Mikel Arteta says his Arsenal team are “turning the corner” after a narrow win over West Ham boosted their hopes of finishing in the Premier League top four.
Alexandre Lacazette’s goal 12 minutes from time, which was confirmed by the video assistant referee, lifted the Gunners up to ninth, five points behind Chelsea in fourth.
The France forward swept a close-range effort into the bottom-left corner from Mesut Ozil’s cushioned header for his third goal in four games.
And it also ensured the Gunners claimed a third straight league win at home for the first time since February 2019.
“I’m happy because big teams find a way when they aren’t playing well,” Arteta said.
“We are turning the corner in terms of results, but our ship still has to turn a few times more to see what we want to see. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
West Ham, who have now lost their past six Premier League away games, had enjoyed the better of the scoring opportunities until Lacazette’s intervention and remain 16th, above the bottom three only on goal difference.
While David Moyes’ side had limited possession, they took the game to their hosts, who came out of the blocks sluggishly and struggled to inject any tempo to their play.
Jarrod Bowen’s early shot was tipped on to a post by Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno and Michail Antonio failed to score from two clear chances either side of the interval.
Greece defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos earlier went close for Arsenal – he headed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross against the bar – before Lacazette popped up with the winner.
Since his appointment as Arsenal boss on 20 December, Arteta has lost only one league game, and appears to have injected more resilience, energy and a pattern of play into his side.
However, for large parts of this encounter the Spaniard’s imprint on his team was barely visible.
Instead, they served up the sort of rudderless display – lacking in leadership, guile and pace – that led to the departure of manager boss Unai Emery in November.
While the outcome may have enhanced Arsenal’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17, Arteta suggested that his side will have to improve further to make up ground in the race for a top-four finish.
Leading scorer Aubameyang, was a peripheral figure throughout. Although the Gabon forward showed glimpses of his talent, laying on chances for Sokratis and Nicolas Pepe from wide positions, he touched the ball only twice in the Hammers’ penalty area.
In midfield, Arsenal were slow and ponderous, while a defence that included on-loan Flamengo defender Pablo Mari for the first time in the top flight was repeatedly caught out by West Ham’s swift counter-attacking.
The one element that pleased Arteta, is that his side found a way to grind out a victory when not at their best, with Leno excelling in goal and Ozil’s intelligence coming to the fore for Lacazette’s goal.
“The most important thing is to find a way to win. That is what the big clubs do,” Arteta added.
“A lot of things need to improve. But let us just enjoy today. We have to take it game by game.”
If this contest was between teams with disparate ambitions, West Ham’s performance made it difficult to distinguish which side were struggling towards the bottom of the table.
The Hammers’ tally of five points from the past 27 available may well make for uncomfortable reading but Moyes will be delighted by the way his team carried out his instructions against Arsenal.
West Ham were disciplined in defence, and the pace and power of Bowen, Sebastien Haller and Antonio ensured they carried a threat on the break.
But for some errant finishing and wayward final passes, they could have claimed a notable scalp and three precious points.
Bowen’s early effort which grazed the right-hand post was a precursor of what was to follow, with Haller and Antonio denied by Leno when well placed and the latter also flicking a close-range shot wide just before the break.
“The opportunities were there to win and we didn’t take them,” Moyes said.
“I don’t want us to be a hard luck story. I told my players I thought they played well but let’s get rid of that tag. We can’t let that happen again. We have got to be more ruthless. At this stage, I would rather we had not played well and won.”
Arsenal’s next Premier League fixture is at Manchester City on Wednesday 11 March (19:30 GMT) while West Ham host Wolves in their next Premier League game on Sunday 15 March (14:00 GMT).