sport

Wenger and Walcott hail Cazorla

Arsene Wenger and Theo Walcott were united in their praise of Santi Cazorla after Arsenal's 3-1 win at West Ham on Saturday evening.

Cazorla scored a stunning left-footed strike after strikes from Olivier Giroud and substitute Walcott had overhauled Mohamed Diame's opener.

And Walcott told ESPN: "He's come in to the Premier League and taken it by storm - he's our conductor.

"His goal was fantastic - I don't even know what-footed he is, to be honest!"

Wenger said: "It was an outstanding performance. If you love football, just watch him play - it's a delight to watch him."

Giroud was relieved to score his first goal since joining the Gunners from French champions Montpellier in the summer.

"I'm so happy to score my first goal and assist my friends in the team," the France striker told ESPN.

"Everyone was talking about this goal, saying 'don't worry, we trust you, keep going, concentrate'. I stayed confident."

Wenger said: "He scored at the right moment, Theo came on and scored and Santi scored a great goal.

"Theo has that in him. One or two years ago when he got in front of the keeper, he did not always finish the chance."

Reflecting on the result, which had looked in doubt after his side trailed to Diame's superb finish, Wenger said: "I am very happy.

"It was a game at a high tempo, with their first shot at goal they scored and they were dangerous in the box but in the second half we got our game going in a convincing way."

Walcott added: "It's always a tough battle here, West Ham are strong under Sam.

"It was a bit nervy in the first 15 minutes but in the second half we were much stronger.

"We know where we want to be this season, we want to be right up there at the end of the season. We showed, coming back today, that we can definitely have a good push."

Wenger also reserved praise for Walcott after the game.

Walcott, who has yet to sign a new deal with the club and has made it clear he wants to play as a central striker, was introduced in the second half and slotted home the goal that put the Gunners ahead for the first time.

Wenger has already made it clear that he believes the 23-year-old has the ability to play as the main forward and was happy with his contribution to an important win at Upton Park.

"He is slowly getting there," he said. "You're confident now when he gets in front of goal that he will score. Of course he scored an important one today at a moment where the game was a bit 50-50.

"Theo has an outstanding attitude and I don't rule anybody out. If I did then I would not bring him on in a crucial moment in the game. I believe in him.

"Gervinho looked a bit tired and Theo made the difference. He scored the second goal and that is the most important one."

A small minority of home fans were heard to be directing abusive chants towards Wenger as he stood in his technical area but the Frenchman was quick to dismiss their impact upon him.

"I don't listen to that," he said. "I don't want to talk about that. Stupidity is left to people, it's not my problem. It only punishes those who talk stupid."

West Ham provided a stern test for Arsenal with Andy Carroll returning to the starting line-up following a hamstring injury and he caused several aerial problems for the visitors.

But Wenger felt Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker dealt well with Carroll's threat despite a full-blooded performance from the on-loan Liverpool forward.

He said: "You never can completely control Carroll for 90 minutes. You have to fight for him and be good on the second ball.

"The problem with West Ham is not only Carroll, but (Kevin) Nolan on the second ball in the box.

"We could have been punished once or twice but overall we gave it all to deal well with him.

"He (Carroll) was really up for it I must say. He did fight from the first to the last minute. We did quite well."

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce revealed he did not envisage playing Carroll for the full 90 minutes as he continues to find his fitness following his lay-off.

But injuries to Guy Demel and Ricardo Vaz Te, with the latter missing for up to 12 weeks with a dislocated shoulder, meant Allardyce had no choice but to keep Carroll on.

"He is okay, he is fine," he said.

"We didn't want to play him for 90 minutes because he has only just come back from that long spell injured and hasn't played that much - but unfortunately our injury plight continued as the game progressed."

"It is a little worrying because we got injuries against QPR and we got three more injuries today, Winston Reid was suffering badly with sciatica but we had used all of our subs.

"Guy Demel came off with a thigh (injury) and Ricardo Vaz Te unfortunately with a dislocated shoulder.

"We are disappointed with the result and disappointed with those injuries we have picked up but I'm not disappointed with the lads' application and performance.

"We tried our best, it wasn't quite good enough, but we are pleased with our performance and perhaps a little disappointed that we didn't get a draw."