Arsenal 1-0 West Ham United
As Premier League contests go, this will not live long in the memory.
An encounter in which the hosts were sluggish and the visitors, despite having little of the ball, were wasteful in front of goal.
The longer it went on, the scrappier it became: in many ways, synonymous with both clubs in 2019/20.
Then, as so often is the case, the side which created but failed to take its opportunities was left to rue its profligacy.
In this ever-developing season of inconsistent video evidence and managerial comings and goings, that the deadlock was broken following the intervention of VAR, perhaps should also not be a surprise.
Highlights of the game
West Ham had squandered one chance after another when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang drove a shot into a West Ham defender and Mesut Ozil cushioned a header into the path of substitute Alexandre Lacazette, who swept the ball home.
After an unnecessarily long VAR consultation, Lacazette was judged to be onside and the game was won.
The look of frustration on West Ham manager David Moyes’ face as he shook hands with his former trusted lieutenant, Mikel Arteta, at the final whistle told its own story.
Arsenal made three changes to their starting XI, while the Hammers fielded an unchanged side from the one that beat Southampton last week.
Before the Lacazette sucker punch (only the second Gunners’ shot on target throughout the 90 minutes), Jarrod Bowen was inches away from opening the scoring with a 20-yard strike that thudded against Bernd Leno’s right post in the opening minutes.
In fairness, Sokratis Papastathopoulos also hit the woodwork with a header midway through the first half from an Aubameyang corner, but the Hammers were keeping the hosts at bay and were the more dangerous side in attack.
In the opening half, Sebastien Haller and Michail Antonio had gone close, and again either side of Lacazette’s match-winner.
Yet Arsenal, without midfielder Lucas Torreira (fractured ankle), had won while creating few Premier League 2020 highlights.
Arteta will know they will have to improve significantly to make up further ground in the race for a top-four finish and a place in next season’s Champions League.
Despite spirited attempts, West Ham just can’t beat the big boys on their travels.
SBOTOP Premier League tipsters favour them for top-flight survival, but there’s little room for error and Moyes and his players know it.
They remain 16th, above the bottom three only on goal difference.
All seven of Lacazette’s Premier League goals this season have come at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal are unbeaten in eight Premier League games (won four, drawn four), the longest current unbeaten run in the division. They have also now won three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since August.
West Ham have won just one of the past nine Premier League meetings (drawn two, lost six) and have the worst form in the division over that period.
West Ham have also lost five of their past seven Premier League games.
Arsenal have earned five successive home victories against West Ham in all competitions and won nine of their last 10 in the Premier League.
West Ham have lost 31 Premier League matches against the Gunners, more than they have against any other side.
Arsenal are now on 40 points. The two previous occasions it took them this long to reach that tally, they finished the season in 10th and 12th place, respectively.
Arteta’s side has lost only one of their 15 Premier League fixtures this season against the teams currently in the bottom half of the table.
West Ham have lost 22 points from a winning position this campaign, five more than any other club. The Hammers have a point fewer than they did at this stage in 2010-11, the most recent season in which they were relegated.
Moyes has not won any of his 16 Premier League away games against Arsenal (drawn four, lost 12). No manager in Premier League history has ever gone more away fixtures against one team without winning.
Arsenal travel to champions Manchester City on Wednesday (March 11) for a match rearranged due to City’s League Cup final exploits, before travelling to the south coast to face Brighton a week from today.
West Ham are next in action at home to Wolves on March 15 before travelling back to north London to face old foes Spurs on March 20.
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