With lots of the young guns missing, Arsenal fielded a more experienced and less energetic team, but it was a case of old heads doing the business as Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud made our highly regarded defence look decidedly average.
Having played an exhausting 120 minutes in the weekend’s FA Cup semi-final, a decidedly average looking Arsenal were put on the back foot by a Hammers side fresh from a long matchless break. If ever a team needed to keep their foot on the gas, especially after going in front, it was West Ham, but as ever, we were simply incapable of holding onto a lead and ended up well beaten.
2. That in my opinion, the partnership of James Tomkins and Winston Reid looks less able and solid at the moment than that comprising Tomkins and James Collins.
Reid has just not looked the same since his injury and I think it will take a while longer before we see him back to his sharp and decisive best. The clean-sheet warriors from earlier in the season look a million miles away, and its just as well we seem to be safe and out of the real dog-fight at the bottom.
3. That any team that puts the shackles on Andy Carroll has virtually done the job in terms of nullifying the West Ham attack threat. The Arsenal defenders were far more effective than most against the Hammers striker, who won 12 of his 21 aerial duels, less than his normal success rate.
Arsene Wenger made a point of stopping the crosses and marking tightly, and his approach paid dividends. This shows the problem with having one line of attack.
4. That players making strange and poor decisions can turn a game in the opposition favour, and the decision of Stewart Downing to mis-kick the ball inside to a waiting and grateful Arsenal player was a major blow, especially coming just before half-time and costing us a psychologically important lead at the break.
His right foot is just for standing on, and he should be aware of that! A tired and losing Arsenal, under intense pressure to make the top four for European qualification would have had it all to do, whilst West Ham would have been buoyed and upbeat about keeping the lead and picking up the pace for the second 45.
Instead the tide turned in their favour, and we looked like the side that had it all to do. The clever players would have been aware of the time, and simply tapped the ball against the Arsenal player’s leg which was almost on the touchline for a throw in, slowed the game down, and waited for the whistle. On such small margins are games lost and won. That said, the defending until the ball was rifled in the net was hopeless.
5. That we should simply be thankful that an awful season, and it has been just that, is nearly at an end, and god willing we will be playing Premier League football come August.
We learnt from the Arsenal defeat, and from many sub-standard performances throughout the season, that we are simply low in quality in vital departments, and unless influential hands are thrust deep into expensive tailored, velvet lined pockets, then we can look forward to more of the same I fear.
There are least six players who have done their time, and need to be replaced with better class guys with better qualities in terms of pace, technique, guile and savvy. No more Nolans, Taylors, Diames, Coles (both) to slow the game down, lose possession cheaply, or fail to contribute to the degree that is expected at this demanding level.
We have got away this time with fielding an average team, and the time is right for Sam Allardyce (he will get another season now) to up HIS game, buy better technical players and start to shy away from this defensive nightmare that so many of us have endured for so long.
Show us you are a real manager Sam and start to build a side that can go forward as well as back!