West Ham Utd 1 Arsenal 5: Wenger delighted to see Gunners recover collective confidence
West Ham Utd 1 Arsenal 5
December marks the start of the middle third of the Premier League season, when teams know where they are going wrong and what they have to fix. Arsenal's big issue this winter is Santi Cazorla, and how they can create chances without their midfield maestro.
Cazorla is a unique player and Arsenal have no one who can step into his shoes and do what he does. Without him, they started to stumble, drawing three big home games to Tottenham, Paris Saint Germain and Manchester United.
"We lost a little bit the quality of our game," Wenger said, "and with that we lost our results."
But on Saturday that changed. Arsenal put five past West Ham, but created enough chances to score 10. It was their best performance since Cazorla damaged his ankle back in October. Wenger was delighted afterwards, saying that it did not just come down to his players playing better, but differently.
"We found the flow again," Wenger said.
"Losing Santi not only puts pressure on some players, but you have to find a new balance again. Every week I try to a little bit here, a little bit there, to find it back. Overall, he was our deep playmaker, a guy who all our defenders think 'where is Santi?'. After that, you need to find new ways to build the game up."
By scoring goals and winning games, Wenger hopes his midfielders will demand more of the ball, improving the fluency that had dissipated in recent weeks.
"Balance is as well linked with confidence, and results like that give you confidence," Wenger explained. "Everybody wants the ball. Now everybody knows that it's not only Cazorla who will be available, I have to move as well, and that is linked with the confidence. When you have confidence, you move the ball."
While Arsenal are starting to find solutions to their problems, West Ham are showing no signs of being able to do the same. Slaven Bilic spoke after the game about their lack of intensity and how the atmosphere in training needed to change if results were going to do the same.
"There is no secret, we have to work harder," he said. "You can ask me to say words, or a secret formula. You have to work hard. We changed the system, we changed personnel, we turned things around and we used a lot of players. We try everything to try to provoke something new."
Bilic did not want to blame the new ground, even though it is so obviously lacking compared to Upton Park.
"This stadium will never be Upton Park like the Emirates is never going to be like Highbury."
That is true, but the effects are real and they will not go away quickly. "It takes you over a year, two years, I think, to really feel at home," Wenger said. "They have to recreate something where people share the experiences, and the players feel they are playing at home and not on a neutral ground."
WEST HAM: Randolph, Collins (Arbeloa, 7 mins), Reid, Ogbonna, Fernandes (Ayew, 63 mins), Noble (Carroll, 72 mins), Obiang, Masuaku, Lanzini, Payet, Fletcher. Unused subs: Adrian, Nordtveit, Feghouli, Zaza.
ARSENAL: Cech, Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott (Ramsey, 66 mins), Ozil (Iwobi, 87 mins), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez. Unused subs: Gibbs, Pérez, Ospina, Holding, Elneny.
Referee: Craig Pawson
Man of the match: Alexis Sanchez
Match rating: 8/10