By Richard Clarke
Arsenal laid their West Ham bogey to rest with a comfortable 2-0 win at Emirates Stadium on New Year's Day.
The Hammers have obtained two notable records over Arsène Wenger's side in recent years. They were the last side beat Arsenal at Highbury and remain the only team to have tasted victory at the Club's new home.
This afternoon they were aiming to become the first side to complete three League wins away at Arsenal for 22 years.
That never looked possible after Eduardo volleyed home with only 72 seconds gone - the fastest goal at Emirates so far. West Ham had their chances but Emmanuel Adebayor's exquisitely taken second in the 18th minute virtually put the game beyond the visitors' reach.
Arsenal could have increased their advantage after the break but, at the end of a tough Christmas period, they did not seem to want to extend themselves too much.
And, of course, the victory keeps Wenger's side two points clear at the top of the Premier League.
The manager made four changes from the 4-1 win at Everton. Bacary Sagna, Abou Diaby and Alex Hleb dropped out while Nicklas Bendtner was suspended. Justin Hoyte, Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Adebayor and Emmanuel Eboue came in.
That Goodison Park victory had only returned Arsenal to the top of the Premier League because West Ham had produced a remarkable comeback to beat Manchester United earlier in the day.
Their hopes of a repeat performance lasted exactly 72 seconds this afternoon. Rosicky picked up the ball on the left and nudged it forward to Cesc Fabregas. He swivelled into space and floated a cross to the near post where an unmarked Eduardo chested the ball down before firing home on the turn.
The Croatian may have taken time to adapt but, after a brace against Everton on Saturday, this strike took him to an impressive 10 goals in 19 starts since signing from Dinamo Zagreb in the summer.
More often than not, an early strike is crucial to Arsenal when at home. It allows them to settle down and play their best football.
However within 13 minutes of going behind West Ham had three chances of drawing level. Mark Noble and Carlton Cole sent deflected and dangerous drives just beyond Manuel Almunia's left-hand upright.
Then Noble skimmed a low corner to the near post and Anton Ferdinand fired goalwards. Fortunately for Arsenal, Clichy was on sentry duty at the near post and scrambled the ball away.
It was fast becoming an end-to-end game. The only difference between the sides at this stage was that Arsenal were looking far more likely to take the chances they created.
In the 15th minute Eduardo dribbled his way through and set up Rosicky. But the Czech midfielder saw his drive deflect into the grateful arms of Green. Then Eboue sent a low cross into the area and Arsenal had faint claims for a penalty when Flamini went down. However referee Chris Foy rightly waved play on.
West Ham were under pressure but still carving out opportunities for themselves. Ljungberg fired in a shot that stretched Almunia then Upson blazed over from close range.
So when Arsenal's second goal arrived in the 18th minute it was perhaps against the run of play.
Clichy's long pass picked out the scampering Adebayor. He nodded the bouncing ball past the onrushing Robert Green and, from the acutest of angles, sidefooted a delicate shot across the goalline, off the far post and into the net. A wonderful finish.
This was turning into a strange affair. West Ham had probably created as many chances as Arsenal but were 2-0 down and nearly out of sight. The home side were showing the same ruthless streak that had been so evident in the second half at Everton.
However there was still room for a little sentiment when Ljungberg hobbled off with an injury seven minutes before the break. The former Arsenal midfielder appreciated his warm reception.
Before that John Pantsil had sent spectacular overhead kick just wide. But by now West Ham's enthusiasm was starting to flag a little.
Cole was still a threat for the visitors however four minutes before the interval Arsenal broke forward and had Adebayor spotted Eduardo in space on his right then the game would have been over.
There was still time for Arsenal to have shout for a penalty when Jonathan Spector appeared to handle Eboue's cross. Before the break the Ivorian also saw a shot changed down and sent a header wide.
West Ham had renewed energy after the restart but once again Arsenal were the more clinical side.
Adebayor and Rosicky combined nicely on the left for the latter to prod an effort wide. Just before the hour Eboue's teasing cross was nodded just beyond of the far post by the diving Eduardo.
George McCartney sent an effort wide for the visitors but by now Arsenal had the game in a firm yet comfortable grip.
Hoyte, Fabregas and Rosicky had long-range efforts charged down while Adebayor tried to lob Green from an extravagant distance.
It was all too easy for Arsenal really. West Ham had run out of ideas and bringing on Dean Ashton and Herni Camara did little to change that.
The game meandered to its conclusion with the home side in utter control.
The victory means Arsenal leave the festive period with 10 points from a possible 12 and their lead of the Premier League intact.
A very healthy way to start the New Year.
- Eboue 77
- Rosicky 83
- Adebayor Goal!
- Eduardo 64 Goal!
- Walcott 64
- Diaby 83
- Hleb 77
West Ham United
- McCartney Yellow Card
- Ljungberg 38
- Noble Yellow Card
- Mullins 77
- Cole 71 Yellow Card
- Collison 38
- Camara 77
- Ashton 71