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Arsenal beaten as teenager Declan Rice nets first West Ham goal

Arsenal beaten as teenager Declan Rice nets first West Ham goal

ESPN

If, before Saturday's 1-0 win over Arsenal, you had informed a West Ham supporter that Samir Nasri and Marko Arnautovic would be substituted together after 70 minutes, they probably would have imagined a very different storyline. Nasri was seemingly lacking match fitness, and making his first league start for the club. Arnautovic was said to be unhappy, having recently declared his intention to leave.

But, somewhat surprisingly, the pair departed to great acclaim. West Ham were 1-0 up courtesy of Declan Rice's first career goal, assisted by Nasri, and they were barely troubled in the second half. Nasri ended his full debut with a standing ovation, which extended to hail Arnautovic's departure too -- perhaps an attempt to convince him to stay, perhaps a final show of gratitude before he sets sail.

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Fear, paranoia, difficult behaviour and constant battling with club officials and players led to the inevitable, writes Rob Dawson.

When Boca Juniors and River Plate were set to meet in Argentina's most important match, Buenos Aires lost its mind, writes Wright Thompson.

It was Nasri who was this game's standout performer, not merely because of his individual contribution and crucial part in the home side's performance, but also because it highlighted his former club's complete lack of an equivalent player. Here, Manuel Pellegrini handed the Frenchman his favoured central role in West Ham's 4-2-3-1 system, a position he rarely played at Arsenal, when he generally drifted inside from the flank. His task here was linking with Arnautovic and bringing in midfield runners, and he performed both roles excellently.

He and Arnautovic produced a number of bright moments on the edge of the Arsenal box before half time. In a two-minute spell, Nasri twice combined excellently with the Austrian on the left corner of the box, first with a clever backheel into his path, and then for a one-two which prompted an Arnautovic shot dragged wide of the near post.

One-twos were a key part of West Ham's approach, especially when Felipe Anderson drifted inside from the left, and it was the Brazilian who was the next beneficiary of Nasri's awareness on the edge of the box. Mark Noble sent a long ball forward towards Arnautovic, and the ball broke to Nasri, who had the composure to pause for a couple of seconds, waiting for Anderson's run from deep, before prodding the ball his path. Anderson's shot fizzed narrowly wide of the upright.

In Nasri, Arnautovic and Anderson, West Ham boasted the game's three most creative talents. Arsenal fielded no genuine playmaker here, with Mesut Ozil again omitted from the squad despite training all week, Henrikh Mkhitaryan out injured and Lucas Torreira, a different type of creator, only summoned during the second half.

Arsenal's closest thing to a playmaker in the first half was Alex Iwobi, whose clever positioning dragged West Ham right-back Pablo Zabaleta out of position and created overlapping possibilities for Sead Kolasinac, although the wing-back was fuming when Iwobi failed to provide him with a pass in the early stages, and this avenue of opportunity was shut down when Pellegrini moved Michail Antonio deeper to defend that flank. Aside from that, Arsenal created very little, either at 0-0 or when attempting to mount a comeback. They barely tested Lukasz Fabianski, another of their former teammates.

In fairness, his opposite number Bernd Leno wasn't regularly tested by West Ham, but he was left with no chance early in the second half when Rice scored. In the aftermath of a set-piece, Arsenal half cleared a cross and the ball broke to Nasri on the edge of the box. With Arsenal rushing out to pressure him, Nasri played a short, easy but nevertheless perfectly weighted ball into the path of Rice, who instinctively curled a side-footed shot around a defender and inside the near post. Rice was the home side's hero, named as the man of the match. A fortnight after committing his long-term future to the club, a winner in a London derby was always going to earn that honour.

Nasri, though, had been crucial. The assist was the type of understated pass he played excellently throughout this game -- he created three chances, none of those passes played over a distance of around five yards.

"He's a top player and when he plays more minutes and is 100 percent fit, he will make the difference, as he did at Arsenal and Manchester City," said Pellegrini.

"In that position, it was necessary to have that kind of player, with Jack Wilshere and Manuel Lanzini out. I trust him a lot."

Pellegrini suggested that, in future, he could be deployed out wide or as a holding midfielder, but on this evidence he's perfect for a No. 10 role.

