It’s official, Arsenal are no longer the team who took the Premier League by storm earlier this season. Gone is the slick, fluid movement and incisive, quick play that cut through teams every week. Now, a shell of that team, Arsenal are making tough work of almost everybody they play, and West Ham United were just another team to add to that list on Tuesday.
Although Arsenal won 3-1, that does not tell the complete story of the game, as before Arsenal scored in the 44th minute, West Ham were looking the more threatening team as Arsenal stuttered to get going. On their home pitch, Arsenal should have been dragging the West Ham players around the pitch, opening up gaps for them to exploit with their quick interplay, but instead the passing was slow and predictable.
West Ham were comfortable and, more than that, were causing Arsenal problems too, which resulted in them taking the lead through Matt Jarvis. The crowd grew impatient because of the Arsenal performance and the team are clearly feeling the pressure that Everton are exerting on them for the final Champions League placing. They improved after they equalized to make it 1-1, but the fact that it had taken them going behind for them to then settle and begin to play a little better is telling of their current mentality.
Arsenal finished the game looking good, as they were 3-1 ahead, but it’s the first half that should be concerning for Arsenal fans. The Gunners would comfortably take fourth place ahead of Everton if this was the same Arsenal team who began the season, sweeping all aside. The truth is though, it’s not the same team anymore.
Aaron Ramsey enjoyed a great cameo from the bench and right now, he is the best news Arsenal could ask for. Some of the old Arsenal looked like it was returning when the Welshman came on. Could he be enough to make the difference and for Arsenal to finish ahead of Everton?
For Arsenal’s sake, you would have to hope so. They certainly need something extra, because the team that showed up in the first half looked nervous and unsure of themselves. The really scary part, however, is that it’s only going to get even more tense during the final games, and Arsenal dealing well with that is something you would have to somewhat doubt right now.