London, Dec 16 (IANS) Arsenal moved into the top four in the Premier League as goals by Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe wrapped up an impressive 2-0 win against West Ham United.
Having cruised past Southampton in their previous encounter, it was no surprise to see Mikel Arteta name an unchanged side on Wednesday night as Arsenal looked to build on the momentum.
The Gunners certainly came flying out of the blocks, the intensity shown by the team only matched by that of the fans in a packed Emirates Stadium.
But in the first half of a few clear-cut chances, Arsenal posed the more threat — although it was West Ham who first went close as Pablo Fornals bent one just past the post from the edge of the box.
Just before the interval though, Arsenal pieced together a lovely flowing move involving Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka, before Gran’t Xhaka’s shot was blocked. The ball was cleared to the edge of the’Hammers’ area, and Kieran Tierney aimed with a stunning strike that Lukasz Fabianski pushed onto the bar and over.
Moments later Alex Lacazette forced the former Gunner into action once more with a curling effort, but the breakthrough j’st wouldn’t come as the goalkeeper saved smartly.
After the restart, Arsenal stayed on the front foot and took the lead when the influential Lacazette played in Martinelli behind the backline and he curled the ball into the far corner.
West Ham soon came back strongly, with Aaron Ramsdale forced into a smart save from Jarrod Bowen just a few short minutes later, but it was only fleeting as Arsenal continued to control the tempo of the game.
They were handed a golden chance to extend their lead when Lacazette was taken down in the area by Vladimir Coufal — a challenge that led to the defender getting a red card for a second bookable offence –‘but the striker’s resulting penalty was saved.
It made for a slightly nervier finale. Gabriel hooked a half-chance wide, Saka saw a shot blocked on the line, and then Smith Rowe called Fabianski into action as Arsenal kept the pressure on.
They finally removed any doubt about who would take the three points when Saka raced upfield and found Smith Rowe, and the England international arrowed a shot into the bottom corner, sealing a comfortable win that moved Arsenal to fourth place on the table with 29 points from 17 games. Manchester City (41), Liverpool (37), and Chelsea 36.
In other matches on Wednesday, Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Brighton 1-0 while Crystal Palace and Southampton played out a 2-2 draw.