Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal farewell started in the perfect manner as the Gunners scored three goals in seven second-half minutes to ease to victory against West Ham at the Emirates. This was the first match since Wenger announced he would be leaving the club at the end of the season on Friday, after almost 22 years. Victory was also the perfect warm-up to Thursday’s Europa League semi-final first-leg against Atletico Madrid. The Gunners had taken the lead on 51 minutes after Nacho Monreal volleyed in from a corner, but Marko Arnautovic equalised just after the hour mark, rifling a shot past David Ospina.
Aaron Ramsey put the hosts back into the lead in the 82nd minute when his tame cross was not dealt with by Hammers’ defender Declan Rice and Joe Hart could only watch as the ball rolled in at his far post. Alexandre Lacazette made it three as his close-range shot beat Hart at the near post in the 85th minute, before the Frenchman sidefooted in his second four minutes later. One negative for Wenger will be an injury to Mohamed Elneny, who was taken off the pitch on a stretcher after injuring his foot in a 50-50 challenge with Mark Noble towards the end of the first half.
Victory keeps Arsenal sixth, 11 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with four games remaining, but while they can still mathematically finish in the top four, their most likely route into the Champions League is by winning the Europa League. West Ham, who had dominated much of the first half, drop to 15th place, six points from the drop zone. Wenger made five changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Newcastle last week. Some were enforced, while others were made with the Europa League in mind. Record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started on the bench and Petr Cech missed out with a hip injury.
Mesut Ozil missed the game with illness, while Jack Wilshere and Sead Kolasinac had ankle injuries. Despite Wenger’s impending departure, the Emirates lacked a celebratory mood as the teams came out. There were empty seats, no fanfare and the Frenchman snuck into his dugout. The first half gave Arsenal fans little to cheer about as the visitors dominated the early exchanges. Granit Xhaka had their only shot on target as his free-kick stung the palms of Hart, while Danny Welbeck wasted a number of chances.
Shkodran Mustafi struggled in defence against Arnautovic and there were warning signs ahead of a meeting with one of the world’s best strikers in Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann. Despite deservedly taking the lead after half-time, their defensive frailties were exposed again for the equaliser. The introduction of Aubameyang in the 70th minute lifted the team and the fans. Hart was twice forced into action, first by Xhaka and then by Welbeck, before Ramsey’s goal started a late flourish as Arsenal finished in style.