An emphatic 5-1 win over West Ham United, hints at the return of Arsenal's trademark free-flowing football under Arsene Wenger. The style of play often referred to as so-called "Wengerball," destroyed West Ham in a 10-12 minute second half barrage that included four goals.
After 22 league games defined by gross inconsistency, Arsenal finally put it altogether against the Hammers. They managed to combine flair, pace and speed of thought, in the best traditions of Wenger's footballing philosophyy.
The Gunners squad was inspired by the Frenchman's three summer signings. Lukas Podolski returned to the team and continued his rich vein of form, that began at Reading in mid-December. Podolski powered in Arsenal's equaliser in the first half and dominated the second period with three assists.
His runs from the left were timely and his distribution was intelligent and accurate. Podolski was helped by a more bullish display from hulking target man Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman also timed his runs better and still delivered his usual brand of clever link-up play.
As pleasing as it was to see Wenger's two new forwards deliver the goods, it was perhaps more encouraging to witness the return to form of Santi Cazorla. Unfairly criticised by some in recent weeks, the Spaniard remains vital to the Arsenal cause.
Having moved back into the middle to accommodate Podolski, Cazorla proved his worth. His passing range was back to his best and Arsenal's finest moments of creativity came via the ex-Malaga star. Cazorla's two second half passes to release Theo Walcott, were stunning examples of his technical excellence.
Both Cazorla and Jack Wilshere, managed to share the creative burden without getting in each other's way. They dovetailed nicely and meant that every Arsenal passing move was quick and incisive. By the end, Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski had accounted for four of the five goals. Walcott netted the other and Wilshere had play a key role in the build-up play preceding every strike.
Cazorla and Wilshere's speedy ingenuity combined well with the pace of the front three. This is the dynamic Wenger has been aiming for all season. Arsenal offered glimpses of it in the second half of both FA Cup encounters with Swansea City and in the second half of the recent 2-1 league defeat at Chelsea. Against West Ham, Arsenal turned those glimpses into a more polished, fluid performance.
Lightning-quick counter thrusts have always defined Arsenal under Wenger. He best teams combined speed, fluidity, technique and power, in an often unstoppable fusion. Despite their struggles this season, Wenger's current squad possesses the ingredients for the same deadly recipe.
Wilsher offers the drive and ability to quickly turn defense into attack, that encapsulated Patrick Vieira's game. Cazorla can be the Cesc Fabregas/Dennis Bergkamp creator-in-chief every Wenger team needs. Walcott offers the pace of Anelka and Henry, while Giroud provides the brute force, missing since Emmanuel Adebayor agitated for a move in 2009.
Podolski remains the enigma. His accomplished finishing ability always teases the viewer into thinking he would be more prolific in the middle. However, his combination play with Giroud and Kieran Gibbs from the left flank, has been exceptional. While he lacks the skill and grace of Robert Pires, Podolski is direct and efficient.
Wenger's burgeoning squad still lacks dominance in defense. More aggression is needed along the back four and just in front of it. This may be where the club's January transfer priorities really lie.
However, for one night at least, Wenger's distinctive brand of cat-quick and expansive, attacking football was back. It offered a thrilling reminder of the best of the Frenchman's reign and also provided a tantalising glimpse of what could be yet to come from his current squad.961704