Gunners hit by Elneny blow as Rice error costs Hammers
Arsenal 4-1 West Ham United
Beginning with a match that ranks among the more irrelevant of your 34-year career was never likely to get the celebratory tour off to a particularly rousing start but three goals in the final 10 minutes did at least ensure a positive end to an otherwise easily forgettable match.
The final headline act for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal tenure really starts with the Europa League first leg against Atletico Madrid but a rather flattering win here against West Ham United should at least boost confidence, especially in Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey, ahead of Thursday night.
With Burnley also held by Stoke City yesterday, Arsenal are now almost assured of finishing at least sixth to avoid the pre-season disruption for Wenger's successor that Europa League qualifying would cause.
Wenger's send-off will now depend entirely on whether he can rouse three more big performances from his players in the Europa League and so depart Lyon next month with a trophy and Arsenal back in the Champions League. On this evidence, it is far from certain.
With West Ham resilient, Arsenal summoned only one shot on goal during a first half played in the London heat at almost a pre-season pace.
It was most notable for what looked like a significant injury to their Egypt midfielder Mohamed Elneny, who left the pitch on a stretcher in tears and a protective brace that makes him a doubt not just for the remaining Europa League matches but perhaps also the World Cup.
Nacho Monreal has been proving himself useful this season in both penalty areas and he calmly did control Granit Xhaka's 51st-minute corner before finishing with power and precision past Joe Hart.
Arsenal rarely looked secure defensively and, with Marko Arnautovic playing with his usual intensity, the match was soon level. David Ospina's punched clearance reached only Cheikhou Kouyate and, after a deft touch by Manuel Lanzini, Arnautovic scored his 10th goal of the season.
Arsenal had looked unlikely to find a winner but, on 82 minutes, Declan Rice ducked under a cross from Aaron Ramsey in the mistaken belief that Hart was expecting the ball to reach him.
West Ham manager David Moyes felt that it was the game's decisive moment and warned his 19-year-old defender that he must learnt from it.
"A poor mistake," he said. "It flattened the team. If you are a centre-half the last thing you do is let it go. Why would you duck under it? But he's played great in the last couple of games and it is a learning curve."
Arsenal went through the gears and, after excellent passing by Danny Welbeck and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Lacazette smashed a deflected shot off Aaron Cresswell and past Hart.
The best was then saved to last when Ramsey weaved past several defenders and passed for Lacazette to finish clinically.