Arsenal’s demolition of West Ham on Saturday night felt like the culmination of six weeks of collective toil and frustration unleashed.
It was the kind of performance that seemed to have deserted us for the entire month of November and one which many feared we wouldn’t see again until the return of Santi Cazorla.
For my own part, I was worried by this West Ham side. I thought they might least have picked up a trick or two from the constipated Arsenal performances of the last six weeks, and seek to seize upon our fragile confidence.
But there was none of it.
As early as the second minute it was obvious that there was much more about this Arsenal team than in recent weeks. Straight from the kick off they were doing the sort of things they had inexplicably stopped doing for an entire month. They were pressing, they were hassling, they were moving the ball quickly and with purpose.
It become obvious from an early stage that we were going to have too much for the hosts, who, quite frankly, were very poor defensively. We could, and perhaps should, have had the game wrapped up by half-time but there was a touch of wastefulness about us.
Even in the early stages of the second half, we continued to miss the mark. Theo Walcott was guilty of a couple of misses he will be certainly be unhappy with, particularly given his oft-stated desire to reach 10 goals before Christmas.
I had just started to sweat things a little – the TV camera crews seemingly determined to switch to Andy Carroll cam at every given opportunity – when Alexis Sanchez did as only he can do.
The man is a match winner of the kind we haven’t had at Arsenal since Robin Van Persie. A stand out performer who could get into any side in the world.
Situations like the one at London Stadium are the ones in which you need your big performers to make the difference and he did exactly that. He really can’t be praised enough for his willingness to work and his desire to win.
I was disappointed when Carroll, one of three unmarked West Ham players, stooped to head home Dimitri Payet’s rebounded free-kick, particularly because not a single Arsenal player was in five yards of the attacking trio, but, thankfully, amends was made not long after.
Arsenal didn’t panic and West Ham failed to really ramp up any pressure – not least because half the stadium had emptied by that point. Of course, if you pay to get into a ground, you are perfectly entitled to leave whenever you please, but this modern habit of only supporting the team if you’re winning demonstrates a childish sense of entitlement. A sad sign of the times, I guess.
Further goals from Alexis and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain added gloss to a pretty good performance and, with any luck, will at last put that lamentable run of games behind us.
Though Alexis will rightly collect all the plaudits, special mentions must go to a few other members of the squad, who have each been in for a fair amount of stick in recent weeks.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain continues to show signs that he is learning from his mistakes. He is being much more direct, he is running at his man, and he is working on his crossing and his final ball. It wasn’t perfect from him yesterday, but he is at least showing signs that he is making changes.If his decision making and his final ball continued to sharpen up, he will, I’m sure, finally fulfil the potential for which he was snapped up from Southampton all those years ago.
I’m also giving a hat-tip to Gabriel at right back. It’s a much more nuanced position than once it was and, although his inexperience in the more attacking elements of the position was obvious, he showed no fear and was pretty tidy in defence too. It’s good to see a player so keen to get out on the field and make a difference, no matter where he plays. It seems to be a real South American thing. I suspect, the Brazilian has done enough to make that position his own in the absence of Mathieu Debuchy and Hector Bellerin – which is a damning indictment of Carl Jenkinson.
Lastly, a quick ‘shout out’ to Granit Xhaka. Sat alongside Francis Coquelin he added some much-needed craft and guile to the midfield, bringing a little of what we have been missing in the absence of Cazorla. Let’s hope he stays fit and cements his place in that role.