By Richard Clarke at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal returned to fourth place in the Premier League with a 3-1 comeback victory over West Ham at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night.
Lukas Podolski fired home an immediate response after Matt Jarvis had nodded the visitors in front just before the break.
The scoreline was a fair reflection of the game after 45 minutes but Arsenal were excellent after the restart, defying expectations of fatigue following Saturday’s exertions at Wembley.
Olivier Giroud conjured up an excellent second in the 55th minute then Podolski powered home a third in the close stages just as West Ham were starting to rouse some kind of response.
Everton will regain fourth if they get anything from their home game with Crystal Palace on Wednesday. But even that will detract little from a very welcome Premier League win.
Potentially tired and certainly trailing, Arsenal were up against it this evening.
But, as on Saturday, they responded with character and controlled determination.
They will need more of that in the final few games to come.
SETTING THE SCENE
When Arsenal kicked-off this evening it was less than 72 hours since Santi Cazorla had slotted home that winning penalty at Wembley to put Wenger’s men in the FA Cup final.
Of course, that had come after 120 energy-sapping minutes of football. So naturally the manager made changes this evening - five in all.
Kim Kallstrom, a scorer from the spot on Saturday, made his full debut. Laurent Koscielny and Tomas Rosicky returned from injury while Giroud and Wojciech Szczesny were restored to the line-up.
West Ham, meanwhile, had enjoyed 10 days rest since their narrow defeat to Liverpool. Sam Allardyce’s side were looking safe after four straight wins in February. However they were without top-scorer Kevin Nolan due to a hamstring problem
The opening period was quiet. Both sides sized up one another in the first 15 minutes.
Neither team had a sight of goal before Podolski whipped over a cross and Giroud was within a whisker of turning the ball home at the near post.
However by this time, West Ham were starting to search for (and find) Andy Carroll, their target man.
In the 19th minute, Jarvis hooked over a cross and Thomas Vermaelen, at left back this evening, nodded to the ball away with the tall striker lurking just behind him.
Then Carroll set up Mohamed Diame to sweep his shot over the bar from close range.
Wes Ham were starting to press; finding width intelligently and testing Arsenal with crosses.
But the home side continued to have better chances. On the half-hour they should have scored when Cazorla stole the ball in midfield and threaded a pass to Giroud. His first touch killed the ball but his flick towards goal was weak and Adrian gathered.
Shortly afterwards Rosicky nearly bundled his way through to score.
However West Ham had always troubled the Arsenal defence when they went forward and the visitors would grab a goal five minutes before the break.
Antonio Nocerino raced down the left. Szczesny blocked twice but the ball popped up for Jarvis to nod home the rebound.
It was a body blow for Arsenal. But their response was immediate. Kallstrom had a shot parried by Adrian then Podolski pounced on Cazorla’s pass to equalise with a shot on the turn.
It was the German’s ninth goal of the season – and probably the most important.
The start of the second period was industrious enough but neither side summoned much in front of goal. However Arsenal had the edge.
Then, soon enough, they had lead to go with it.
Vermaelen’s long, lofted ball towards the far post was controlled expertly by a surrounded Giroud with his left foot. Then he used his right to crack home a low shot through the legs of Adrian.
It brought him to the landmark tally of 20 goals in a season for the first time.
Podolski’s free-kick tested Adrian and Cazorla flashed an effort wide as Arsenal immediately looked for a third.
The home side were battling hard but now West Ham began to match them.
Wenger swapped Aaron Ramsey for Rosicky. The substitute would provide an immediate assist, nudging a header down for Podolski thunder home his second with one of his trademark left-foot drives.
Cazorla’s blocked shot was as close as they came to a fourth while West Ham’s endeavour seemed to have ended with Arsenal’s third.
At full-time, Emirates Stadium was happy. It seems Wenger’s men want to do things the hard way right now but they always seem to respond.
This was a highly-valuable three points.
Referee: Kevin Friend
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