Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal relied on the slimmest of winning margins to claim the first place in the last four of this season’s edition of the English League Cup last night, at the expense of David Moyes’ West Ham United.
The drab affair’s only goal came on the stroke of half-time when Three Lions forward Danny Welbeck reacted quickly to beat National teammate Joe Hart from close-range.
Aside from that, there would be very little in the way of goalmouth action at the Emirates Stadium, with the hosts coming out on top in most of the statistics.
Meanwhile, the visitors posed little threat to the goal of David Ospina, in a London Derby that included only one shot on target, it’s the first time in four games in all Competitions that Moyes’ boys have been defeated.
From the start in North London, Gunners Boss Wenger opted for a wholesale 11 changes in the wake of his side’s Premier League victory over Newcastle United on Saturday afternoon.
Taking the places of Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jack Wilshere, Granit Xhaka, Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette were David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Sead Kolasinac, Francis Coquelin, Joseph Willock, Mohamed Elneny, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck.
Meanwhile, visiting Manager Moyes decided on six alterations to his starting Xl from the impressive League away victory at the Bet365 Stadium, also three days ago now.
Coming into the side was England keeper Joe Hart, stand-in Skipper Winston Reid, Declan Rice, fellow youngster Domingos Quina, Andre Ayew and Mexico man Javier Hernandez, they replaced Spaniard Adrian San-Miguel, Pablo Zabaleta, Captain Mark Noble, suspended Manuel Lanzini, Marko Arnautovic and former England forward Michail Antonio.
On a very chilly night on the North side of the Capital, the opening stages of the affair would be fairly uneventful in terms of penalty box action, a midfield battle for the most part.
While the visitors looked dangerous on the left on a number of occasions with the likes of Arthur Masuaku and Chicharito, they struggled to muster up any clear-cut chances.
At the other end, fans were finally treated to a bit of action, although it would take all of 38 minutes to arrive, Kolasinac showing great pace to cut in and send an effort flying towards the far top corner it would miss by a whisker.
The Bosnian International would be at the forefront of the attack once again, moments later, from the left side once more, putting the ball on a plate for Walcott with a cross.
But, the Englishman was unable to covert, choosing the wrong option of a diving header that flew comfortably wide, however, the scores weren’t to stay level for much longer.
With just three minutes remaining until the break, Debuchy lifted a delivery in from the by-line for the home side, Welbeck on the end of it to eventually force the ball home underneath Hart.
It was, without doubt, a moment to forget for the shot-stopper, who has recently lost his Premier League position to Adrian, while Welbeck peeled away in celebration of his first League Cup goal since 2009.
That is how things would stay going into half-time and if the first-half was something of an eyesore for the Emirates Stadium, it would have nothing on the second period.
Looking to launch a comeback, the visitors were met with an unbreakable Gunners defensive wall which killed the game by restricting the Hammers’ space further forward.
Even the introductions of the likes of Diafra Sakho, Andy Carroll and Arnautovic did nothing to change that, an Aaron Cresswell free-kick, that was positioned wide of Ospina’s post, was the closest they came to an equaliser.
At the opposite end, Wenger’s men found occasional openings on the counter-attack, this was seen when Hart hauled down Welbeck on the edge of the area, earning a yellow card and giving away a dangerous set-piece.
Although they were not able to make the most of them in any way as Giroud pulled up with a late hamstring injury, one that could see him sidelined for the foreseeable future.
When Referee Kevin Friend finally blew his full-time whistle in the fourth minute of added-minute, there was a feeling of relief from many, who no longer wanted to endure the dull encounter, with Arsenal making it to the last four of this Competition for an incredible 15th time.
They will be keenly watching to find out who their opponents will be come January in tonight’s Semi-Final Draw, before attention turns back to the PL and Friday’s clash with Liverpool.
On the flip side, Moyes will now be hoping that he can pick his players up quickly for another vital League matchup with Newcastle United at the London Stadium on Saturday, after a first loss since very early December.