By Chris Harris at the Boleyn Ground
Arsenal had to settle for a point after a topsy-turvy six-goal thriller against West Ham United.
The visitors were in control after Alex Iwobi set up Mesut Ozil and Alexis for clinical first-half finishes. But Andy Carroll took over just before the break, heading in Aaron Cresswell’s cross and equalising just 160 seconds later.
Arsenal’s hard work had been undone in the blink of an eye and they found themselves behind when Carroll completed his hat-trick with a powerful header.
Arsene Wenger made two attacking changes in an effort to turn the tide and his team fought back gamely to level through Laurent Koscielny.
There were chances at both ends in a tense finale but Arsenal could not find the winner they craved.
It’s a blow for their feint title hopes but, after Carroll’s purple patch, it could have been worse.
SETTING THE SCENE
Before this game Wenger said he was “reluctant to change anything that works”. He duly named the same line-up for the third consecutive Premier League game following those impressive wins over Everton and Watford.
Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey returned to the squad but had to be content with a place on the bench alongside Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud.
Iwobi, meanwhile, was looking to emulate Davor Suker - the only Arsenal player to score in his first three league starts.
Of all Arsenal’s remaining fixtures, this would perhaps be the toughest. West Ham were unbeaten in 13 home games and had the best record in London derbies this season - 14 points from seven games, including that opening-day win at Emirates Stadium.
Carroll was a notable name in West Ham’s line-up and he left his mark in more ways than one.
A clumsy lunge on Koscielny earned the striker a yellow card, and his presence in the Arsenal box set up two early chances for Lanzini.
A header down was flicked just wide by Lanzini - although the offside flag was up anyway - and a Carroll overhead kick was nodded in by the Argentine, only for the flag to go up again. Replays suggested West Ham were unlucky, Hector Bellerin just about keeping Lanzini onside.
Arsenal looked dangerous too, especially when they counter-attacked at pace. It took the visitors time to find their passing range but, when their chances came, they were absolutely clinical.
The first goal arrived seconds after a penalty appeal from Nacho Monreal was turned down. As the home fans complained and the home side paused, Iwobi threaded a pass through for Ozil to find the bottom corner.
West Ham looked to respond and Gabriel and Koscielny both made vital interventions as crosses came in from the right. And with the storm weathered, Arsenal scored again.
Once more it was Iwobi, running from right to left, who found the right pass. This time Alexis provided the clinical finish past Adrian.
Danny Welbeck had a half-chance to extend Arsenal’s lead even further but West Ham hit back in style.
Carroll got across Monreal to guide in a header from Cresswell’s cross, and then fired past Ospina seconds before the break.
Unsurprisingly, West Ham - and Carroll - came flying out of the blocks.
Dimitri Payet had the ball in the net but the referee ruled out the goal, penalising Carroll for a foul on Kosciely as he tried to shepherd the ball back to Ospina.
But Carroll’s physical presence eventually told and he powered in a header at the far post after Antonio got past Monreal to stand up an inviting cross.
Arsenal were rocking and nearly conceded again when Carroll connected with another Antonio cross.
Wenger brought on Ramsey for Coquelin to give the visitors another attacking option and Arsenal’s share of possession slowly increased. Ozil found Alexis in the box but the ball was taken from him as he shaped to shoot.
Fine skill from Ramsey earned Arsenal a corner which was half-cleared to Monreal, and his fierce low shot was cleared off the line by Lanzini.
You could sense the pendulum was swinging and Arsenal levelled when Koscielny found the top corner after Welbeck and Ozil had fashioned the chance. It was a true striker’s finish from a man who often steps up at vital moments.
Payet was next to go close, forcing a sprawling save from Ospina with a curling effort from the edge of the box. Then Giroud headed Monreal’s cross just wide.
Both sides searched for a fourth but this captivating game would not have a winner.
Referee: Craig Pawson
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