Eddie Nketiah's natural finishing provides the light for Arsenal in a performance from darker times

Large parts of the win over West Ham were a throwback to the Unai Emery era, but Nketiah ensured Mikel Areta's side got over the line

Eddie Nketiah celebrates scoring the 2nd Arsenal goalduring the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on September 19, 202
Nketiah's late goal ensured Arsenal took three points from a game in which they disappoined Credit: Getty Images

The worst that can be said about Arsenal’s performance against West Ham United was that, for long periods, they played like an Unai Emery team again. The latter stages of Emery’s reign were defined by vulnerability to the counter-attack and a stodginess in possession, and those problems resurfaced again against a well-drilled West Ham side.

The big difference, though, was that Arsenal still found a way to win. This was never a match in which they would have taken three points under Emery but with Mikel Arteta at the helm there is a greater belief around the club and in the players.

It helped Arteta’s cause that he had young Eddie Nketiah to call upon. Nketiah was on loan for the final few months of Emery’s reign, with Arsenal lacking a predator on the bench. The Englishman is nothing if not an old-school poacher and his winner here was further evidence of his natural goalscoring ability.

"I do a lot of work trying to be in the right positions, to make sure I'm always available from wide crosses or when the ball is in the box,” said Nketiah. “It was a nice pass from Dani Ceballos and it was a good finish from me.”

With a willingness to run in behind and a knack for finding space in the penalty box, Nketiah has all the attributes to be a useful impact substitute for Arsenal this season. But Arteta does not want him to be limited to such a role — Arsenal’s manager sees Nketiah as a genuine option to start instead of Alexandre Lacazette, who also scored on Saturday.

Asked about Nketiah’s ability to find goalscoring positions, Arteta said: “It is a natural ability that he has. He has the intuition and then obviously he is able to put the ball in the net with his quality and execution level that he has. He is aggressive.

Mikel Arteta celebrates the late winner Credit: Richard Pelham

“I am delighted with him. We know he is a threat. He is someone in the box who is a real danger and we have to use him. Every time I have given him the opportunity he has performed really well.”

The ferocity of Arteta’s celebrations at the end was proof of how difficult a night it was for Arsenal, who struggled to contain West Ham goalscorer Michail Antonio. Momentum is with the Spaniard’s side, who are still riding the high of their FA Cup victory last season.

"Everyone is raring to go, everyone is buzzing and we've had a taste of success and we're hungry for more,” said Nketiah. “It's been a great start and we're looking to keep that going throughout the season.”

There were plenty of positives for David Moyes to take from his side’s performance, although the defensive lapse at the end was another reminder of why they are in the market for a new defender this summer.

“I just don’t want centre-halves,” said the West Ham manager. “I want other positions as well. Ultimately I would like to sign three or four players, but I totally understand we are not in a financial position to do so.”

West Ham’s frustration was made worse by refereeing decisions, with Moyes saying Arsenal should have been punished for a handball in the box by defender Gabriel Magalhaes.

“The hardest part is that we never get good reporting back, we never get any clarity in the reports back,” said Moyes. “They say they do, but they don’t. We would like to be told because we make lots of mistakes, managers and players. But the referees very rarely make any mistakes - and that’s the results. When we get the results back very rarely has the referees or Var made any mistakes.”