EPL: Grant likely to be axe after defeat by Arsenal

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Robin van Persie kept Arsenal’s title challenge on course and pushed West Ham manager Avram Grant closer to the sack as his double inspired a 3-0 win at Upton Park on Saturday.

Grant is now expected to be dismissed to allow Martin O’Neill, who walked out on Aston Villa on the eve of the season, to take over in the hope he can save the bottom of the table Hammers from the drop.

Arsenal had been surprisingly beaten in midweek by Championship club Ipswich in the League Cup semi-final first leg after being held at home in the FA Cup by Leeds, another team from the second tier.

But with van Persie and Theo Walcott on target, Arsene Wenger’s third placed team – who are two points behind leaders Manchester City – made West Ham look exactly like a side that has just four wins from 23 games.

Arsenal had been on top before they took a 13th-minute lead through van Persie. The Dutch forward scored it with a crisp, low drive that gave Robert Green little chance.

Walcott claimed an assist with the pass from the right of the box but credit must go to Samir Nasri, who unlocked the home defence by cleverly allowing the ball to go through his legs.

Walcott out-paced the home defence from Arsenal’s next chance to go one-on-one with Green but couldn’t produce the finish to match as he poked the ball straight at the goalkeeper.

West Ham were desperate for a way back and Arsenal defender Johan Djourou almost provided that with an under-hit back-pass which let in Carlton Cole, but goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny pulled off a fine block and Zavon Hines could not
hit the target from the follow-up.

The post came to West Ham’s rescue on the half-hour mark when van Persie strode through and saw his angled drive beat Green but bounce back into play.

Another goal was coming though and Walcott plundered it high into the roof of the net in the 41st minute after some dithering defending in front of his own goal from debutant Wayne Bridge let van Persie’s cross reach him.

Bridge had been signed on loan from Manchester City to shore up a leaky defence but succeeded only in pushing his manager closer to the exit door.

Green than had to save from Djourou to stop the Gunners running riot before the break, with the away fans taunting Grant with chants of ‘You’re getting sacked in an hour’.

And Cole then passed up a clear chance to pull a goal back before half time by misdirecting a free header after Freddie Sears had picked him out with a cross.

Arsenal began the second half in the same vein, with van Persie forcing Green into a save and firing another effort over.

Walcott forced a save from Green before a van Persie free-kick was deflected behind and there was no doubt which team was near the top of the Premier League and which was at the bottom.

Sears almost conjured up a reply via a mis-hit cross but Szczesny was able to palm it away just in time.

And there was to be no way back when Bridge brought Walcott down for a penalty that allowed van Persie to double his goal tally in the 77th minute.

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