West Ham slump to new low as Arsenal come from behind to take the spoils
PUBLISHED: 22:10 09 December 2019 | UPDATED: 22:11 09 December 2019
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Hammers boss Pellegrini's job in danger after dismal defeat to the Gunners
West Ham United 1 Arsenal 3
Seemingly flying to a long-awaited home win, the Hammers were shot down by the travel-sick Gunners in a devastating, destructive nine-minute spell on a desperate and dismal night at the London Stadium for under-pressure Manuel Pellegrini.
Angelo Ogbonna deservedly put West Ham ahead with a deflected header just before the break and, in the opening quarter-hour of the second period, the Chilean's men looked firmly in control before Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pépé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang plundered three quick-fire goals to leave the East Enders just one point clear of the drop-zone.
It must have already felt like one-step forward and two-steps back for Pellegrini after his side had won at Chelsea only to slump to defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers just four days later and, following Wednesday evening's loss at Molineux, the Hammers boss made just one change as Michail Antonio returned in place of £45 million substitute Sébastien Haller.
And the recalled striker - playing alongside Felipe Anderson up top - wasted no time blasting a rising, early effort over the crossbar before the West Ham also served early notice of their first-half intent by forcing a quick corner, too.
Pablo Fornals and Anderson almost carved out an opening as well but they were eventually crowded out in the congested Gunners penalty area, while Robert Snodgrass should have done better when the overlapping Ryan Fredericks burst forward but the No.11's pass sold his team-mate woefully short.
Indeed, lacking pace and purpose, the careless ball resulted in a booking for Snodgrass, who had to scyth down the escaping Martinelli to prevent further embarrassment.
Kicking off in 11th-spot - three points and five places above West Ham - Interim Head Coach Freddie Ljungberg brought his Arsenal side across town in the knowledge that they were just as off-colour and out-of-form as their hosts.
Indeed, the former Hammer - having temporarily taken over the reins from Unai Emery - arrived with an inherited Gunners side that was win-less in nine matches in all competitions, lacking a clean sheet in their last 11 matches and without an away victory in six games, too.
With the Gunners having fired blanks in recent weeks, the Swede now made a quartet of changes to the side that had lost to Brighton & Hove Albion on Thursday evening and, searching for that winning formula, he called upon Pépé, Martinelli, Calum Chambers and Kieran Tierney, who came in for Sead Kolašinac and Joe Willock plus substitutes Alexandre Lacazette and David Luiz.
And just before kick-off, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was also brought into the starting line-up to replace Hector Bellerin as Kolašinac moved onto the bench and, on the half-hour, the Bosnia and Herzegovina was called into action as Tierney retired with a shoulder injury.
On 32 minutes reshuffled, reshuffled Arsenal finally mustered their first effort on goal but Mesut Özil headed Aubameyang's cross high over David Martin's crossbar, while at the other end, Antonio's low, tightly-angled effort was beaten away from the base of his near post by Bernd Leno.
Five minutes before the break, though, the Arsenal 'keeper found himself wrong-footed as the Hammers finally broke the deadlock, after Aaron Cresswell forced their second corner of the evening.
The consequent Snodgrass flag-kick was cleared out to Mark Noble - playing his 500th senior match - on the edge of the area and, although the skipper's effort was deflected, Declan Rice, cleverly nudged the ball to Pablo Fornals, who intelligently chipped into the danger-zone where Ogbonna's stooping, 10-yard header found the net via the shoulder of Maitland-Niles, as Leno moved in the opposite direction.
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Neither a VAR check for handball nor speculation that it had been an own-goal could prevent the Italian international defender from claiming his second goal of the season and, having shaded the first half on points, the Hammers departed at the break with a deserved one-goal advantage.
Just after the restart, Cresswell was booked for lunging into Pépé and injury was added to insult, when the left-back tellingly hobbled away to be replaced by Arthur Masuaku, who stepped form the bench to find his team-mates in the ascendancy against a bedraggled Arsenal outfit.
Indeed, Anderson went for an audacious curler before Rice tested Leno with a thunderous 20-yarder that rattled the ribs.
Another goal was certainly on the cards.
But few would have reckoned on it going to the Gunners.
Right on the hour-mark, though, that is exactly what happened when Lucas Torreira burst down the left-flank before threading his pass to Kolašinac, who crossed low into the six-yard box, where Martinelli arrived right on cue to side-foot Arsenal level.
Six minutes later, things went from bad to worse, when Özil squared to Aubameyang, who invited Pépé to curl and unstoppable curler from the right-hand edge of the Hammers area and beneath the left-hand angle of the well-beaten Martin's goal.
Then, on 69 minutes, Arsenal crafted their third goal, when the alert Aubameyang back-heeled to Pépé, whose inch-perfect chip from the right was volleyed home by the Gabon international, who had ghosted, unmarked into the six-yard box.
That devastating nine-minute spell had simply destroyed West Ham, who tried to arrest the damage with the arrivals of Haller and Nathan Holland in place of the unfortunate Anderson and Snodgrass but with the vast majority of Claret & Blue fans in the crowd of 59,936 now heading for home, there was never any way back for Pellegrini's careless side, who now face a season-defining, tricky trip to Southampton on Saturday night.
HAMMERS: Martin, Fredericks, Cresswell (Masuaku 50), Ogbonna, Balbuena, Noble, Rice, Anderson (Haller 70), Snodgrass (Holland 78), Fornals, Antonio. Unused subs: Roberto, Zabaleta, Sánchez, Diop.
GUNNERS: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Tierney (Kolašinac 29), Chambers, Sokratis, Xhaka (Guendouzi 86), Torreira, Pépé (Nelson 88), Özil, Aubameyang, Martinelli. Unused subs: Martinez, Lacazette, Luiz, Saka.
Booked: Snodgrass (23), Cresswell (49)
Referee: Mike Dean