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Graft vs craft. Merida disappointing against the workhorse of Behrami

An FA Cup match is always a different ball game. No matter how different 2 teams are in terms of league standings or even the league that they play in, it has no bearing in the FA Cup. Early on, the first real shock of the competition was given by Leeds United, 2 league lower than the Premiership, knocking the reigning Premier League champions. For 78 minutes, it looked like the same might happen to Arsenal.

The defense aside, Arsene Wenger put out a midfield and forward line that only had Song, Ramsey and Eduardo present from the team that played at Portsmouth. At long last, Jack Wilshere and Fran Merida got another run-out in the first team. However, rather surprisingly, both were very disappointing. No one would argue about the quality that both these two have. Though, this was not apparent in this match. Both were guilty of losing the ball on more than one occasion and passes which went more to those in claret and blue than those in white. Is it because of the lack of playing time? Or were they overawed by the occasion? Time will tell but they will need to step up and take those rare chances, if they want to succeed in this Arsenal side.

West Ham took the challenge to Arsenal from the get go. They were chasing and harrying, everytime an Arsenal player was in possession of the ball. No one epitomize the fighting spirit of the home team more than Valon Behrami. He was practically everywhere on the pitch. Reminds me a little of Flamini. But, all the off-ball running did take its toll on the Swiss, as he can be seen tiring towards the end of the second half, which pretty much allowed our players more time on the ball and subsequently the chance to fashion-out the equalizer and eventually the winning goal.

Gallas, Vermalen and Sagna were retained from the Portsmouth game and were on the back-foot throughout the first half. Maybe Song had a little too much to deal with, what with Ramsey and Merida not providing sufficient defensive cover. Whenever West Ham broke from the back, we were very exposed. In our current formation, it needs at least 2 players to be aware of their defensive duties. Unfortunately for us, neither Ramsey or Merida were discipline to stay back when the other goes forward.

As it is, it was one of those counter attacks from which West Ham scored the opener. Our central defenders had pushed slightly forward to cover for the gaps in midfield when a through ball found Diamanti who was just an inch onside. The fiery Italian calmly slotted past Fabianski who got a hand to the shot but failed to kept it out. West Ham had another oppourtunity with Stanislas who broke free on the right whose shot required a wonderful save from Fabianski. This came after yet another counter attack which our defense again kept a high line. That was probably the only 2 real threatening attacks that the home side could mustered. Judging from that fact, it made things look bad for Arsenal as from only 2  chances, the opposition managed to get a goal.

Change need to be done and it came. Diaby and Nasri both came on for the ineffectual duo of Wilshere and Merida. The quality of those more senior players showed as Arsenal began to take control of the game. The equaliser finally came albeit rather fortuitously when Vela’s pass got a double deflection and ended up in the path of Ramsey. The Welshman accepted the luck and slammed the ball past the impressive Robert Green. Just 5 minutes later, we got the winner. The ball was worked out to Vela on wide left. The Mexican chose to cross into the box. Now, knowing the height of our forwards and comparing that to those of West Ham’s defenders, I wouldn’t expect any of our players to win the header. However, Eduardo had other ideas. He was quicker and stronger to the ball than Upson and the former’s looping header gave Green no chance.

It wasn’t the best of game for Arsenal. This season, the kids have struggled to make an impression. Which is a real shame, considering the fact that with so many first team players out injured, they could’ve stake a real claim for place in the first team. In the end, we needed the guile and experience of those first team players to beat West Ham. Eduardo’s season may yet start now.