Scroll to photostream above left for match photos. For stats, click on the statistics tab. Match reaction below.
Arsenal kick-started their Barclays Premier League campaign as they blew West Ham United away with four goals in the space of 10 minutes at the start of the second half to run out 5-1 winners at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners had slumped to successive defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea to leave them facing an uphill battle to regain a place in the top four.
Manager Arsene Wenger knew there was no more margin for error and despite falling behind in tonight's rearranged Boxing Day fixture to a fine strike from Jack Collison, his side found their form, equalising through Lukas Podolski's 25-yard screamer.
Olivier Giroud scored his first goal in six games to put the hosts in front just after the restart, before German forward Podolski tore the Irons apart, charging down the left to set up Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Giroud again as Arsenal romped out of sight before the hour.
West Ham had to play the closing stages with 10 men after what looked a serious injury to substitute Daniel Potts, who was carried off on a stretcher following a clash of heads.
The Gunners now head to Brighton on Saturday looking to keep alive their FA Cup hopes, before next week's visit of Liverpool will again put the character of Wenger's squad to the test if they are to close back within striking distance of UEFA Champions League qualification again.
Arsenal signalled their intent early on as Walcott made a darting run inside West Ham full-back Joey O'Brien, but his low centre through the six-yard box was behind the onrushing Giroud.
Jack Wilshere needed treatment after he was caught on the ankle by West Ham midfielder Collison. The England man, who has just returned to full fitness this season after more than a year out, was soon able to continue.
On 15 minutes, Walcott was almost away again down the right, but Winston Reid did just enough to get across as the England forward shot into the side netting. At the other end, Matthew Taylor's 20-yard effort was deflected up and on to the roof of the net by Thomas Vermaelen.
Arsenal failed to clear their lines, and from a second corner on 18 minutes, the ball was headed out to the edge of the penalty area. Collison took one touch to set himself before firing a superb strike through a crowd of players and into the bottom corner.
Arsenal produced the perfect response to level within four minutes, when the ball was fed out neatly from Wilshere to Podolski on the left, some 25 yards from goal. The German international promptly stepped inside before unleashing a blistering left-foot strike into the far corner.
The hosts soon settled back into their trademark passing rhythm. A quick one-two down the left through Giroud and Kieran Gibbs played Podolski in on goal, but his snapshot was hacked clear by O'Brien.
West Ham, though, were in again as half-time approached when a long ball split the defence and fell to Cole, whose chip was only part-blocked by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Aaron Ramsey had to scramble back to boot the ball off the line.
In stoppage-time at the end of the half, Cazorla's curled free-kick was heading to the top corner before visiting goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen clawed it away. But it would not take long for the Icelandic international to be beaten as Arsenal came out for the second half in remorseless mood.
The Irons had been pressed back by a series of sweeping attacks that began from the very restart and when Walcott clipped a corner towards the near post, Giroud arrived to drill it back past Jaaskelainen for his first goal since a late double in the 7-3 win over Newcastle on 29 December.
Before West Ham could mount a comeback, it was 3-1 on 53 minutes as Walcott got away down the right, before the ball was recycled back to the other flank, where Podolski played a one-two with Giroud and squared the ball for Cazorla to roll in a clever backheel.
Arsenal were flying and immediately chalked up a fourth on the break inside 60 seconds. Podolski was set away down the left, charging clear of a stretched West Ham defence before clipping a perfectly-weighted pass across into the path of Walcott, who smashed home first time at the far post.
Wenger's charges, however, were not finished as Giroud added a fifth on 57 minutes, with Podolski again the provider following another surging run down the left.
After all the high drama, the tempo of the match dropped as fast as the temperature, particularly after a lengthy stoppage with 18 minutes left as substitute Potts needed treatment after a clash of heads.
The academy graduate was eventually taken off on a stretcher in a neck brace and receiving gas. As all had been changes used, West Ham had to continue with 10 men – through some 12 minutes of stoppage time.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "We got a good response. I could not predict that we would score five goals, but what was vital for us was to equalise before half-time and then see if West Ham could maintain their control of us.
"In the second half from the start on we created chance after chance and played at a very high pace. From there on it was great movement, great quality in our final balls and in our combination play.
"I never felt that the players didn't know how important it is. I was more worried that they are a bit sometimes inhibited in the recent big games from the start on. But this team has a fantastic mentality and good quality, that's what we want to show until the end of the season now."
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: "When you concede as early [in the second half] as we did and they get into top gear, you have to give their players credit for their top spell. You wonder what Arsenal are going to be like when they have lost two on the trot, once we opened up they tore us apart.
"My strategy was working brilliantly until half-time, I had planned to introduce fresh legs and talent. But by the time I blocked it up, they were five ahead. It was the worst 45 minutes I've suffered this season."
|16 Apr 2013||v Everton (H)|
|02 Feb 2013||v Stoke (H)|
|30 Jan 2013||v Liverpool (H)|
|14 May 2013||v Wigan (H)|
|03 Mar 2013||v Spurs (A)|
|28 Apr 2013||v Man Utd (H)|