West Ham United 1 Arsenal 2
West Ham United 1 Arsenal 2
( Kouyate 54, Cazorla 41, Welbeck, 44 )

Two London derbies in the space of 72 hours and Arsenal recorded their second festive fixture victory, and with an identical scoreline. 2-1 against Queens Park Rangers on Friday, and a 2-1 win in the East End will boost the Gunners going into the New Year. In common with the win over Rangers’ Arsenal were made to earn this win over Sam Allardyce’s robust and adventurous side. Santi Cazorla won and then converted the first half penalty which put Arsenal on course for victory. Danny Welbeck notched the second soon after, and with Cheikhou Kouyate’s halving the deficit early into the second half, the Hammers’ onslaught was held back by some fine saves from Wojciech Szczesny.

Welbeck, Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez should have added to the Gunners’ tally but Hammers’ ‘keeper Adrian too was in fine form. The win takes the North London side above West Ham into fifth and level on points with Southampton, and leaving Arsene Wenger pleased with another hard fought win.

” It was a typical committed, direct game where we needed to be solid in the air, take our chances on the break. Unfortunately when they came back to 2-1, we had five or six chances on counter-attacks that we couldn’t take, but overall everybody did the job very well, from the ‘keeper to up front,” noted Wenger.

” With the ball I think we had a very different game today, but we always looked dangerous. We couldn’t finish the game off – it’s down to the quality of their goalkeeper. It’s down to sometimes missing our chances, sometimes as well maybe there was a player in a better position. Overall we created a lot of chances. When you look at the results today, there’s not too many goals. Forty-eight hours ago everyone played and of course that has a little impact.”

Wenger gave Francis Coquelin his first start for two years, and the man who used to occupy that role before his switch to Barcelona, Alex Song seemed to be on a mission to remind his former employers what they’re missing. Many Arsenal fans have questioned why Song hadn’t been brought back to the Emirates stadium, with the player himself admitting to confusion at that fact. Song had put the ball in the net within minutes of the start. It was a precise finish which Szczesny didn’t see.

As Song refused to celebrate his strike, the ‘goal’ was struck off, with Diafra Sakho ruled to have been in an offside position.
Arsenal however soaked up the early pressure and Sanchez was soon giving the opposition cause for concern with his strong runs and link up play. He robbed Song and surged into the Hammers half. Just as he was lining up to shoot, Joey O’Brian managed to recover the situation with a last ditch tackle. At the other end, Mathieu Debuchy and the fit again Laurent Koscielny were alert to the dangers of Andy Carroll and Sakho. James Tomkins had a volley which he hit wide when clear, and that seemed to be the catalyst to the Gunners’ opener.

Cazorla took possession and ran at the Hammers’ defence. Winston Reid brought down the Spain midfielder who dusted himself off before sending Adrian the wrong way from the penalty spot. Just before the half time whistle, Arsenal doubled their advantage. A swift exchange between Debuchy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain saw the England man send over a cross which fell just right for Welbeck and the simplest of tap ins for his fourth Premier League goal of the season. Sanchez then saw his shot deflected off Song as Arsenal finished the half strongly.

West Ham would offer stern second half resistance and Per Metersacker had to clear from under his goal as Tomkins threatened, but the hosts still had a corner. Unable to clear the danger, Arsenal allowed Tomkins to run and cross from which Kouyate planted his header beyond Szczesny. At 2-1 to the Gunners, both sides knew the importance of the next goal. As against Rangers, the game took on the air of a cup tie, with both sides playing their part in an attractive and expansive game.

Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sanchez were again denied by Adrian and when Welbeck raced clear, he only had Adrian in front of him, but somehow managed to lift the ball over his bar, when it seemed easier to score.
Substitute Kevin Nolan saw his shot held by Szczesny and Enner Valenica headed over the bar, but Arsenal held on for another vital three Premier League points, and for Wenger to applaud his side.

” It was more fight than a creative game but you need to have that in England as well, especially when we played two days ago with 10 men for 40 minutes. When I looked at how much we gave physically ( against QPR ), I was worried for today. We knew before the game that we had to dig deep to win because we were a bit jaded but we did that,” he said.
Another win at Southampton and Arsenal will be eyeing a further climb up the table.