It was so worth it to stay up till 12:15 and then wait till after 2am for the match to get over. Lukas Podolski struck twice as Arsenal came from behind to beat West Ham and move back above Everton in the race for a Champions League place. Matt Jarvis headed the Hammers in front as they threatened to extend Arsenal’s winless league run to five games. But Podolski levelled with a shot on the turn two minutes later for the impressive FA Cup finalists. Olivier Giroud’s classy finish and Podolski’s driven second sealed the win as Arsenal moved up to fourth. Fresh from sealing a place in the Cup final courtesy of their penalty shoot-out win over Wigan, the result was just what Arsene Wenger’s side needed to enhance their chance of qualifying for the Champions League for a 17th successive season.
With Everton playing against Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Wednesday night, the Gunners could ill afford another slip-up following their recent poor league run. And they showed all the resilience – and quality – needed to stay the pace and hold off the determined challenge of Roberto Martinez’s in-form side. Podolski took his goal tally for the season into double figures, while Giroud’s crucial strike, early in the second half, was his 20th of the campaign. Arsenal, despite making five changes to their starting line-up, actually made a sluggish start to offer West Ham early encouragement. Antonio Nocerino’s persistence bursting in from the right-hand side created the chance and when the ball popped up in the six-yard box, Jarvis nodded in only his second league goal of the season.
Arsenal would have felt the pressure had they gone in behind at the break but they were quickly level as they found a way through a West Ham defence that had previously kept 13 clean sheets this season. Again Cazorla was the creator following a poor clearance from Stewart Downing and this time his pass was not wasted as Podolski swivelled to drill a left-foot shot across Adrian and into the bottom corner. The goal lifted the mood around the Emirates Stadium and 10 minutes into the second half Arsenal went ahead thanks to a touch of class from Giroud. The striker displayed a brilliant first touch from Thomas Vermaelen’s long ball back into the box following a corner and with his second drove the ball through the legs of Adrian from just inside the corner of the six-yard box. Arsenal’s pressure finally paid off 12 minutes from the end when substitute Aaron Ramsey headed down for Podolski to fire past Adrian and keep the Gunners firing on two fronts.