Gunners cruise past Hammers
Arsenal kickstarted their Barclays Premier League campaign as they blew West Ham away with four goals in the space of 10 minutes at the start of the second half to run out 5-1 winners at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners had slumped to successive defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea to leave them facing an uphill battle to regain a place in the top four. Boss Arsene Wenger knew there was no more margin for error and despite falling behind in the rearranged Boxing Day fixture to a fine strike from Jack Collison, his side found their form, equalising through Lukas Podolski's 25-yard screamer.
Olivier Giroud scored his first goal in six games to put the hosts in front just after the restart, before German forward Podolski tore the Irons apart, charging down the left to set up Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Giroud again as Arsenal romped out of sight before the hour.
West Ham had to play the closing stages with 10 men after what looked a serious injury to substitute Daniel Potts, who was carried off on a stretcher following a clash of heads.
Matthew Taylor's 20-yard effort was deflected up and on to the roof of the net as West Ham looked threatening. Arsenal failed to clear their lines, and from a second corner in the 18th minute, the ball was headed out to the edge of the penalty area. Collison took one touch to set himself before firing a superb strike through a crowd of players and into the bottom corner.
Arsenal produced the perfect response to level within four minutes. The ball was fed out from Jack Wilshere to Podolski on the left, some 25 yards from goal. The German promptly stepped inside before unleashing a blistering low, left-foot strike into the far corner.
Arsenal were ahead just after the restart. The Irons had been pressed back by a series of sweeping attacks. Walcott clipped a corner towards the near post, where Giroud arrived to drill it back past Jussi Jaaskelainen for his first goal since a late double in the 7-3 win over Newcastle on December 29.
Before West Ham could mount a comeback, it was 3-1 after 53 minutes. Walcott got away down the right, before the ball was recycled back to the other flank, where Podolski played a one-two with Giroud before squaring for Cazorla, who rolled in a clever backheel.
Arsenal were flying and immediately chalked up a fourth on the break inside 60 seconds. Podolski was set away down the left, charging clear of a stretched West Ham defence before clipping a perfectly-weighted pass across into the path of Walcott, who smashed home first time at the far post. Giroud added a fifth, with Podolski again the provider following another surging run down the left.
There was a lengthy stoppage with 18 minutes left as substitute Potts needed treatment after a clash of heads, eventually taken off on a stretcher, covered with an emergency blanket in a neck brace and receiving gas. As all had been changes used, West Ham had to continue with 10 men - through some 12 minutes of stoppage time.