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Arsenal 2 West Ham 0: Fabregas bans Barca talk to focus on title charge

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22 Mar 2010 08:35:51

Arsenal 2 West Ham 0: Fabregas bans Barca talk to focus on title charge

Matches are played on grass not on paper and as Arsenal's hard-fought victory over West Ham proved, Arsene Wenger's side will need to rely on more than attractive football if they are to profit fully from a comfortable- looking title run-in. Points predictions do not take into account referees awarding soft penalties and harsh red cards. And when Martin Atkinson did just that, after Thomas Vermaelen's collision with Guillermo Franco on 44 minutes, ticking off consecutive win No 6 looked a far more complex task for Arsenal than expected. Then there is the small matter of the Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona. By Wenger's admission, Arsenal started like a side preoccupied with Catalan claret and blue rather than West Ham. Golden strike: Denilson blasts Arsenal into an early lead of woeful West Ham at the Emirates with his precision strike They may even have needed the dramatic intervention of the referee, followed by Manuel Almunia's magnificent penalty save from Alessandro Diamanti, to focus Arsenal minds on the task, having taken a foot off the gas following Denilson's fifth-minute opener. Enlarge Arsenal's second-half display was much better and their victory owed more to defensive solidity, thanks to Alex Song effortlessly slotting in alongside Sol Campbell at centre back, than cavalier attacking. They also had Cesc Fabregas to thank, Arsenal's skipper having the presence of mind to flick the ball off Matthew Upson's arm to win a penalty before converting the spot-kick with eight minutes left. Fabregas has more reasons than most to be distracted by the Barca double-header. But it is a case of 'don't mention the B word' unless the subject happens to be Arsenal's next Barclays Premier League game against Birmingham. 'We are going to play against the best team in Europe, probably in the world,' was as far as Fabregas would go on the subject of his homecoming, before shifting the focus to domestic matters. 'We have won nothing yet. We are only thinking about Birmingham. There is a lot of time to think about Barcelona. We're just taking things game by game.' That approach has dragged Arsenal back into the title race, despite back-to-back defeats by Manchester United and Chelsea. Spot of bother: Franco falls under Vermaelen's challenge and the defender is sent off. But Almunia superbly denied Diamanti with the resulting spot kick (below) 'Nobody takes you seriously after you lose to one of the main contenders so convincingly,' said Wenger. MATCH FACTS ARSENAL (4-3-3): Almunia 8; Eboue 8,Campbell 6, Vermaelen 6, Clichy 7;Fabregas 8, Song 9, Denilson 7; Nasri 7(Sagna 74min, 6), Bendtner 6 (Diaby 58, 6), Arshavin 5 (Eduardo 84).Booked: Campbell. Sent Off: Vermaelen. WEST HAM (4-4-2): Green 6; Spector 5,Tomkins 5, Upson 5, Daprela 5; Diamanti 6, Kovac 5 (Noble 70, 5), Behrami 5, Stanislas 5; Mido 6 (McCarthy 75, 5), Franco 5 (Cole 57, 6).Booked: Diamanti, Kovac, Upson, Daprela. Man of the Match: Alex Song.Referee: Martin Atkinson. 'They don't take you seriously for a while and some don't even now. But we can show people we have improved. Let's see how far we can go.' How much further West Ham co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold go with Gianfranco Zola remains to be seen. The Italian's team selection smacked of a manager concentrating on Tuesday's relegation six-pointer with Wolves. Scott Parker was not even on the bench, his absence explained away by muscle tightness, although the fact one more yellow card for the influential midfielder would have triggered a suspension must have helped make up Zola's mind. Still, another defeat only added to speculation that Zola faces the chop. Appealing for calm from his employers, he said: 'In these moments you have to keep your composure. 'You have to do the right things and not get emotional because you don't improve things.' Super Cesc: Fabregas celebrates his winner to keep Arsenal in the title race The time has come for everybody at West Ham to hold their nerve. On this evidence, Arsenal are well capable of doing just that.  'We've got what it takes to claim title,' lauds Gunners boss WengerLord Coe puts West Ham on the right track for London's Olympic StadiumARSENAL FC


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