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West Ham 1-0 Arsenal: Declan Rice exposes weakness at Gunners' heart

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West Ham 1-0 Arsenal: Declan Rice exposes weakness at the heart of shot-shy Gunners with first Hammers goal as Samir Nasri provides assistWest Ham came out on top and took a narrow 1-0 victory against London rivals Arsenal on SaturdayYoungster Declan Rice opened the scoring on 48 minutes following an assist from midfielder Samir Nasri Nasri was playing against his former club after signing a short-term deal with the Hammers last monthThe result saw the Hammers momentarily move up to joint-seventh place, level on points with Leicester Advertisement

Arsenal's Head of Football Raul Sanllehi made a candid remark last autumn. As his team chalked up a 22-match unbeaten run, he observed: 'Performance has probably not been at the level of the results.'

Sanllehi, a football man schooled at Barcelona, could see that Arsenal were winging it. There were some good moments undoubtedly and the 4-2 win over Tottenham represented Unai Emery's zenith thus far in England.

Yet Sanllehi could see that winter was coming. On a grey, cold day at the London Stadium amidst the post-Christmas gloom, Arsenal confronted the reality of a bleak midwinter. Whether they have hunkered down and put away enough reserves to sustain them is highly debatable.  

Declan Rice remained composed when the ball was cut back by Samir Nasri and rifled it into the goal to put West Ham ahead 

Midfielder Rice unleashed a passionate celebration after breaking the deadlock just after the restart of the second half

The youngster took to his knees and roared in celebration with the home supporters after getting West Ham off the mark

Rice was mobbed by captain Mark Noble and his West Ham team-mates as scenes got lively at the London Stadium

Rice was beamed around the stadium on the big screens after hitting the back of the net for his side in the second half

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey reacts as his side suffered a 1-0 away defeat on Saturday afternoon

MATCH FACTS, LIVE LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE

WEST HAM: Fabianski 6; Zabaleta 6.5, Diop 7, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 7; Noble 7, Rice 8, Antonio 7 (Obiang 82), Nasri 7 (Snodgrass 71), Felipe Anderson 7; Arnautovic 6 (Carroll 5.5, 71)

UNUSED SUBS: Adrian, Masuaku, Lucas Perez, Diangana

GOAL: Rice 48

ARSENAL: Leno 6; Koscielny 6, Papastathopoulos 5, Mustafi 5 (Ramsey 6, 59); Maitland-Niles 5.5, Guendouzi 5, Xhaka 5 (Torreira 6, 59), Kolasinac 5; Iwobi 6.5, Aubameyang 6, Lacazette 5.5 

UNUSED SUBS: Cech, Bellerin, Lichtsteiner, Monreal, Nketiah

BOOKED: Kolasinac, Mustafi

REFEREE: Jonathan Moss (County Durham) 6.5

ATTENDANCE: 59,946

MOTM: Rice

Player ratings by Adam Crafton 

Premier League Premier League Championship League One League Two Scottish Premiership Scottish Div 1 Scottish Div 2 Scottish Div 3 Ligue 1 Serie A La Liga Bundesliga

Declan Rice scored for the Hammers by lashing the ball into the roof of the goal. CLICK HERE to see more from Sportsmail's MATCH ZONE.

Twenty-two matches unbeaten has turned into three wins in eight, during which there have been four defeats, including this one. With Mesut Ozil not even making the bench – three full backs were deemed a better back-up option – they looked a club hamstrung by past decisions. 

Such money as there was has been spent. Now they talk about nicking a loan signing. Fourth place is slipping away. Manchester United will likely overhaul them soon for fifth, having been eight points adrift less than a month ago. They haven't won away from home in the Premier League since beating Bournemouth in November. That's another throwback to Arsene Wenger's last season, when they won just four games away from home. 

Put simply, Emery won't ever build a solid foundation on a defence of Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis and Laurent Koscielny, who is still recovering his poise after six months out. You can't expect to dominate a midfield with Matteo Guendouzi, understandably waning in his first season at the age of 19, and the erratic Granit Xhaka.

There is a deficit of quality at Arsenal and owner Stan Kroenke won't be funding a spending spree any time soon. So, unless there are outstanding prospects in the academy, it's going to be a long and slow clamber back to being a top-four team again and require some particularly shrewd buying and selling.

