Lacazette’s late brace seals win against West Ham
Beginning with a match that ranks among the more irrelevant of your 34-year career was never certain to get your celebratory tour off to a particularly rousing start but three goals in the final 10 minutes did at least ensure a positive end to an otherwise forgettable match.
The final headline act for Arsene Wenger really starts with the Europa League first leg against Atletico Madrid but a rather flattering 4-1 win here against West Ham United should boost confidence, especially in Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey, for Thursday night.
With Burnley held by Stoke City, Arsenal are almost assured of finishing at least sixth to avoid the pre-season disruption that Europa League qualifying would cause.
Wenger’s send-off will now depend entirely on whether he can rouse three more big performances from his players in the Europa League and so depart Lyon later this month with Arsenal back in the Champions League. On this evidence, it is still far from certain.
With West Ham resilient and roared on among others by James Collins in the away end, Arsenal summoned only one shot on goal during a first-half played at a pre-season pace that was most notable for what looked like a significant injury to Mohamed Elneny.
He eventually left the pitch in tears and in a knee brace and is surely now a doubt not just for the remaining Europa League matches but perhaps also the World Cup.
David Ospina’s selection as Arsenal goalkeeper suggests that Petr Cech will return on Thursday in the Europa League, but there was also no starting place for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang despite him being ineligible in the Europa League.
Danny Welbeck threatened most regularly but his finishing both on the floor and in the air lacked composure. Nacho Monreal has been proving himself useful this season in both penalty areas and he calmly did control Granit Xhaka’s 51st minute corner before finishing with power and precision past Joe Hart.
Arsenal had looked unlikely to find a winner but, on 82 minutes, Declan Rice ducked under a cross from Aaron Ramsey in the mistaken belief that Hart was expecting the ball to reach him. He was not and it nestled into the corner of the goal.
Arsenal did then move through the gears and, after excellent passing by Welbeck and Aubameyang, Lacazette smashed a deflected shot off Cresswell and past Hart.
The best was then saved to last when Ramsey brilliantly weaved past several West Ham defenders and passed for Lacazette to finish clinically.
Saif Ahmed Chowdhury
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