Arsenal’s title hopes are all but over after throwing away a 2-0 lead at Upton Park on Saturday to draw 3-3.
With Leicester and Tottenham both facing tricky games on the Sunday, Arsenal had a real chance to put pressure on their title rivals and looked like they would do so, taking the lead via goals from Ozil and Sanchez, but a centre forward masterclass from Andy Carroll saw West Ham draw level in a matter of minutes before the break.
West Ham would then take the lead as Carroll secured his hat trick and Arsenal had to scrap to get and equaliser and escape from East London with a point.
Whilst seemingly out on their feet by the end, West Ham will feel hard done by with 2 goals disallowed but it is a measure of how far they have come under Slaven Billic.
For Arsenal they will rue the missed opportunity especially having been in such a dominant position but it will come as little surprise to their fans, who are growing accustomed to seeing their side fluff their lines when the stakes are high and it came as little surprise to Football Fanzone’s Jason Cundy either who felt Arsenal, yet again, crumbled under the pressure:
Arsenal were the better side until Carroll got his first goal. There was a ruthlessness in their performance with 2 chances yielding 2 goals. Ozil was never going to miss and the same for Sanchez. But despite their lead I didn’t feel like they were 2 goals better than their hosts.
We’ve seen Didier Drogba bully Arsenal before; a ball from the wide areas and a big strong centre forward will do the damage against them. It’s an effective tactic and West Ham employed it perfectly. Arsenal didn’t do enough to stop the ball coming in; they could have gone with the returning Cech as he would have done a better job at collecting them than Ospina did.
It’s typical arsenal though; in a massive game with a chance to put pressure on the sides above and they let it slip. Their fans must be frustrated but they have seen it before. I had some say they were still in the title race last week on talkSPORT but I found it laughable because despite mathematically being possible, they are pretty far off Leicester and Spurs.
One thing that had me scratching my head was Arsene Wenger’s decision to leave Per Mertesacker on the bench with Andy Carroll playing. Why not match them up? Neither player is particularly mobile but in the air Mertesacker could have equalled him. It’s not like they were facing Sergio Aguero who would have caused him issues on the floor. They were facing a giant on the pitch but left their giant on the bench, which made no sense to me.
Praise has to go out to Carroll after this performance too and for me he has thrown his hat in the ring for a place at the Euros. On Saturday he put in as good an aerial centre forward display I’ve seen since Drogba.
He offers something different to the rest of England’s strikers and if he can continue doing it and stays fit there is a debate to be had as to whether he should go to the Euros.
I never thought I’d be saying it but he can be effective if a change is needed. You bring him on to create mayhem in the opposition box from set pieces and crosses into the box.
The only argument against, is what we saw with Peter Crouch. Crouch is nowhere near as aggressive as Carroll is in the air but constantly found himself penalised, giving away a ton of free kicks. It may be OK in the Premier League but he won’t get away with it internationally.
I don’t think he should be a starter, but he could provide a very very interesting option.