It's the Arsenal No. 10 position, though, that remains the major topic of discussion. They find themselves in a bizarre situation, with their highest-paid player simply not making the matchday squad, despite his club desperately missing a player in his mould.

Arsenal supporters might not support his acrimonious departure in 2011, but here Emery was crying out for a player in the class of Nasri -- which summarises Arsenal's malaise.

Arsenal suffered another disappointing away day with a 1-0 defeat to West Ham. Declan Rice settled the London derby with a coolly placed finish, and Arsenal got precisely what they deserved: nothing.

Positives

It's genuinely difficult to decipher positives after a performance like this. Perhaps the only good thing to come of this match would be if Arsenal's owner, Stan Kroenke, recognises the need to invest in this squad. As things stand, they simply do not look good enough to reclaim their Champions League place.

Negatives

The situation between Unai Emery and Mesut Ozil is surely approaching breaking point. Ozil had trained all week, only to find himself left out of the match day squad. The fact that Emery saw fit to name three defenders on the bench, yet couldn't find a place for Ozil, won't have gone down well with the Arsenal fans -- particularly on a day when the Gunners struggled to create chances.

Arsenal have picked up just two points from their last five away games in the Premier League. That's something akin to the form that effectively saw Arsene Wenger handed his notice last season. Emery needs to find a solution to Arsenal's struggles on the road, and quickly.

Manager rating out of 10

4 -- Emery made a huge call leaving Ozil out of the squad and it backfired. After a good start to his time with Arsenal, the honeymoon period would appear to be over.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Bernd Leno, 6 -- Could do nothing about Rice's well-struck goal. Leno showed some good footwork at other times, with a couple of deft chips out to the full-backs.

DF Laurent Koscielny, 6 -- The Frenchman had a late header disallowed for offside. At the back, he looked relatively comfortable. Perhaps he is slowly starting to recover his best form.

DF Shkodran Mustafi, 6 -- A relatively quiet game from the German -- which, when it comes to him, is almost always a good thing. He didn't last the 90 minutes but put in a perfectly acceptable performance.

DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 6 -- The Greek international made one outstanding block in the first half to deny Marko Arnautovic. He'll be fuming that once again the Gunners have failed to keep a clean sheet.

MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 4 -- Before the game, Maitland-Niles spoke about his versatility as both a blessing a curse. After a good performance on the right wing against Blackpool, he struggled as a wing-back in this match. His passing was very sloppy and he struggled to contain West Ham's left flank.

MF Granit Xhaka, 5 -- His poor clearance led directly to Rice's winner. Perhaps that played some part in him being substituted for Lucas Torreira. However, Arsenal struggled to create any chance at all once he came off.

MF Matteo Guendouzi, 6 -- It's impossible to fault the Frenchman's effort, but on a couple of occasions he needed a cooler head before making the final pass. He's an impressive young player, but it's still surprising that Emery has quite so much faith in him.

MF Sead Kolasinac, 6 -- In recent weeks, Kolasinac has looked like Arsenal's most effective attacking weapon. West Ham appeared to have done their homework on him, and he struggled to make a similar impact in this game. Instead, he was forced into going backwards-where he looks far less comfortable.

FW Alex Iwobi, 7 -- One of the few Arsenal players to emerge with any real credit, Iwobi was constantly looking to unlock a stubborn West Ham defence. He also arguably came closest to a goal, firing a left-footed shot just wide of the far post.

FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 5 -- Playing in an unfamiliar role on the right wing, Aubameyang struggled to influence the game. In truth, wherever he plays he is a peripheral figure -- until he scores. He had two half-chances, but missed with both.

FW Alexandre Lacazette, 6 -- The Frenchman started sharply but faded over the course of the 90 minutes. He plays an essential role linking the play for Arsenal, but found himself frequently crowded out.

Substitutes:

MF Aaron Ramsey, 6 -- Came on for Sokratis and made a positive impact. Should he be starting games, despite his impending move?

MF Lucas Torreira, 6 -- Introduced for Aubameyang but made little impression.

DF Hector Bellerin, N/R -- Came on for Maitland-Niles but didn't have time to make any real impact.

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