5-1 win over Hammers shows Arsenal can still produce magic
Lukas Podolski plays a blinder as Gunners score four times in 'ten minutes of genius' (as Allardyce put it)
Arsenal 5 West Ham United 1. If the Premier League was made up of the likes of West Ham, Newcastle and Reading, Arsenal would be flying high at the top of the table. The Gunners' 5-1 thrashing of the Hammers emphasised how well they can play football when the mood takes them – and when the opposition lets them.
Last month Arsenal scored five against Reading and put seven past Newcastle, but have since suffered defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea and last night's win still leaves them in sixth spot, four points behind Tottenham in fourth.
If the Gunners are to qualify for their 16th season of consecutive Champions League football then they'll have to find the consistency that has eluded them so far this season. For that to happen their star men must play the way they did against West Ham, particularly Lukas Podolski, who finally showed last night why Arsene Wenger paid Cologne £10.9m for his services last summer.
The German international was irresistible at the Emirates, scoring Arsenal's opening goal with a screamer of a shot from 30 yards out and then having a hand in three of the goals that followed. French striker Olivier Giroud was also on fire, twice finding the net, while Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla was at his twinkle-toed best.
"It was ten minutes of genius," admitted West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, referring to the second-half period when Arsenal scored four times. "In the first half we defended exceptionally well but that 10 minutes blew us away."
For a brief spell Allardyce must have thought it was going to be his side's night when Jack Collinson volleyed the Hammers ahead on 18 minutes, but within four minutes Podolski had levelled. That's how the scores remained until two minutes after the break when Giroud steered Theo Walcott's corner into the net.
Cazorla made it 3-1 on 53 minutes, back-heeling the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen, and 60 seconds later Podolski's dreamy cross was hammered home by Walcott.
Giroud then grabbed his second of the night on 57 minutes as Arsenal scored five at home for the fifth time this season. "When Lukas Podolski is in that form then he is very important," said Wenger afterwards. "He can finish and give assists, he is a team player."
Arsenal have two tough games on the horizon, an FA Cup fourth round trip to Brighton on Saturday and then a Premier League clash with Liverpool at the Emirates next Wednesday. If Arsenal play the way they did against West Ham they'll win both – but their form this seasons suggests that's a big 'if'.
"You want to be at your best every single game but we have many new players and it takes some time to get to know each other very well," said Wenger, who then sought to explain his players' inconsistency by saying they are sometimes "a bit inhibited" from the start of big games. "But this team has a fantastic mentality and good quality. That's what we want to show until the end of the season now."