Bubbles Popped

What an absolutely wonderful weekend of football. I had the pleasure of attending the exchanges that took place between ourselves and West Ham, though with a little twist. The COO at my place of work happens to be my mentor along with the fact that he is a season ticket owner at West Ham and has been for many a year. He mentioned that he would take me along to a game at the London Stadium at some point in the season to check it out, to which I thought I’d be seeing a West Ham v Bournemouth (or the like) so duly accepted. The time came and he asked me the question…”fancy coming to the Arsenal game in a couple of weeks?”. I obviously said yes, but in my mind it was going to be one of the most uncomfortable 90 minutes of football to watch. Play well, score, win and I’d have to keep schtum. Play badly, concede, lose and I’d be surrounded by the enemy in the worst situation imaginable. The stage was set…

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I started my journey to the ground by heading into London Bridge and then headed for the tube to get to Stratford. Upon my arrival I wasn’t quite sure which way to turn to get to the stadium not having been there before. As it turns it’s a good 20-25 minute walk to get there being sent the long way around to avoid the shoppers at Westfield. Not ideal. The walk back was considerably worse…more on that later. I arrived at the ground and saw the teams begin to warm up. Being sat next to a fair few Hammers fans I was slightly nervous, more so than any home game I’ve been to. I just wasn’t sure how I might react to scoring/conceding a goal, which is what was making me so nervous. The game kicked off and without completely dominating proceedings we were on top and created at least four good opportunities down our left hand side, with some great balls into Monreal from Xhaka & Ozil. Monreal was a little wasteful with his delivery but we were also a little unlucky with it. Our luck was in on 24 minutes however as Coquelin closed down a West Ham pass forward that cannoned back towards Winston Reid. Reid for all the world looked favourite to get there first but somehow Alexis Sanchez stole in and beat him to it leaving us 2 on 1 (the 1 being the keeper), he squared the ball to Ozil who tapped into the empty net. 1-0 and we were more than worthy of our lead. There was a little “Yes!” under my breath and much swearing from around me, directed at the players rather than myself I hasten to add. There were some half chances at both ends (Cech saving well from Lanzini in particular) in a period of lethargy for both sides before Oxlade Chamberlain played a brilliant through ball to Alexis who was in a 1v1 situation. He really should have scored but a heavy second touch gave Randolph a chance and the ball was cleared. The first half ended without much further event and with the score being only 1-0 the game was far from won.

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The second half began with more lukewarm football from both sides but West Ham could sense that there was something in the game. The conversation I had with my work colleague was basically around the fact that all Bilic will have had to say to his players was “stay in this and keep it at 1-0 with 20 minutes to go and we will nick something from this game.” They largely did that and Andy Carroll had been readied and was imminent. We had the ball and it was a case of just keeping it for a few minutes to try and slow down any change they were going to make. What was about to ensue was an aerial barrage that even the aerially imperious Mustafi was going to find tough. It was Mustafi himself that thought it prudent to really ping the ball into the feet of Sanchez, who somehow controlled the ball dead (there is definitely some glue on this mans feet!) and he spun their left back with ease, blitzed past the second defender and unleashed a magnificent, swerving finish into the bottom corner. This was the goal that won us the game, make no mistake about it. West Ham were in the ascendancy and with Carroll about to come on I felt that we needed a second. That it came before Carroll came on meant that we’d knocked the wind out of their sails, and it took them around 10 minutes to even begin to think about playing football again. There was much swearing around me once again, but what can any team do against individual brilliance like that? Not much is the answer to that question. West Ham were licking their wounds when again some good interplay down the left led to the ball landing at Alexis Sanchez’s feet, he didn’t think too much and volleyed in a brilliant third goal. 3-0 and game well and truly over. They pulled one back through Carroll (obviously) before The Ox scored a sublime fourth and Alexis rounded off a great day with a brilliantly cheeky (albeit offside) chipped finish. 5-1. Excellent. The walk back to the station was tedious to say the least. It took 45 minutes just to get to the station and that’s considering most of their fans had left 15 minutes early. An absolute nightmare, which would have been much worse had the ground stayed full. Some hot chips and the result did, however, make it easier. Not ideal with Westfield there as well – people aplenty. I digress…

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Let’s be clear this was a wonderful performance but one against a team really, really struggling. You can only beat what’s in front of you but perspective is required. The one good thing from the game came some of our good football. We seemed to have some of our slick passing back and a lot of that is down to a more mobile and forward thinking base in our midfield. Granit Xhaka alongside Coquelin, while not perfect, really did work well. Though the biggest change in our play, oddly, came from when Ramsey came on to replace Walcott. Less pace and more control was the thinking behind that, however it was the catalyst to take us from 1-0 to 5-1. A special mention for The Ox today, he was also outstanding alongside the mesmeric Alexis Sanchez. The remainder of the weekends result were also fairly interesting. Chelsea beating City was a little surprising and on viewing the game back it looked as though City were their own worst enemy. They missed a catalogue of chances to go 2-0 up and looked fairly dominant until Chelsea equalised via a brilliant Diego Costa. Chelsea masterfully beat them on the counter, with incisive football and not too much bus parking seen. A clear difference between Conte and Mourinho. Sp*rs easily won although Dele Alli’s dive was quite laughable, he becomes more and more dislikable as the weeks progress. Elsewhere Liverpool somehow contrived to lose 4-3 at Bournemouth after being 3-1 up in what sounded like a humdinger. Lastly United were held to yet another 1-1 draw in the Premier League via a last minute Baines penalty. Excellent. We sit 2nd in the league with some truly tough tests on the horizon. Basel away in a really uncertain game (rotation please!) followed by a game against a Stoke playing decent football and then two really tough away games at Everton and Man City before Christmas. 5 points is a minimum to stay in touch and 7 would be magnificent. With this league it’s hard to say how it will go, but for now we seem to be in a happy place. I like happy places.

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Have a good week folks.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.

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