Arsenal back on course as Ozil, Walcott and Eleny shine
Could the crisis be over as the Gunners rediscover their swagger to beat West Ham and move up the league?
Crisis, what crisis? That was the mantra at the Emirates after Arsenal won their first Premier League match in almost two months, beating West Ham 3-0 to go fifth in the table and boost their chances of a top-four finish.
Theo Walcott, who scored the Gunners' second goal, even professed not to have been aware of any criticism of the side, saying: "I only listen to people I want to listen to. Who are those people?"
Manager Arsene Wenger hailed the contribution of Mesut Ozil, who scored one and created another, and Mohamed Elneny. Others were impressed, as ever, by Alexis Sanchez and, more surprisingly, Granit Xhaka.
But it was not all plain sailing for the Gunners, who were forced to play third-choice keeper Emiliano Martinez, after injuries to Petr Cech and David Ospina.
"There were more protests against long-serving manager Arsene Wenger - with some Gunners fans not taking their seats until the 13th minute," said Emlyn Begley of the BBC. "It has been 13 years since they last won the league."
Critics may also point out that, from an Arsenal perspective, West Ham represented "opposition in even worse form than themselves". The Hammers have now lost five in a row and are in danger of being sucked into the relegation battle.
Nevertheless, there was relief in the London Evening Standard. "Ozil was back to his lustrous best," wrote James Benge. "His performance in the win over West Ham, where he pulled the visitors backline out of shape with his mastery of space... was far more like that of a player who is demanding to be put in the same financial bracket as the Premier League's top earners before he signs a new contract."
Also in the Standard, James Olley picked out Elneny as the player who "could help stabilise the team through a difficult period".
Wenger has struggled with his midfield since Santi Cazorla was injured last year, adds the journalist, but the combination of Elneny and Xhaka appeared to click.
"Cazorla is this team's metronome and without him their rhythm is often staccato. Elneny does not possess the same intelligence in possession but, in tandem with Xhaka, he was able to inject sufficient tempo into this performance to help secure three precious points.
"Xhaka's performance improved with a more disciplined partner alongside him in Arsenal's 4-2-3-1 shape. A string of positive displays will be required before doubts about the £34m summer signing are removed but this at least felt like progress."
It was a positive evening at the Emirates for once. "On this evidence Arsene Wenger's side still have sufficient class and energy to forge a path into the Champions League places and give the Arsenal board cause to pat themselves on the back for sticking with a manager that some fans would prefer to see bow out even before the season's end," says Alyson Rudd of the Daily Telegraph.
"If this is what continuity looks like then it is a fine quality to behold... Arsenal are in a fight for a top-four place and, on this evidence, have the appetite for it. It was a victory underpinned by the grace of Mesut Ozil, the tenacity of Theo Walcott and the wizardry of Alexis Sanchez."