Martinelli picks perfect moment to launch Arsenal on their way to fourth spot above West Ham
Arsenal (0) 2 Martinelli 48, Smith Rowe 87
West Ham (0) 0
Gaby Martinelli’s second sublime finish of the season gave Mikel Arteta a heavy hint that he may be ready to step into the breach, should Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang be frozen out.
Gabon striker Aubameyang has looked a little out of sorts this season and at the weekend was stripped of the captaincy for a second breaking of club rules this year.
Accounts suggest he was late back from an overseas trip to visit his unwell mother but the manner of Arteta’s very public admonishment puts the player’s future in some doubt.
He was left out of the side that beat Southampton on Saturday and was again omitted.
In that regard, Martinelli’s expert finish at the start of the second half could not have been more timely.
A reminder of his excellence as a finisher also came a few weeks ago with the over-the-shoulder volley which killed off Newcastle.
A first-half that Arsenal had dominated without reward was forgotten two minutes after the restart when Alexandre Lacazette clipped a ball down the inside-left channel and Martinelli left the covering Vladimir Coufal for dead.
Opening up his body expertly, the striker slipped the ball perfectly inside the far post.
Lacazette’s sudden burst of good form is also probably a consequence of the Aubameyang saga and should not be underestimated. He has taken up the captain’s armband and the responsibility seems to have lifted him to new heights. He was everywhere.
Not that he had the perfect night by any means. Having set up the first goal, he won – but then missed - a penalty after 67 minutes after being upended in a follow-through by Coufal, who received a second yellow card as a consequence.
It looked a harsh call from ref Anthony Taylor, but he saw it as reckless.
Lacazette'’s spot-kick was a tame one – close enough to Lukasz Fabianski’s left arm for a comfortable save.
The 10-man Hammers made a decent fist of trying to get back into it, but they were eventually caught out as they sought a goal and in a quick break led by the excellent Bukayo Saka, Sub Emile Smith Rowe took it on and finished with a left footer into the bottom corner.
The outcome might have been different. Carelessness in defence almost gifted the Irons a quick equaliser for Jarrod Bowen after Martinelli’s opener, but Aaron Ramsdale sprang to his right to save the day and the Gunners grew in strength.
Having won 10 of the previous 11 clashes between the teams in north London before tonight, the hosts will feel this is perhaps a routine outcome for them.
But the visitors are a good scalp these days, lying fourth before start of play. Arsenal overtake them to reach that coveted Champions League slot.
The opening half did not suggest we were in for the free-flowing contest we eventually got.
Home fans howled when Coufal forearmed Kieran Tierney to earn his first yellow and there were penalty appeals when Lacazette was baulked at the last by Craig Dawson.
Thomas Partey and Michail Antonio tangled in midfield. So did Lacazette and Declan Rice.
The Hammers were forced to bide their time but reminded themselves of the virtues of a patient approach when Fablo Fornals almost have them the lead with a wicked curler from the edge of the box.
Arsenal took a while to truly threaten, but Saka’s quick feet promised chances and it was his work which created space for Tierney to rifle a fine shot which Fabianski tipped onto the bar.
Then the former Arsenal keeper did well to get down to thwart another Lacazette effort. The spillage looked inviting for an onrushing Martinelli, but, under pressure from Dawson, he stabbed wide.
The near-misses became proper chances after the break and Arsenal, sharper and seemingly more motivated, thoroughly deserved their win.
Gunners: (4-4-1-1) Ramsdale – Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney – Saka.Partey, Xhaka, Martinelli (Nketiah 82)– Odegaard (Smith Rowe 66) – Lacazette (Tavares 89). Subs not used: Maitland-Niles, Holding, Pepe, Sambi Lokonga, Elneny, Okonkwo
Hammers: (4-2-3-1) Fabianski – Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Masuaku – Souckek, Rice – Bowen, Lanzini (Benrahma 76), Fornals (Ashby 84) – Antonio. Subs not used: Areola, Yarmolenko, Vlasic, Noble, Kral, Oko-Flex, Alese