Last weekend, Eddie Nketiah and Dani Ceballos briefly came to blows at Fulham after a dispute in the pre-match warm-up. On Saturday, they combined at close quarters to squeeze a good outcome from an average performance – Ceballos squaring five minutes from the end to give his teammate a tap-in and leaving a vastly improved West Ham aggrieved.

Jarrod Bowen felt he should have been awarded a penalty when challenged by Gabriel but nothing was given, and Arsenal moved in front courtesy of Lacazette’s powerful header from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross.

But it was canceled out by Michail Antonio shortly before half-time and were more preoccupied with matters inside their own penalty area for a long spell in the second period.

Gabriel avoided conceding a penalty again when the ball hit him high on the arm, yet West Ham drew level on the stroke of half-time when Antonio turned home Ryan Fredericks’ low delivery.

Antonio was unable to add a finish from six yards to Arthur Masuaku’s excellent cross after the restart, while he was then denied by the woodwork with a header in the 67th minute.

Arsenal came under increasing pressure and Bernd Leno’s blushes were spared after the goalkeeper spilled a cross and Bowen’s shot was blocked by a host of bodies in the box.

The midfield of Arsenal was not up to the mark.

West Ham had 17 shots on goal to Arsenal’s seven at the Emirates. Arteta’s midfield was cut open time and time again, especially in the second half, with Xhaka unable to offer the defence any sort of defensive shield.

Willian failed to mark his home debut with a performance as eye-catching as the one he produced at Craven Cottage, and with Ceballos as off the pace as Xhaka, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were often left totally isolated.

Meanwhile, they have spent the summer looking to improve their midfield, with Thomas Partey and Huseem Aouar their chief targets. Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos have been excellent for the Spaniard since lockdown, but both struggled against a compact West Ham put the midfield on the back foot and gave little time on the ball.

Again, their defence was split-opened more often, but it was the Brazilian Gabriel, who spent a quality evening to weather the storm.

It seemed that West Ham would share points and deservingly so, but at the fag end, the Gunners escaped the West Ham scare.

“I think they’ve been really good since I joined the club,” said Arteta, when asked about Xhaka and Ceballos after the game and whether the midfield performance showed why the club is so keen to bring others in before the transfer window closes.

“I thought it was a game where we were going to attack the spaces and the way they defended, we wanted to create some situations with Dani there. But if we can strengthen the team then we’re going to try and do that. Until the market is gone, everything is still open.”

“Depending on what happens with some other players, we are open to discussions. The market can surprise us. [Teams] can come for any of our players in different positions and we have to react as it happened with Emi [Martinez]. So let’s see what happens.”


Full points achieved, but that cannot mask the shortcomings at the center of the park and back.


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