'We couldn't control the match like we wanted, conceded Emery afterwards. 'We had some chances but not enough for winning. Maybe the first twenty minutes when we created some chances was when we could start thinking about winning this match, but after that it was difficult because over 90 minutes we didn't impose all the things we wanted.'  

Youngster Matteo Guendouzi tried his luck from distance in the first half, as Arsenal had to settle for 0-0 at the interval

Alexandre Lacazette went over goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski in the opening stages but no calls were made for a penalty

The Frenchman made a lively start to the fixture and look to get in behind the Hammers back line at any opportunity

Sead Kolasinac threw himself into every challenge during the contest and later picked up a yellow card

Marko Arnautovic was in the West Ham starting line-up, despite being linked with a big-money move to China this month

Manager Manuel Pellegrini was in constant dialogue with the Austrian forward as he looked to get his tactics across

As such, whatever your views are on Ozil, you might think he might have made the bench. Things must be pretty bad for him not even to merit twenty minutes at the end of the game.

'I think we have enough players to win today and impose our game plan and our tactical plan and quality against them,' was Emery's assessment. 'Maybe for this match, some attacking players can help. But I think we had enough with these players. We win with him, we lose with him. I think it's not one player that is saying we can't win or lose.'

That Arsenal were poor was clear. What shouldn't be overlooked was that West Ham were good. Specifically Declan Rice, 19, and one of the players of this season, was very good. Arsenal had started out with a 3-4-3 formation, seemingly a cautious default after their mauling at Liverpool: it looked more like 5-2-3 at times. As such, Guendouzi and Xhaka were utterly outclassed and overwhelmed in midfield by Declan Rice and Mark Noble.

'He is very strong in aerial duals, he is strong one versus one, he has a good technique and he demonstrated that in the goal he scored,' said Manuel Pellegrini of Rice.

'So I'm sure that we are seeing a top player soon for West Ham and also for the national squad that he decides to play for. Maybe in this position he can score more goals but the second step for him to continue improving is to try to have a good view of all the pitch.'

Yet there was an additional painful reminder of the past for Arsenal in Samir Nasri. He has returned from an 18-month drug ban, before anyone gets too misty eyed about his first Premier League game since August 2016, but there were some delightful moments which suggested this may be a risk worth taking. 'He is a top player and when he has more minutes and he is 100 per cent he will make a difference for us,' said Pellegrini. 

Andy Carroll had to settle for a place on the substitutes' bench in favour of Arnautovic leading the line at the London Stadium

Samir Nasri made a return against the team with which he made his name in the Premier League and later provided an assist

Nasri got plenty of the ball in the opening stages of the match, and was heavily marked by the Arsenal midfield

Managerial counterparts Pellegrini and Unai Emery gave each other a warm welcome on the touchline beforehand

As for the unsettled Marko Arnautovic, he was having that game where he does nothing and then produces one touch to convince you he is irreplaceable. 

It came in the 33rd minute, where he burst into life, running in behind the Arsenal back three. The ball looked too far beyond him to be controlled, but with one exquisite touch he brought it down and set up Nasri, who held the ball up for Felipe Anderson to shoot from the edge of the box. The Brazilian struck it well enough but wide.  

That was almost as exciting as it got in the opening half. Rice went close with a header on the stroke of half-time while Arsenal's best chances came when Sead Kolasinac drove into the box on 23 minutes but failed to either shoot or deliver a decent cut back. Matteo Guendouzi then struck a swerving shot with some force on 35 minutes, which curled just wide.

Arsenal's slackness cost them when they would fail to clear a Felipe Anderson corner on 48 minutes, allowing the Brazilian to drive back to the goal-line again and pull the ball back. Xhaka cushioned a soft header out to Nasri. Coolly he touched the ball to Rice, who in turn struck it cleanly, curling past Bernd Leno, his first goal for West Ham.

Emery brought on Aaron Ramsey and Lucas Torreira and reverted to a back four. Immediately improving. Kolasinac played in Aubameyang on 65 minutes and the Frenchman shot just wide. Alex Iwobi broke free on 66 minutes and did the same. However that flurry was the best Arsenal could manage, and it wouldn't get any better. 




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