Arsenal click for 12 devastating minutes to leave West Ham dazed
Arsenal 5 West Ham 1:When Arsenal click as they did for 12 whirlwind minutes at the beginning of the second half, it can feel as if all of their problems, the well-documented angst and the soul-searching, are nothing more than tricks of the imagination.
In a game that they had to win, after the dispiriting Premier League losses to Manchester City and Chelsea, they started badly and left themselves needing to scramble up an incline, if not a mountain, after an early concession to Jack Collison.
But Lukas Podolski pegged West Ham back before his team destroyed their rivals with a four-goal burst immediately after the interval. It was an awesome demonstration of their attacking potential and West Ham had no answer.
Their bleak evening was compounded when the substitute Dan Potts was stretchered off after almost 10 minutes of treatment, having lost consciousness after a sickening collision. Sam Allardyce, who had sent on the Arsenal target Mohamed Diame as his final substitute, was forced to play the final seven minutes and 12 additional minutes of injury-time with 10 men.
The pick of Arsenal’s goals was Santi Cazorla’s bewitching flick but the rugged power of Podolski’s equaliser ran him close. Olivier Giroud, twice, and Theo Walcott also showed a clinical edge.
Arsenal move to within four points of Tottenham Hotspur in fourth place.
West Ham presented a physical challenge and it was possible to detect nerves at the outset in the Arsenal backline when the visitors launched high balls at them. Carlton Cole was in the mood to mix it. But there was high quality about West Ham’s early goal and a fairytale for the scorer.
Collison might have dreamed about this moment during the arduous months of rehabilitation from his knee injury, and the emotion was plain as his first goal of a truncated season swelled the net. Giroud’s headed clearance from Matt Taylor’s corner lacked distance, and Collison’s touch and lethal blast rocked Arsenal.
But Podolski settled them quickly, with a strike to top Collison’s. The Germany forward took Jack Wilshere’s pass and clubbed an unerring drive into the far corner from 25 yards.
Arsenal moved the game out of sight in what felt like the blink of an eye at the start of the second half. First, Per Mertesacker screened James Tomkins from Walcott’s corner and Giroud darted in at the near post to guide home a shot too hot for Jaaskelainen.
The third from Cazorla took the breath. The build-up was sharp and incisive, Podolski swapping passes with Giroud and forcing the ball across goal for Cazorla to convert.
With Wilshere and Cazorla central to Arsenal’s slick tempo, West Ham failed to cope. Wilshere sent Podolski scampering clear and his low cross was steered home by Walcott, and the salvo was completed when Wilshere fed Podolski and his cross was turned in by Giroud.