If Arsene Wenger could have asked for one performance to restore some faith in his decisions and his brand of football, it was this. Not just the win, not just the ability, but the players who played the key part in it, all three he signed in the summer: Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and even Olivier Giroud.
Yes, against a West Ham team that has looked terrible on away matches all season, Arsenal found their groove back. The right midfield unit (Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazrola) with a front three that looked completely in sync for probably the first time this season. Lukas Podolski torched the wings, pushing to the middle each time, always creating a situation of a one man advantage for Arsenal when they were in the box, adding three assists to his goal. The most substituted player in Europe is also leading the Premier League in assists. Go figure.
For once, the Theo Walcott – Olivier Giroud combo on the right seemed to work. In fact, it was Giroud looking effective as hell, making the right decision regarding passing or shooting every time that might have been the biggest key to Arsenal’s amazing 11 minutes to open the second half. It was 1-1 when they kicked off, but it was 5-1 and game over in the 57th minute. Having Santi Cazorla play in the middle instead of getting wasted outside on the wing, while Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere shared the center of the midfield together looked like the right decision from Wenger, not something that happens too often this season.
But lets not crown Arsenal for now. This was an 11 minute stretch of amazing football in which West Ham fell apart. Arsenal have had these moments this season, like in the 7-3 win against Newcastle. When there’s no pressure on their players, good things come out. When the really good teams come to play – Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, it always seems like right off the bat Arsenal players can’t keep up and show the level that’s needed from them.
Only after conceding, which was the same case against West Ham, do some of these players start bringing the best out of them. When they’re no longer pressed and pinned in their own half, enjoying a bit more freedom to operate.
Arsenal are still out looking for players – Victor Wanyama (also Manchester United want him), David Villa, maybe more. Despite moments of brilliance, this squad isn’t good enough, probably, to win back enough points and put Arsenal in a Champions League position. Not deep enough in some positions, or just not good enough in others, creating a huge imbalance in the midfield or in other areas of the pitch when Wenger tries to patch things up by using players out of their position.
A 5-1 win with all the players who needed a lift getting on the score-sheet as as good as it gets for Arsenal at this point of the season. They just need to avoid letting it go to their heads, and believe that this win means they’re this good.