By Rob Kelly at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal lost their opening match of the new Premier League season against West Ham on a disappointing afternoon at Emirates Stadium.
After an encouraging pre-season, the Gunners came into the game with a real sense of optimism and they made a positive start here.
They came close to the opening goal when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain volleyed just over, before Aaron Ramsey later struck the bar.
But with the visitors proving a real threat themselves, the game was finely poised - and West Ham took control just before the interval when Cheikhou Kouyate headed in.
The Gunners upped the ante after the break with Olivier Giroud twice going close, but just as they were starting to exert real pressure they fell further behind as Mauro Zarate scored.
Arsene Wenger brought Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez off the bench, but they could not drag their team back into the game against a well-organised West Ham side.
So a frustrating result to start the campaign with, but the Gunners will have to pick themselves up quickly ahead of another London derby next weekend against Crystal Palace.
SETTING THE SCENE
With the Emirates bathed in glorious sunshine, it had seemed the perfect afternoon to welcome Premier League football back to north London.
After such a positive pre-season, the Gunners came into the game in good spirits and with heightened expectations. In the days leading up to the big kick off, the manager and his squad had been keen to stress the importance of a fast start.
Arsenal had won their nine previous encounters against West Ham and were unbeaten in 14, while Giroud - in for Walcott - had five goals in his five Premier League appearances against the Hammers.
The only other change to the team saw Hector Bellerin - out with a muscular injury - replaced at right back by Mathieu Debuchy. Santi Cazorla was included for his 150th appearance for the club, while Laurent Koscielny made his 200th start.
West Ham, meanwhile, had to do without Carl Jenkinson - ineligible against his parent club - but they included 16-year-old Reece Oxford. The teenager was 18 days younger than Jack Wilshere when he made his Premier League debut against Blackburn in September 2008.
Having built up momentum during a fine pre-season campaign, the Gunners started on the front foot - although West Ham created the first chance of note when Per Mertesacker had to slide in to deny Diafra Sakho in the area.
The home side continued to build pressure in the opening exchanges and not long after Koscielny had looped a header just over the bar, Oxlade-Chamberlain came close with a fierce volley that was just off target.
But with West Ham competing well and proving a threat on the counter, Wenger’s side did not have it all their own way in the first half.
But just as the frustration started to grow inside the Emirates, Oxlade-Chamberlain brought the crowd to their feet with an electric run up the right, before standing up a cross to the far post that Nacho Monreal volleyed on to the roof of the net.
It was the moment of inspiration that the game needed, and moments later Arsenal went closer still when Ramsey’s deflected effort from just outside the area rattled against the bar.
The Wales international came close again with a 20-yard drive that he dragged just wide, but just as the game approached half time, West Ham grabbed the lead as Kouyate headed in Dimitri Payet’s free kick.
Arsenal started the second period with real intent, trying to up the tempo and get their slick passing game going.
Within the first 10 minutes, Giroud twice went close - firstly hitting the side netting after good work from Mesut Ozil, before then forcing Adrian into a smart save moments later.
But just when they looked to be getting on top, West Ham extended their Zarate took advantage of a momentary hesitation in defence to crash home a low strike from just outside the area.
Walcott and Alexis were soon introduced off the bench as the hosts chased the game, but with the visitors packing men behind the ball chances were at a premium.
Arsenal continued to press and probe, but struggled to fashion the clear-cut opportunities that might help them find a way back.
Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the side netting late on, but it was the closest Arsenal got as a trying day at Emirates Stadium drew to a close.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Copyright 2018 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.