03:54 pm
28 October 2016

Arsenal 0-2 West Ham: New season, new keeper but same old Gunners

New season, new keeper, same old Arsenal.

All the hope, all the expectation and promise which has built up over the summer came crashing down as West Ham gave Arsene Wenger one hell of a reality check.

And, incredibly, you cannot look any further than the keeper who was supposed to make all the difference for Arsenal by making them genuine title contenders.

But Petr Cech let in two horrible goals as all the pressure seemed to weigh heavily on his shoulders as his Emirates debut turned into a complete nightmare.

Cech was left in no man’s land for Cheikhou Kouyate’s opener and then barely moved a muscle when Mauro Zarate’s shot squeezed in at his near post.

It brought back shades of two years ago when Arsenal lost at home to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season and the fans were chanting for Wenger to spend some money.

There must be something about teams in claret and blue because this seemed equally painful and this time surely Wenger does not need to be told he needs to buy some players.

The fact is that Cech is Arsenal’s only summer signing, they finished eleven points adrift of Chelsea last season and yet somehow the fans have become so giddy they seem to think they just have to turn up to win the title.

Julian Finney/GettyPetr Cech fails to punch clear the ball as Cheikhou Kouyate heads in the opening goal
ActionCheikhou Kouyate scores the first goal for West Ham
Mike Hewitt/GettyPetr Cech looks dejected

It was never going to be that easy as Arsenal seemed to have got carried away with their own hype and publicity.

They looked horribly disjointed, rarely threatened West Ham’s goal and they allowed the visitors to pick them off with a brilliantly executed away performance, masterminded to perfection by Slaven Bilic.

Just to put it in perspective, West Ham rookie Reece Oxford put Arsenal’s £42m midfielder Mesut Ozil in his back pocket and barely gave him a kick. While most 16-year-olds are doing their homework, Oxford was dishing out a football lesson.

Andrew Matthews/PA WireArsenal players watch on as Cheikhou Kouyate scores his side's first goal of the game
Reuters / Eddie KeoghCheikhou Kouyate scores the first goal for West Ham
Julian Finney/GettyCheikhou Kouyate celebrates scoring the opening goal

Arsenal started quite brightly and no-one more so than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but, as his early energy and runs came to nothing, West Ham grew in confidence.

The Hammers had a let off when Aaron Ramsey’s 31st minute shot deflected off Aaron Cresswell, looped up and hit the crossbar with the visiting keeper Adrian desperately scrambling.

Arsenal didn’t have enough penetration or direction. In the second half of last season when Arsenal went on their winning run, Santi Cazorla played in the middle.

For whatever reason, Wenger started Cazorla on the left and Ramsey in the middle. It didn’t work. But you could say that about a few, including Olivier Giroud while Francis Coquelin had a poor game and defensively Arsenal were awful.

BPIMauro Zarate scores the second goal
Mike Hewitt/GettyMauro Zarate celebrates with team mates after he scored the second goal
ActionMauro Zarate celebrates scoring the second goal for West Ham

West Ham seized on Arsenal’s defensive frailties in the 43rd minute when £10m midfielder Dimitri Payet floated in a lovely free kick into the box.

But Cech didn’t need to come for it. But once he did, he had to get there. And Kouyate raced in and bravely headed home, beating Cech to the ball to leave Arsenal’s new saviour in no man’s land.

If you were expecting the Alamo in the second half, it didn’t really arrive. They did turn up the pressure but they didn’t create clear cut chances.

Instead, West Ham went further ahead. Oxlade-Chamberlain was caught in possession on the edge of his box, Zarate robbed him, turned and fired a low hopeful shot past Laurent Koscielny who kept his arms by his sides to avoid a deflection.

Julian Finney/GettyOlivier Giroud holds his head after Arsenal concede a second goal
Andrew Matthews/PA WireOlivier Giroud dejected after Arsenal lose
Andrew Matthews/PA WireSlaven Bilic celebrates victory

Cech should have anticipated the danger but reacted far too late and the ball was almost past him by the time he eventually got down.

Arsenal threw on Alexis Sanchez, only just back in training after an extended break following the Copa America, but by then it was too little too late. Sanchez forced one fine late save from Adrian but even he could not find a way through.

West Ham have given themselves such a lift, Bilic has given them new hope, a new direction and put Arsenal back in their place.

They need new players, they were brought crashing back down to earth and don’t look title contenders on this evidence.