West Ham rejoice but there is always a sting in the tail
PUBLISHED: 12:30 14 January 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
Brilliant Rice beats Arsenal but Arnautovic news puts things into perspective
It was a day to rejoice. A great display, a great and deserved result against a big side and a push further up the table.
Declan Rice, two days before his 20th birthday, put in another stunning performance, crowned by his first goal for the club which won the game.
But it is never straight-forward for West Ham and their fans, they couldn’t just celebrate.
Instead they saw star striker Marko Arnautovic apparently waving goodbye to the faithful for the last time as he was substituted.
West Ham did well when the Austrian was injured back in December, but it would be hard to sustain that if he was no longer at the club.
He is the talisman, the strength and the power up front and without him, the Hammers look like an ordinary side.
On Saturday though, everyone played at their very best except Arnautovic. He played too deep, he lacked his usual sharpness and you can’t help feeling that he is a mood player, who had other things on his mind.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini was full of praise for his team.
“I’m very happy for the club and for the fans that we beat a big club like Arsenal, but more pleased with the way we played,” he said after the 1-0 win.
“From the beginning, like I always say, we tried to play as a big team, to have an ambitious mind and I think the team reflects all what I am talking about.”
It certainly did. The defence was superb, thwarting Arsenal’s attack all afternoon with Pablo Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell getting forward when they could.
The defensive pairing of Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna had their best game together, while wingers Felipe Anderson and Michail Antonio caused problems all afternoon.
But there were two players who were head and shoulders above everyone else. Rice was imperious. He won the ball and stopped the Gunners playing time after time, and now he is adding efforts on goal to his repertoire.
He came close with a header from a corner in the first half and then, with barely any back-lift, he smashed home the winning goal.
That goal was set up by Samir Nasri on his Premier League derby against his old team.
“Samir is a top player and as he gets more minutes and gets more fitness, he will make the difference as he always did for Arsenal and Manchester City,” said the boss.
In attacking terms, he was the difference. He plays between the lines and finds space others can’t and against a team like Arsenal that is vital.
But the whole day was sullied by rumours of Arnautovic’s impending departure. Like Dimitri Payet before him, something always seems to get in the way of them moving into to the next level
It seems that it might be happening all over again.