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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at the London Stadium

Arsenal's irresistible first-half blitz is too much for shell-shocked Irons




West Ham United (0) 0

Arsenal (4) 6 Saliba 32, Saka pen 41, 63, Gabriel 44, Trossard 45+2, Rice 65


Hundreds of Hammers fans could be seen deserting the London Stadium in their droves before the first half was over as the Gunners ran riot. They were probably wise to call it a day so early.


Four goals in a crazy 15-minute spell were just what Arsenal needed in their desire to keep up the pace with Liverpool and Manchester City. They meant business from the off.


It wasn't even the end of West Ham's torment either. More goals were to come - the coup de grace inflicted by former hero Declan Rice, avenging the home bile that came his way.


The question for those departing home fans, is: When are their side going to arrest a slump that has seen them go seven games without a win since the turn of the year?


They have not won since the unexpected 2-0 triumph at Arsenal after Christmas and look bereft without the injured Lucas Paqueta. Today, they were torn apart and humiliated.


Arsenal have not had happy times against the Hammers of late. Last season they blew a 2-0 lead at the London Stadium during the run-in on a day when it felt the title was slipping further irretrievably.


This year, they have lost twice to the Hammers, once in the league at the Emirates and once in the League Cup in east London. No such worries this time, though. They were 4-0 up and cruising by the break.


Although it needed two set pieces and a penalty for the Gunners to accumulate most of their advantage, they also fashioned a host of brilliant chances from open play and could so easily have turned around at the break with an even greater advantage.


Some Hammers fans, who had been reduced to getting their kicks from bating Rice for his defection to north London, had to endure the sight of their former talisman creating two of those goals from pin-point dead-balls.


The first was a corner headed in by William Saliba at the far post, the second was a free-kick arced towards the near-post that Gabriel nodded in from no distance.


It was sweet revenge for the England midfielder, who came in for much derisory barracking from Hammers fans in the two previous encounters between the teams this season.


In between times, Bukayo Saka stroked home a penalty, having earned it himself by being brought down by Alphone Areloa as he tried to round the keeper from Leandro Trossard's fine pass. Only the covering Nayef Aguerd spared Areola a red card.


Further pain was inflicted when Trossard bent in from the edge of the area, but frankly the damage could have been even greater. Trossard and Saka both missed close-range headers and the Belgian had a venomous volley tipped over by Areola, who saw the defenders in front him being pulled from pillar to far post.


Saka almost capped a slick move with a goal - his dink past Areola drifting just wide. It really could have been six or seven at the break.


The Hammers were nowhere to be seen.


"There's nobody here," crowed Arsenal fans at the start of the second half, with home stands looking half deserted. Like their team, fans had gone awol.


Would Arsenal be interested in adding any more in the second half, with so many miles still to run? Saka provided the answer just past the hour when he took a pass from Odegaard and drifted around Aguerd before rolling the ball into the bottom corner.


And then came Rice's party piece - a sweet strike from outside the box that ended with an apologetic lowering of his arms and bow of the head rather than ostentatious celebration.


Given the reception he'd received up to then, it was a magnanimous gesture.


Hammers: (4-2-3-1) Areola - Coufal, Zouma (Mavrapanos h/t), Aguerd, Emerson (Cresswell 76) - Soucek, Alvarez (Phillips h/t) - Kudus, Ward-Prowse - Johnson - Bowen


Gunners: (4-3-3) Raya - White (Soares 79), Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior - Odegaard, Rice (Elneny 67), Havertz - Saka (Nelson 67), Trossard (Nketiah 67), Martinelli (Nwaneri 79)

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