Arsenal came from behind to secure a convincing 3-1 win over London rivals West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day (26 December).
Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Edward Nketiah each scored a goal for the Gunners after Said Benrahma fired the Hammers in front in the first half.
The Premier League leaders enjoyed a fine start to the game, effortlessly finding each other with crisp passes. It only took them five minutes to ripple the back of West Ham United’s netting. Martin Odegaard played a pass for Saka, who let it run through to Nketiah. The striker smartly fed the ball to Saka, who finished off the move from close range. Unfortunately for Mikel Arteta’s side, the goal was ruled out for offside in the buildup.
In the 24th minute, Saka directed Thomas Partey’s cross into Odegaard’s path. The Arsenal skipper did well to get his shot away but ended up hitting the side-netting. A couple of minutes later, William Saliba recklessly brought down Jarrod Bowen inside the Gunners’ box, prompting the referee to point to the spot. Benrahma stepped up and hammered his spot kick down the middle of the goal to put West Ham ahead.
In first-half injury time, the referee awarded a penalty to Arsenal after Martinelli’s outside-the-box effort seemingly hit Aaron Cresswell’s extended arm. Upon closer inspection, VAR overturned the decision, finding no infraction as the defender had made contact with his head.
Eight minutes into the second 45, Saka drew the hosts level, intercepting Odegaard’s shot and turning it past Lukasz Fabianski from close range. Five minutes later, Martinelli completed the turnaround, beating Fabianski at his near post.
Nketiah, who started in place of the injured Gabriel Jesus, scored the insurance goal in the 69th minute. Odegaard found the forward in space inside the box, and he made no mistake slotting the ball into the far-bottom corner.
Arsenal maintained their stranglehold for the remainder of the game, with the visitors failing to create anything of note. The win kept Arteta’s boys in first place with 40 points after 15 matches. Newcastle United are second with 33 points in 16 games, while City remain in third with 32 points in 14 matches.
Here are five Gunners who fired on all cylinders to propel their team to a morale-boosting win in their Premier League return:
#5 Edward Nketiah
Set to serve as Arsenal’s first-choice center-forward in Jesus’ absence, Nketiah put on quite a show. He showed plenty of initiative, linked up well with teammates, and scored a neat goal in the 69th minute.
Receiving a pass from Odegaard, Nketiah swiveled past an unsuspecting Thilo Kehrer and found the bottom-left corner of West Ham United’s goal with a tidy finish.
Nketiah completed 22 passes (91.7% accuracy), won four duels, and drew a foul against West Ham United. He also made a tackle and attempted two dribbles.
#4 Granit Xhaka
While Partey held the fort, Xhaka ventured forward every chance he got and eventually set up Martinelli’s goal in the 58th minute. The left-central midfielder found himself in possession on the edge of the box and fed Martinelli down the left wing. The Brazilian cut in and beat Fabianski at his near post.
Xhaka played two key passes against West Ham United. He also delivered two accurate long balls, completed a dribble, won five ground duels, and drew two fouls.
#3 Thomas Partey
Thomas Partey was the metronome of the Gunners’ midfield. He dictated the tempo of the game with his short passes, always made himself available and was formidable in one on one situations. Partey’s long balls were menacing as well and kept the West Ham defenders on their toes all night long.
Partey delivered four accurate long balls, completed 78 passes (83% accuracy), and won six of eight ground duels. Additionally, he drew two fouls, made an interception, and attempted two tackles.
#2 Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka was Arsenal’s sharpest forward on Monday night. He made excellent runs, created chances for teammates, and did ever so well to turn in Odegaard’s shot/pass from close range in the 53rd minute. He rarely misplaced a pass, held his ground well, and never broke the press.
Saka played four key passes, delivered three accurate long balls, and completed 27 passes (90% accuracy). Saka also created a big chance, accurately produced two crosses, and attempted two tackles.
#1 Martin Odegaard
Arsenal skipper Martin Odegaard led from the front on Monday night, dictating the tempo of the game and providing two important assists.
His first assist, to Saka in the 53rd minute, was probably not intentional, as it looked more like a shot. However, the former Real Madrid man is unlikely to have any qualms about it. Sixteen minutes later, he set up Nketiah with a perfectly weighted through ball, and the forward made no mistake turning it in.
The attacking midfielder played a game-high five key passes, created two big chances, completed two dribbles, and won six duels. It was a spotless display from the captain.