x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Axe hangs over Grant as Arsenal cut loose

Arsenal win 3-0 at Upton Park in what could be Avram Grant's last match in charge of West Ham.

Theo Walcott, left, beats Wayne Bridge to the ball to score Arsenal's second goal.
Theo Walcott, left, beats Wayne Bridge to the ball to score Arsenal's second goal.

LONDON // If only West Ham United had spent as much time considering Avram Grant's appointment as they have mulling over his dismissal. Some due diligence at the right end of the season would have saved them this tortuous, possibly terminal, process of execution.

Everywhere Grant goes the hapless Israeli has brought confusion and consternation. Footballers and coaches marvel at how he managed to land one lucrative Premier League contract, never mind three.

By offering him the last of those David Gold and David Sullivan, the West Ham owners, placed themselves in the esteemed company of Roman Abramovich and those who have been playing fast and loose with Portsmouth's future.

It is an error that has proven difficult for Gold and Sullivan to extract themselves from. Though his management has been questioned since the first month of the season, Grant will not walk away from Upton Park. There is pride to be swallowed, compensation to be paid, and money to be promised to his successor.

The outcome of last night's fixture only underlined the scale of West Ham's worries. Arsenal scored three times almost without opposition.

Wayne Bridge demonstrated the severe deterioration of his career in handing over two of the goals. Had his opponents put their minds to it there could have been several more.

After the best run of his West Ham tenure, Grant again took a scalpel to his first team.

Four alterations to a side still missing Scott Parker, their injured captain, brought a debut for Bridge and recalls for Zavon Hines, Radoslav Kovac and Carton Cole. Frederic Piquionne, the leading scorer, had been lost to toothache.

The headaches rapidly continued. West Ham's five-man midfield was doing little to stifle the visitors. A free kick after a petty foul 40 yards from goal was almost converted by Samir Nasri, but the opener was coming.

On 13 minutes, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott calmly passed their way down West Ham's right. So little challenge was there in the area that Nasri could lazily step over the winger's centre for an unmarked Robin van Persie to net his 50th Premier League goal.

An angered Grant bemoaned the defending; Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, had his own complaint to make when Julien Faubert floored Fabregas with an unnecessarily wild touchline challenge. Andre Marriner, the referee, made do with a yellow card.

Grant replaced Mark Noble with Luis Boa Morte - to more supporter dissent - as West Ham tried to vary their game beyond long balls at Arsenal's full-backs.

One defensive error allowed Cole in for a well-saved shot and Hines almost converted the rebound, but the home team were simply exposing themselves to more pain.

Walcott shot weakly against Green when sent one-on-one by Fabregas; Nasri had a harder opportunity held. More unchallenged passing teed up Alex Song for another close-range chance; Van Persie beat the goalkeeper but not the far post.

The second soon arrived. Demonstrating the form that persuaded Manchester City to send him out on loan, Bridge first stood four yards behind the rest of his defensive line to play Van Persie onside, then stood stationary as Walcott ran in ahead of him to score.

"You're getting sacked in an hour," sang the away support.

The procession continued interrupted after the break and so dominant were Arsenal that Grant saw no value in altering his single-striker formation: this was damage-limitation mode.

It mattered nought, the third was coming regardless. Again Bridge was horrifically incompetent, somehow managing to cut down Walcott as he ran away from goal to recover a pass struck behind him. Van Persie capped an excellent performance with a bottom-corner conversion.