It’s feast or famine with Arsenal

Some days Arsenal create chance after chance, but just can’t put the ball in the net. On other occasions they seem to have the Midas touch as everything they do ends up past the opposing keeper. Their London derby against West Ham at the Emirates on Jan. 23 was a prime example of the latter as they rifled five goals past Jussi Jaaskelainen for a dominant 5-1 thumping of neighbouring West Ham.

The win puts the sixth-place Gunners within four points of fourth-place Tottenham and the final lucrative Champions League spot. With their 37 points, they’re also just one point behind fifth-place Everton. Arsenal are trying to reach the Champions League for the 16th consecutive season and will need to displace at least two teams to do it before the season’s out. Of course, they could also do what Chelsea achieved last season, which is to qualify for the tournament by winning it this year.

The game was put to bed early in the second half when Arsenal hammered in four goals within the first 12 minutes of the restart. They got behind the eight ball relatively early though as West Ham jumped out in front after 18 minutes on a Jack Collison goal that came as the result of a corner. Bacary Sagna headed the ball straight to the West Ham player at the edge of the 18-yard box and he blasted it past Wojciech Szczesny into the bottom corner of the net. These types of goals are bound to happen if you’re not using a man-marking system and you don’t have an outlet for defenders to pass the ball to once they win it.

After losing two straight to Chelsea and Man City it looked like it might be another long night for the Gunners. Lukas Podolski made sure that wasn’t going to be the case though as he leveled the score with a left-footed rocket from 25 yards out just four minutes later after a nifty little pass from Jack Wilshere. Like the game against Chelsea on Sunday, the Gunners dominated the second half and it paid off handsomely on the scoreboard this time.

French international Olivier Giroud pounded in his first goal in the past half dozen matches off of a low corner kick to the near post from Theo Walcott after 47 minutes. Santi Cazorla made it 3-1 in the 53rdminute with a close-in back heel after a neat three-way passing play started by Podolski to Giroud. Walcott was then the recipient of another fine pass from Podolski a minute later to the far post to make it 4-1 before Giroud rounded out the scoring in the 57th minute to wrap up the scoring for the night. This goal was also courtesy of the Polish-born German international Podolski.

The Gunners relaxed for the last half hour for the most part and especially after West Ham went down to 10 men with 18 minutes to go when substitute Daniel Potts had to be taken off the pitch on a stretcher due to a head injury. The unfortunate clash of heads resulted in a dozen minutes of stoppage time being added on to the end of the match. Arsenal faces Brighton on the road this weekend in the fourth round of the FA Cup before meeting Liverpool in a huge matchup next week. Liverpool and West Brom are both currently three points behind the Gunners in the table.

Arsenal Player Ratings Jan. 23 vs West Ham

Wojciech Szczesny 6.5
He couldn’t be blamed for the goal as his vision was screened. He had a couple of routine saves to make, but nothing too difficult. Moved the ball up the pitch well.

Bacary Sagna 6
Sagna still isn’t playing up to potential. His poor header resulted in the first goal and his crossing needs a lot of work. Wasn’t too bad other than that.

Per Mertesacker 6.5
Had a few rocky moments when it came to handling Carlton Cole. Played better as the game went on though, but nothing spectacular.

Thomas Vermaelen 7
The captain had a solid game and didn’t make any noticeable mistakes. Came off after 58 minutes.

Kieran Gibbs 7
Gibbs played well offensively and was rarely threatened in his own end. A typical steady performance from him

Aaron Ramsey 7.5
This could have been the young Welshman’s best game of the season for the Gunners. His passing was first rate and he was confident on the ball all game long. He also chipped in with a fine effort in his own end.

Jack Wilshere 8
Again, Wilshere was the team’s hardest-working engine in the middle of the park. A fine passing and running display from him.

Santi Cazorla 7.5
This was one of Cazorla’s most creative performances. He came close on a free kick to the top corner in the first half and scored a cheeky back heel in the second. He also managed some deft passes.

Theo Walcott 7.5
Walcott was energized for the entire game. Set up Giroud goal with a corner and slammed in his 16th goal of the year after Podolski found him at the far post.

Olivier Giroud 8
Giroud was a force to be reckoned with in the second half when he scored a pair of nice goals and helped set up Cazorla for his. Came off after 73 minutes.

Lukas Podolski 9.5
Easily the player of the game even though he was taken off after 70 minutes for some reason for Santos. His best game as a Gunner as his legs took him all over the pitch. Scored a cracker from 25 yards and set up three other goals. It would have been nice to see how much damage he could have done if he played the full 90 minutes.

Substitutes

Laurent Koscielny 6
Came on for Vermaelen after 58 minutes. He was coming back after a three-game ban for a red card. He played steady and safely.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 6
Came on for Giroud after 73 minutes. He played well enough, but the game was wrapped up when he came on and the energy level of the team had dropped.

Andre Santos 6
Came on after 70 minutes for Podolski and didn’t look out of place at all.

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