ARSENAL kickstarted their Barclays Premier League campaign as they blew West Ham away with four goals in the space of ten minutes at the start of the second half to run out 5-1 winners at Emirates Stadium.
Scorers: Arsenal: Podolski (22), Giroud (47, 57), Cazorla (53), Walcott (54); West Ham United: Collison (18)
The Gunners had slumped to successive defeats by Manchester City and Chelsea to leave them facing an uphill battle to regain a place in the top four.
Manager Arsene Wenger knew there was no more margin for error and despite falling behind in last night’s rearranged Boxing Day fixture to a fine strike by Jack Collison, his side found their form, equalising through Lukas Podolski’s 25-yard screamer.
Olivier Giroud scored his first goal in six games to put the hosts in front just after the restart, before German forward Podolski tore the Irons apart, charging down the left to set up Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Giroud again as Arsenal romped out of sight before the hour.
West Ham had to play the closing stages with ten men after what looked a serious injury to substitute Daniel Potts, who was carried off on a stretcher following a clash of heads.
The Gunners now head to Brighton on Saturday looking to keep alive their FA Cup hopes, before next week’s visit of Liverpool will again put the character of Wenger’s squad to the test if they are to close back within striking distance of Champions League qualification again.
Collison took one touch to set himself before firing a superb strike through a crowd of players and into the bottom corner for the opener. Arsenal produced the perfect response to level within four minutes.
The ball was fed out from jack Wilshere to Podolski on the left, some 25 yards from goal.
The German promptly stepped inside before unleashing a blistering low, left-foot strike into the far corner.
Arsenal were ahead just after the restart.
The Hammers had been pressed back by a series of sweeping attacks. Walcott clipped a corner towards the near post, where Giroud arrived to drill it back past Jussi Jaaskelainen for his first goal since a late double in the 7-3 win over Newcastle on 29 December.
Before West Ham could mount a comeback, it was 3-1 on 53 minutes.
Walcott got away down the right, before the ball was recycled back to the other flank, where Podolski played a one-two with Giroud before squaring for Cazorla, who rolled in a clever backheel. Arsenal were flying and immediately chalked up a fourth on the break inside 60 seconds.
Podolski was sent away down the left, charging clear of a stretched West Ham defence before clipping a perfectly-weighted pass into the path of Walcott, who smashed home first time at the far post. Arsenal, however, were not finished as Giroud added a fifth on 57 minutes, with Podolski again the provider following another surging run down the left.
After all the high drama, the tempo of the match dropped as fast as the temperature.
There was a lengthy stoppage with 18 minutes left as substitute Potts needed treatment after a clash of heads, eventually taken off on a stretcher, covered with an emergency blanket in a neck brace and receiving gas.
As all had been changes used, West Ham had to continue with ten men – through some 12 minutes of stoppage time before the final whistle put them out of their misery.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen (Koscielny 57), Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain 73), Podolski (Andre Santos 70). Subs Not Used: Mannone,Arshavin,Jenkinson,Frimpong.
West Ham United: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Tomkins, Reid (Diarra 62),O’Brien, Noble, Nolan, Collison (Potts 62), Taylor, C Cole, Vaz Te (Diame 70). Subs Not Used: Henderson, Jarvis, J Cole, O’Neil.