Premier League - Grant on brink as Arsenal beat West Ham
Avram Grant edged closer to the West Ham exit door as Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 win at the Premier League’s bottom club, thanks in no small part to a dreadful display by debutant Wayne Bridge.
With reports widely saying the Hammers boss would be replaced by Martin O’Neill whatever the result, a hapless performance from Bridge helped Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott net first-half goals and Van Persie score a late third.
Bridge, who signed from Manchester City days previously after the Hammers agreed to pick up a reported £90,000 wage bill, failed to close down Walcott as he set up Van Persie for a 13th-minute opener, the England winger given time and space to pick out the Dutchman with a low cross that he smashed into the bottom right.
The former Chelsea left-back was twice at fault for the second, playing Van Persie onside as Nasri sent him down the left and failing to stick with Walcott as he finished from close range in a role reversal of the first, the former Southampton trainee hitting double figures in a season for the first time in his career.
With the game won for Arsenal, Bridge then clumsily chopped down Walcott with 15 minutes left, allowing Van Persie to grab his second from the spot.
Things got even worse for poor Bridge as he was injured in the latter stages, completing one of the worst debuts in Premier League history.
The Hammers threatened the Arsenal goal on occasion - Carlton Cole denied by a superb stop from Wojciech Szczesny and seeing a goal-bound header diverted wide by Johan Djourou - but Arsenal could have run up a cricket score in a match they dominated.
The result puts Arsenal a point off second-placed Manchester United and two behind leaders City, although United have games in hand on both clubs.
The Hammers were missing their two best players this season, Scott Parker and Frederic Piquionne - and it showed.
Between the first-half goals - which, poor defending aside, were well-crafted and taken - Walcott finished weakly at Robert Green when clean through, Van Persie hit the post after being teed up by Samir Nasri, who himself fired one just over, while defender Djourou was denied by a brave stop from Green.
The second half was a touch lower key but still controlled by Arsenal, Van Persie embarrassing Bridge by turning him inside and out three times before forcing a near-post save from Green as the Gunners sliced them apart at will.
There was a brief moment of respite for West Ham and Bridge when his curling free-kick was deflected inches wide, while Freddie Sears almost netted a fluke when his cross skewed towards goal and was tipped wide by the young Polish keeper.
Normal service was soon resumed, Walcott putting wide from Nasri’s ball after the hapless Bridge tackled air and, with a quarter of an hour left, the former England defender was late on the current national team winger to give away a penalty that a cool Van Persie drilled beyond Green into the bottom left.