Arsenal put in a pulsating performance as Arsene Wenger’s farewell began as the Gunners scored three goals in seven second-half minutes as they eased 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 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 as 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.
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— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 22, 2018
Arsenal turn on the style
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.
The Hammers, unchanged from their 1-1 draw with Stoke on Monday, caused Arsenal plenty of problems in the first half and they looked in the mood to ruin Wenger’s long farewell.
Ospina saved from Arnautovic while Cheikhou Kouyate hit the bar with a header but, after the 21st minute, they did not have another chance until the hour mark.
They were second best after the break, though they were briefly lifted by the introductions of Javier Hernandez and Manuel Lanzini, who helped force the equaliser.
England keeper Hart, who is fighting for a place at the World Cup, had played well in the game with some crucial stops, until he was undone by Rice’s indecision, while he could have done better with Lacazette’s first.
Despite the heavy defeat, West Ham will be buoyed by Stoke’s draw with Burnley which gives them breathing space in their battle to avoid relegation.