By Richard Clarke
Arsenal came from behind to secure a barnstorming 3-1 win at West Ham on Saturday evening.
Olivier Giroud was crucial in the revival. After Mohamed Diame had fired the hosts in front, it was the Frenchman who touched home Lukas Podolski's cross just before half-time.
Then having soaked up their fair share of pressure in a see-saw game, Giroud's touch sent Theo Walcott through to fire Arsenal in front with 13 minutes left.
Santi Cazorla's 25-yard strike was all his own work and secured the points seven minutes from time.
This was a superb win for Arsenal, one in which their character shone through. They utterly controlled the first half-hour only to fall behind. West Ham always made matters uncomfortable for the visitors but Arsène Wenger's side stayed true to their passing principles in a performance which repairs much of the damage done in last weekend's defeat to Chelsea.
This result lifted Arsenal up to fifth in the Premier League but, more importantly, it allows the Club's supporters to feel genuinely optimistic about their title chances this season.
Wenger's team selection suggested he had this game labelled as the toughest of tests. The big men - Giroud and Per Mertesacker - returned at either of the pitch. The Frenchman's inclusion meant Gervinho reverted to a role on the right-hand side. Laurent Koscielny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made way.
West Ham was a familiar cauldron at kick-off. The east London side had started the weekend above Arsenal in the table and welcomed back Andy Carroll for his first start since that spectacular debut against Fulham.
However, perhaps surprisingly, Arsenal dominated from the off. Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey ran the midfield, pushing back West Ham in the process.
There were chances too. Giroud's snapshot forced Jussi Jaaskelainen into a low save at his near post. Then Cazorla met Kieran Gibbs' low cross with a first time shot that was deflected wide.
Arsenal were having all the pressure at this stage. Carl Jenkinson's dangerous low cross was blocked and from the resulting corner Giroud's curler hit Carroll with Jaaskelainen stranded.
In the first 15 minutes, the stats said Arsenal had enjoyed over 80 per cent of possession - an incredible figure. However at times they had not delivered the final ball well enough and, midway through the half, West Ham would make them pay.
The move began when Guy Demel cleverly won the ball on the right and eventually it was swept wide to Diame on the left of the area. The Senegalese midfielder fooled his way past Ramsey and, from an acute angle, curled a wonderful shot into the far corner.
Naturally West Ham kicked on as a result with, as ever, Carroll their focus. Noble's corner was met powerfully by the England striker but Mannone plucked the ball out of the air.
However, having digested the goal, Arsenal recovered as half-time approached. Mertesacker's header was diverted the ball away from the onrushing Giroud.
Four minutes the break, the Frenchman would get the goal his tireless running deserved. Podolski reached the byline on the left-hand side and sent a low cross into the area. Giroud timed his run perfectly to prod home with power at the near post. It seemed a crucial turn around but, at the death, Noble's free-kick was won by Carroll at the far post and Nolan nudged the ball past the upright with Mannone stranded.
The game was much more even at the start of the second half. Just after Gibbs made way from Andre Santos, Matt Jarvis fired over after Ramsey's miscue.
Then midway through the half Carroll beat Mannone in the air but the ball flew wide of the unguarded net.
But Arsenal had chances too. Giroud just failed to slide home Walcott's backheel and Cazorla jinked through before slashing a shot wide when he should have hit the target.
The game was becoming an end-to-end affair. Mertesacker made a crucial tackle on Nolan after he went through then Arsenal had strong claims for a penalty when Ramsey was clipped. Podolski nearly beat Jaaskelainen with the rebound.
Arsenal were now turning the screw. Podolski's shot deflected just wide and with 13 minutes left, they finally found a second. Giroud's excellent touch put Walcott through in the right-hand channel. He steadied himself and fired home.
The chances still flowed. Nolan swept a effort over the bar when he might have scored then a swivelling Mertesacker saw his shot deflect just past the far post.
It was too open for Arsenal as they now had the lead. They needed to shore up the game or find a third. They went for the later.
Walcott, under pressure, found Cazorla on the left 25 yards out. The Spaniard sent a dipping drive beyond Jaaskelainen. A wonderful effort.
There were chances at either end in the dying minutes - it was that sort of game. But Arsenal had switched to cruise control now and saw out the game.
- Vermaelen (C)
- Gibbs 56
- Cazorla Goal!
- Podolski 85
- Gervinho 61 Yellow Card
- Giroud Goal!
- Koscielny 85
- Andre Santos 56
- Walcott 61 Goal! Yellow Card
West Ham United
- Reid Yellow Card
- Diame 82 Goal! Yellow Card
- Vaz Te 62
- Nolan (C)
- Taylor 62 Yellow Card
- Cole 82