LONDON • After all the fuss over Marko Arnautovic's future, the limelight belonged to a local lad who places his love of the game above the riches that are surely going to come his way.
The script seemed to demand an audacious performance from Arnautovic but instead the day belonged to Declan Rice, who sealed West Ham's 1-0 Premier League win over Arsenal with his first goal for the club.
The midfielder, who turns 20 tomorrow, also earned his side a deserved first home victory over the Gunners in 13 years after scoring in the 48th minute yesterday.
Unsurprisingly, he spoke excitedly about his "special moment" after the match, telling Sky Sports: "I can't put it into words. I was in the box, I took it on, it went in the top corner and we beat Arsenal."
He played like a seasoned professional against Arsenal, frustrating Unai Emery's side time and again with a series of well-timed interventions in defensive midfield, and displayed his outstanding technique when he settled a tight encounter with a fine shot.
"Declan Rice is improving. In the future he will be a top, top player," said West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini.
"I was pleased with the consistency of the team. We didn't allow Arsenal to create chances. We played with the mentality of a big team. We have to try to work and play in the same way all the time."
Points Arsenal have taken from their five-match winless run in the Premier League, with two draws and three losses.
Awkward financial realities dominated the conversation before the London derby.
While it was disconcerting for Arsenal's fans to hear Emery say he can only afford to make loan signings this month, West Ham have been confronted by Arnautovic's desire to accept a lucrative offer from an unidentified Chinese club.
Ever the showman, Arnautovic had bleached his hair for the occasion. Yet this was a subdued performance from the Austrian striker and the greater threat emanated from Emery's forwards during the early stages.
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Burnley 2 Fulham 1
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But the visitors faded after a bright start and it was impossible not to feel that Arsenal have got themselves into an unenviable bind when it comes to their playmaker Mesut Ozil, who did not even merit a place on the bench.
Emery made his feelings clear about Ozil before kick-off, insisting that the German's absence from yet another awkward away assignment was a tactical decision, but it is an unsatisfactory situation from the club's perspective.
They are crying out for elite talents and their biggest earner, a player on £350,000 (S$608,000) a week, is not rated by his manager.
For all of Ozil's inconsistencies, the Gunners needed a player of his class and invention, as former Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri duly demonstrated.
The 31-year-old, rebuilding his career at West Ham after a doping ban, was at the heart of much of the Hammers' best work on his Premier League debut for the club.
It was the Frenchman's neat lay-off that allowed Rice the space to curl a superb shot past Bernd Leno.
Arsenal have now lost three of their last four away matches in the league and Emery admitted it is a worry, with sixth-placed Manchester United just three points behind before their match at Tottenham Hotspur today.
"It is a concern. We need to be competitive both home and away. Away, we are not taking the results we want," the Spaniard said.
"If we can be better in the 90 minutes - competitive and quality - we can do it."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS