Watch out City, Gunners are coming for you
(Olivier Giroud 45+2, Aaron Ramsey 81, Mathieu Flamini 84)
WEST HAM 0
The jittery men of Manchester City must be looking over their shoulders.
The Gunners are coming. Form and fortitude are on their side. They can catch the Premier League champions.
As they left the pitch, only a point separates Arsenal and City.
The smart money is on the Gunners. So is the sexier football.
Their three excellent, team goals belonged in an exhibition.
When Arsene Wenger's magnificent men play this way, they belong at the game's top table.
Man City rarely reach such aesthetic perfection and Chelsea certainly haven't since Christmas.
Right now, the Gunners are at the peak of their attacking powers and a privilege to watch. They could afford to rest chief conjurer Santi Cazorla and still make magic.
West Ham's disciplined tactics were admirable, but proved futile in the end.
Sam Allardyce's sides rarely capture the eye. At times, they can be less attractive than a boil on the backside, but their work-rate cannot be faulted.
With both an axe to grind and a chip on the shoulder, Alex Song marshalled his midfielders superbly, dropping back to close the gap between the lines and often leaving his old side with nowhere to go.
In fact, the Hammers might have snatched an unlikely lead in the 22nd minute, when Kevin Nolan side-footed a volley straight at David Ospina's chest.
Arsenal laboured in the early exchanges. Five changes from their previous Premier League game, with both Santi Cazorla and FA Cup hero Danny Welbeck rested, certainly didn't help.
But the Gunners had additional concerns. At right back, Calum Chambers performed like Quasimodo in a Gunners jersey. He didn't look good from behind.
And Theo Walcott continues to believe he has the makings of a man in the middle, but displays less balance in the box than Long John Silver in a blindfold.
Three times, Walcott caught a glimpse of goal. He dithered, he shot straight at Adrian and he blazed wide.
He's a striker only in his head. His feet say otherwise. A striker might have left the field at half-time with the match ball already tucked under the arm. Walcott went off with his tail between his legs.
It was left to Olivier Giroud to show his scattergun teammate how it's done. The Frenchman treats West Ham like a London hotel room. He always scores.
He found his fifth in five games against the Hammers with a breathtaking goal that was as exhilarating as it was irritating.
In first-half injury time, the Gunners exploded in the final third. In a move that positively crackled with electricity, Giroud, Mesut Oezil and Aaron Ramsey swopped exquisite one-touch passes before the ball reached Giroud.
Galloping into the box, he smashed a diagonal drive that flew past Adrian. The goal was quick, incisive, captivating and infuriating. Barcelona conjure goals like this. Bayern Munich can press with similar panache.
Such goals make the mangling by Monaco almost inexplicable. Such goals must make the top four a foregone conclusion. Such goals should determine champions. Instead, Giroud's sublime strike settled nerves around the Emirates Stadium.
And the Gunners wrapped up the victory with two, quick glorious team goals.
In the 81st minute, another fast and furious one-two between Giroud and Aaron Ramsey culminated in the Welshman rattling a shot past Adrian.
A sweet cherry on a sumptuous cake was applied when substitute Mathieu Flamini tapped home late on.
If the finish was simple, the build-up had once again been sublime.
Now the Gunners will look for a miracle against Monaco. Their Champions League last-16, second-leg match may be an obstacle too far. In the EPL, however, City are there for the taking.
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