This was a match that Arsenal desperately needed to win. To do so in such style was a huge bonus.
Arsene Wenger will have beedn particularly please by the fact that his trio of summer signings – Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud – were at the heart of dismantling the Hammers. Podolski in particular had his most effective game in an Arsenal shirt, racking up a goal and three assists.
I’m a huge fan of the German winger. Although he can go quiet when deprived of service, he is ruthlessly efficient given the opportunity. His goal was a display of the incredible power he has in his left boot, while the three assists showed how effective he can be supplying ammunition from the flank. How Guy Demel must have wished he was still an Arsenal player as he saw Podolski tear at him time after time in that devastating period at the start of the second half.
I call him a winger quite deliberately. Podolski is the best finisher at the club, and there are understandable calls to play him as a central striker. Personally, I think he offers us more from the left. His work-rate is far better than commonly perceived, and his crossing is superb: he now has 10 assists to go with his 11 goals.
Podolski isn’t a flair player. He’s a machine. He finds space, and crosses or shoots. If he shoots, he doesn’t much around with side-foot or swerve: he hits the ball as clean and true as anyone I’ve seen in an Arsenal shirt.
It was he who got Arsenal back in to the game after going behind on, unsurprisingly, a set piece. Olivier Giroud headed a corner away, but Jack Collison was unmarked on the edge of the area and able to volley back in. Crucially, Podolski’s wonder-strike had us level before half-time, and when we came out for the second period we seemed hell-bent on putting West Ham to the sword.
First Arsenal produced a set piece routine of their own, as Olivier Giroud volleyed home from a corner after some clever screening work by Mertesacker. Then Podolski played what is becoming a trade-mark one two with Giroud before squaring to Santi Cazorla to back-heel home. The Spaniard celebrated with such humility that from the crowd I initially thought it had been an own goal. I shouldn’t have doubted him, as the replays confirmed an exquisite flick.
A minute later Podolski was in again, this time playing a ball across the penalty area which Theo Walcott side-footed home with real assuredness. He is now on 16 goals for the season, and it looks increasingly likely that this will be the season when he breaks the 20-goal mark for the first time.
The final goal was another beauty: Jack Wilshere split the defence with a beautiful pass to Podolski, and Olivier Giroud got in front of his man to meet the German’s cross and turn the ball home with the inside of his heel. The contest was over, and the game understandably petered out.
Arsenal need the three points for their league position. What’s more, they needed the injection of confidence the scoreline provides. The six month adaptation period for Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla is now over, and Arsenal need them to produce performances like this on a consistent basis if we’re to claw back Tottenham’s lead.
It wasn’t a perfect evening. The injury to young Dan Potts put a dampener on proceedings, while the introduction of Andre Santos to the front three in place of a tiring Podolski was a startling reminder of the shallowness of our squad.
However, we should grasp a rare opportunity to be positive. Our defence recovered from a shaky start to look relatively secure, Aaron Ramsey excelled in an unfamiliar defensive midfield role, and our attacking game was far more cohesive and clinical than in recent weeks.
Plus, we made Sam Allardyce miserable. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Further reading: Player Ratings for Bleacher Report