May 18 2013 Latest news:
Paul Chronnell, Arsenal correspondent, at Emirates Stadium
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
German finally shows what he can do as Arsenal thrash West Ham 5-1 at the Emirates
So the pendulum swings again. Doom and gloom on Sunday, back in the clouds on Wednesday. For the second successive week Arsenal produced a riposte to a weekend defeat and this time it was emphatic.
The general feeling after Sunday’s loss at Stamford Bridge had been that Arsenal were slipping out of top-four contention, desperately in need of new signings, a shadow of their former selves.
Some of that will doubtless still ring true again this season, maybe even on Saturday at Brighton. But after Arsene Wenger’s side produced a quite stunning burst of attacking football at a disbelieving Emirates, that can wait for another day.
A game that looked in the balance at 1-1 at half-time was turned on its head in truly remarkable fashion as a rampant Arsenal scored four goals in 12 heady minutes after the break.
Arsenal’s attacking quartet of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla simply ripped West Ham to pieces, but Podolski was the leader and was irrepressible.
The German’s arrival last summer was greeted with genuine glee, but a player with 100 international caps and a fearsome reputation in the Bundesliga has so often looked becalmed in the Premier League.
While his record of 10 goals in 25 appearances before this game was by no means disastrous, he had drifted through too many games, and didn’t seem to be taking to the left-sided role thrust on him by Wenger.
How that changed here. Having brought the Gunners back into the game with a quite brilliant 25-yard left-footed drive in the first half, after the break the 27-year old led the destruction of Sam Allardyce’s side.
He didn’t have a hand in the second goal as Giroud rifled home Walcott’s corner at the near post 90 seconds after the break, but the former Cologne man was instrumental in the next three.
The third goal was probably the highlight as Podolski played a neat one-two with Giroud and then flicked the Frenchman’s return pass square to Cazorla who scored with a cheeky backheeled flick over the line.
A little over a minute later and Podolski was at it again, speeding clear down the left flank and picking out Walcott with a cross to the far post which the Englishman slammed home for his 16th goal of the season.
West Ham right-back Guy Demel, once on Arsenal’s books, was left in Podolski’s slipstream again three minutes later, and another rapier-like cross into the centre was turned home by Giroud for 5-1. That was that and Podolski was replaced by Andre Santos for the final 20 minutes. He didn’t receive the standing ovation he deserved from the Emirates crowd, but Wenger will certainly have appreciated the value of that 70-minute display.
All the talk of Arsenal needing to buy extra firepower before the transfer window closes suddenly paled. Here were Wenger’s three signings from last summer combining to devastating, matchwinning effect.
The only problem, of course, is that we are almost in February and Arsenal are still 19 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United, and battling to stay in touch with the top four.
And, as mentioned above, the different Arsenal, the weak, passionless one could just as easily reappear down on the south coast on Saturday against Gus Poyet’s decent Championship outfit.
But here was the evidence that Arsenal can still delight, can still play the kind of attacking football for which Wenger has been so feted in his 17-year Arsenal reign.
Doing it against better sides than West Ham is now Arsenal’s challenge. Forget Brighton, Brendan Rodgers’ resurgent Liverpool come to the Emirates next Wednesday, followed by the always resilient Stoke City four days later. Two more home wins there, and Arsenal’s top-four challenge will be truly back on track, with clashes against Spurs and Everton looming in early March.
Fourth place, as Arsenal supporters know, is the minimum requirement from a season for Wenger, and a strong performance in both the FA Cup and Champions League is also expected.
But they can still revel in nights like these, at players of the international quality of Podolski and Cazorla, at the youthful English promise of the likes of Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and, of course, Theo Walcott, and know that anyone thinking Wenger has ‘lost the plot’ has really lost it themselves.