It wasn’t so much a competition as a gallop for Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta’s side had lost to West Ham United at Christmas despite having 30 shots on goal – revenge was clearly on their minds.
Although it took until the 32nd minute for William Saliba to head in the opener, Arsenal led 4-0 at halftime. Bukayo Saka’s 41st-minute penalty made it double and was the first of three goals in six minutes, Gabriel heading in a corner before Leandro Trossard curled a shot into the top corner for the team’s 8,000th goal. the history of Arsenal.
Thousands of home fans were leaving by then, but Arsenal showed no mercy. Saka added his second before Declan Rice, who had been booed by his former fans, hammered home a sixth from 25 yards.
AthleticismJordan Campbell analyzes Arsenal’s biggest win of the season.
How many goals can Saka score for Arsenal?
When he sent Alphonse Areola the wrong way from the penalty spot, Saka became the youngest player to reach 50 goals for Arsenal since Frank Stapleton in 1978.
Reaching that total in just 210 games, with a further 49 assists, is extraordinary for a 22-year-old whose introduction to the first team came during a period of turmoil.
He played left back, left back, right back and central midfielder before becoming a key figure on the right wing, making his numbers even more impressive.
He now has 13 goals and 13 assists this season. The penalty was important as he missed a penalty at the Olympic Stadium to put Arsenal 3-1 ahead last season when David Moyes’ side came from behind to draw 2-2.
It was the start of Arenal’s title demise, but Saka was rampant from the moment they took the lead. He occupied a lot more central areas on crosses and could have scored three times in five minutes before running in behind to win the penalty.
It was a merciless period of football for Saka who, after playing his 159th Premier League match, moved up to 31st on Arsenal’s list.
West Ham had no answer and he added a second after the break when he cut inside to finish with his left foot. He even got a rest once Rice scored the sixth.
How important is Gabriel to Arteta?
Since joining Arsenal in 2020, Gabriel has played the most minutes for Arsenal of any player except Saka.
The Brazilian centre-back’s improvement since linking up with Saliba has been an important part of Arsenal’s progress, but he has become a key player from an attacking perspective.
In his 150th match for the club, he became the Premier League’s top scorer from set pieces (excluding penalties) in those three and a half years.
He was level with West Ham’s James Ward-Prowse, but his header before half-time saw him make it clear on 14.
After his brace against Crystal Palace last month, he scored another from a Rice free-kick. He has become the main target of Nicolas Jover’s game plan, but his maturity helps Arsenal control matches.
In the second half, he still celebrated each duel won. It was so easy that at one point he lost his boot, had Trossard retrieve it and give it back to him, all while West Ham were getting exactly nowhere with the ball.
Will goal difference be crucial in the title race?
As the title race enters a period where matches can become nervy and close, Arsenal recorded their biggest league victory under Arteta’s tenure.
They had scored five goals in a match on six occasions under the Spaniard’s management, but this was the first time they had reached that figure since beating Everton (managed by David Moyes) 6-1 in August 2009.
At 0-0, Arsenal had missed a few chances with Trossard going close twice but it wasn’t a complete blow.
As soon as Saliba opened the scoring, Arsenal went for the jugular. There was no indication that they would simply stop the game; they were there to fill their boots.
Six different scorers and six different types of goals, achieved with a third different number 9 in as many games, have gone some way to supporting Arteta’s belief that collective responsibility can take them to the title.
The way they turned the key to draw level with Manchester City on goal difference, and just one behind Liverpool, was a sign that Arsenal may have learned to deal with tension since last season’s showdown.
What did Arteta say?
(On his biggest victory as Arsenal manager) “Obviously I’m really happy. Collectively and individually, we showed a lot of the things we discussed before the match against an opponent who has made life very difficult for us in recent matches.
“The performance against them at the Emirates was really good – the efficiency we showed was nowhere near enough to win the Premier League and today we did that.
“It was a very emotional day for Declan Rice – I know how much he loves West Ham and how grateful he was for his time here. He achieved this with great maturity and it was great that the audience gave him a standing ovation.
“The goal difference is important but we have to take it game by game, take advantage of it and start again. Head to Burnley.
What future for Arsenal?
Saturday February 17: Burnley (A), Premier League, 3 p.m. GMT, 10 a.m. ET
It’s just two wins from their last five for Arsenal against Burnley but, crucially, it’s not. That of Sean Dyche Burnley.
(Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)