|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
West Ham capitalise on Petr Cech’s debut errors to stun nervy Arsenal
David Hytner at the Emirates Stadium
datePublished Sunday 9 August 2015 15.42 BST
The last time Slaven Bilic tasted an away win on English soil it was 2007, he was in charge of Croatia and there was a bloke with a brolly in front of the opposition dugout. That victory has been freeze-framed on to the minds of England fans and the same will be true of this one for those who follow West Ham.
Bilic’s managerial stint at the east London club is up and running and in fine style after this cool and calculated triumph over an Arsenal team who laboured to turn possession into penetration and conceded a couple of horribly soft goals. Sound familiar?
Cheikhou Kouyaté and Mauro Zárate were the scorers but it was impossible not to focus on the misery that Petr Cech endured on his Arsenal debut. The goalkeeper had been plucked from Chelsea in order to cure Arsenal’s neurosis at the back but it was he who looked like the wreck. Cech was at the heart of the collective breakdown on the first goal, when Arsenal took up a high defensive line on Dimitri Payet’s free-kick.
Nacho Monreal appeared to be assigned to Kouyaté – this Arsenal team is not blessed with much height on set-pieces – and allowed him to dart unchallenged towards goal. By that time, though, Cech had made the decision to race the significant distance from his line and never looked like getting to the ball first. When Kouyaté did, he had the simple task of heading into the empty net.
The second was similarly grim for Cech although, once again, he was not alone in the list of the culpable. Aaron Cresswell ought to have been stopped before he entered the area and when Arsenal looked as though they had belatedly snuffed out the danger, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took a heavy touch and Zárate took over possession. The forward spun and belted in a low shot from outside the area, and time seemed to stand still as Cech failed to read the shot. Perhaps his view was obscured by Laurent Koscielny, and when he did get down and across it was too late. The roar from the visiting enclosure exploded like a firecracker.
Bilic was at the Emirates Stadium with Besiktas at the beginning of last season, for the Champions League play-off, when he suffered a narrow defeat and since that famous night at Wembley with Croatia, he had played four away games in England – with Croatia and Besiktas – and not tasted success. It was worth the wait. Bilic got his tactics spot on, with Reece Oxford belying his tender years to produce an assured display at the base of a central midfield three. The 16-year-old’s best position will probably prove to be centre-half but here he helped to nullify Mesut Özil.
West Ham had a clutch of top-level performances, including one from the new signing at the back, Angelo Ogbonna, but it was the other new boy, Payet, who was the star. The winger was pacy and threatening, and always happy to take responsibility on the ball. West Ham had hardly travelled with optimism, after the Europa League exit against Astra Giurgiu on Thursday night while they had drawn one and lost six of their previous seven visits to this ground. The post-Astra angst was transformed into delight and hope.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had been quick and direct at the outset – Ogbonna was booked for a foul on him; one of three first-half bookings for West Ham – but Arsenal pockmarked their football with loose passes and, for all their possession, they did not create many clearcut chances. They were largely restricted to shots from distance, with Aaron Ramsey’s deflected effort on 31 minutes looping up and hitting the crossbar, and when they did get into the box Ogbonna and his colleagues stood tall. The Italy international made one important tackle on Olivier Giroud while James Tomkins made another on Özil in first-half injury time.
Giroud remains a frustration for many Arsenal fans, although he almost equalised with a deflected shot after Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cut-back. Adrián, the West Ham goalkeeper, adjusted and made a fine reaction save. Arsène Wenger had started Giroud ahead of Theo Walcott but this was one of those performances that highlighted the club’s need for a world-class centre-forward. Every Arsenal supporter continues to hope they will make a firm move for Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema – in whom Wenger is interested – but the manager was quick, as ever, to say that solutions to a disappointment like this had to come from within the club.
Wenger brought on Walcott and Alexis Sánchez in wide areas, and switched Oxlade-Chamberlain to right-back in search of goals. Arsenal did create a couple of late chances but there was never any suggestion of the grandstand comeback. The day belonged to Bilic and West Ham.