“It was a hard-fought win, but a very, very important one,” Arsene Wenger said. “The key was (to score) just before halftime. In the second half we controlled well the game.”
Lukas Podolski scored twice as Arsenal came from a goal down to beat West Ham 3-1 in the Premier League on Tuesday and provisionally reclaim the last Champions League spot.
Arsenal trailed to Matthew Jarvis’ 40th-minute opener, but Podolski equalised before the break and Arsenal dominated the second half.
Olivier Giroud made amends for an earlier miss by showing off a delicate touch in the area to put Arsenal ahead in the 55th and Podolski finished off the win with another clinical strike in the 78th.
Arsenal leapfrogged Everton into fourth place, although the Merseyside club is only one point behind with a game in hand.
Coming off their penalty-shootout win against Wigan in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday, Arsenal looked sluggish at the start.
West Ham was the better team for the first 30 minutes, but when the opening goal came it was against the run of play following a period of sustained Arsenal pressure.
Kim Kallstrom, making his first start for Arsenal since joining on loan in January, lost track of Antonio Nocerino down the right flank as the West Ham player broke into the area. Nocerino’s shot was stopped by Wojciech Szczesny, but Jarvis was there to head in the rebound in a goalmouth scramble.
Jarvis then could have earned a penalty shortly afterward when Bacary Sagna clearly clipped his legs in the area, but he stayed on his feet and the referee waved play on.
“I’m grateful for that,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said about Jarvis staying on his feet. “I don’t think it was a penalty, but he touched him. Can you be too honest? I’ll leave you that judgement.”
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce certainly thought so.
“The facts are that when you stay on your feet the referees don’t give penalties,” Allardyce said. “When there’s contact, you have to go down and make the referee’s mind up for him. There’s no reward for honesty.”
Arsenal responded shortly thereafter as Santi Cazorla found Podolski in the area and the Germany forward took one touch to create space before slotting a clinical finish inside the far post.
Before that, Giroud had wasted Arsenal’s two best chances as the France striker couldn’t make contact with Podolski’s cross in the 14th, and then wasted a one-on-one opportunity in the 30th. Cazorla picked out Giroud that time as well, but the Frenchman went for finesse rather than power, trying to chip the ball with the outside of his boot past Adrian, but the goalkeeper palmed it away.
Giroud made no mistake the next time, however, after Thomas Vermaelen picked him out with a long ball into the area. Giroud downed it with a perfect first touch and then slotted a shot between Adrian’s legs to put the hosts up for good.
Arsenal kept pressing and the third goal came after Giroud broke down the left and sent a high pass in toward substitute Aaron Ramsey, who picked out Podolski with a header and the German blasted a high shot into the net.
“He’s a fantastic finisher,” Wenger said of Podolski. “The one you want to have a chance is him.”