners (17.9).
I hope this will be the case as the season continues.