Arsenal continued to build up a head of steam in the Premier League title race as they demolished capital rivals West Ham United at London Stadium over the weekend.
The Gunners put on a show in East London, responding emphatically to title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool picking up victories over relegation-battling duo Everton and Burnley, respectively.
Mikel Arteta’s troops injected a positively poised plot twist to the Premier League title race when they swatted aside pacesetters Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium a fortnight ago.
However, doubts lingered over their capacity to make it four Premier League wins in a row against West Ham, especially after failing to get the better of the Hammers in their previous three meetings (D1, L2).
The Gunners dispelled those uncertainties with aplomb, putting six past a beleaguered West Ham side, with former Hammers skipper Declan Rice stealing the spotlight with a dominating performance.
Considering the rampant run of form Arteta’s men have embarked upon, it would be unsurprising if Arsenal tickets are now sold at a premium. But seatsnet.com continues to offer competitive prices for fans eager to keep up with all the action.
Arsenal dominated West Ham from the outset, with the Hammers setting up in their trade mark counter-attacking system. But it was no match for the Gunners, who made their total superiority count in a blistering 15-minute spell before half-time.
William Saliba opened the scoring after the half-hour mark, heading home a Rice corner before Bukayo Saka won and emphatically dispatched a penalty, grabbing his landmark 50th goal for the Gunners.
Saliba’s centre-back partner Gabriel Magalhaes got in on the action, latching on to a dangerous in-swinger from Rice before Leandro Trossard rounded off a first-half demolition with a curled finish.
Saka bagged a brace just after the hour mark before Rice added gloss to a fine showing against his former employers with a long-range piledriver, keeping the title race delicately poised.
The result saw Arteta’s men reassert themselves in the title race with a much-improved goal difference. They sit third on the Premier League rankings, level on points with City, who have a game in hand, and two behind Liverpool.
Title outsiders Tottenham Hotspur kept their feint hopes of challenging for the title with a nail-biting come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion courtesy of a 96th-minute winner from Brennan Johnson.
However, Ange Postecoglou’s revamped North Londoners will require a significant turnaround to upset the apple cart with Liverpool, City, and Arsenal locked in a three-horse race for the Premier League crown.
With the EFL Cup and FA Cup now a distant memory, Arteta’s resurgent Arsenal face a pivotal next five games as they juggle their European ambitions with maintaining their domestic stronghold.
With Champions League football on the horizon, we analyse Arsenal’s crucial upcoming fixtures across all competitions.
Burnley (A) – Saturday, February 17
Arsenal will be strong favourites to make it five Premier League wins in a row when they travel to Turf Moor to take on Vincent Kompany’s relegation-threatened Burnley next week.
After a blistering Championship campaign that saw the Clarets break a handful of records en route to securing promotion, they have struggled to prove they deserve a place in the top flight thus far.
Burnley find themselves languishing second bottom on the Premier League table, locked on 13 points and look every bit the surefire relegation candidates they are each passing week.
Kompany’s troops have won one home game all season, thrashing fellow newly promoted Sheffield United 5-0, but it wouldn’t be enough to stave off a rampant Arsenal gunning for a third away win in a row.
Porto (A) – Wednesday, February 21
The Champions League returns to action in mid-February, with Arsenal heading to Estadio do Dragao to tackle Porto in the first leg of their tasty-looking round of 16 showdown.
Porto were impressive in the group stage, finishing level on 12 points with faltering La Liga giants Barcelona, but were beaten to the punch by an inferior head-to-head record.
The Dragons played out an eight-goal thriller in their final group stage fixture against Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk, running out 5-3 winners.
Since it’s their first appearance at Europe’s premier club tournament since 2015/16, Arsenal are eager to impress following a near-perfect group-stage campaign.
However, they must ensure that it doesn’t slow down their quest for domestic glory with a tricky trip to St. James’ Park up next.
Newcastle United (H) – Saturday, February 24
Off the back of their Champions League last-16 first-leg showdown with Porto, things get temporarily challenging for the Gunners as they host Newcastle United in the subsequent fixture.
The Magpies emerged victorious the last time both sides faced off at St. James’ Park, with Anthony Gordon’s second-half winner shrouded in VAR controversy.
Eddie Howe’s men have fallen off since the controversial win and are now labouring outside the top six, and their chances of repeating their 2023/24 feat are fading away.
They have responded well to a tough run of fixtures and results over the festive season, winning three of their previous five Premier League games (D1, L2), but are far from the same side that took the division by storm last term.
Sheffield United (A) – Monday, March 4
After back-to-back tough-looking fixtures against Porto and Newcastle – games that are expected to be closely fought – Arsenal will have ten days to recover before travelling to Sheffield United.
The Blades are unequivocally the worst team in the Premier League this season. They’re rooted to the bottom of the rankings, boasting the worst attacking and defensive records of any side in the division.
After a horrible start to the season under the leadership of Paul Heckingbottom, United re-appointed the experienced Chris Wilder to salvage what remained of a wretched campaign.
However, Wilder’s re-introduction has made little difference to United’s survival hopes, and Arsenal will be in no mood to offer a glimmer of hope when they arrive at Bramall Lane.
Brentford (H) – Saturday, March 9
After battling United, Arsenal return to the Emirates, where they will welcome capital rivals Brentford in a potentially challenging London derby affair.
Bees skipper Ivan Toney will be under the spotlight having been strongly linked with a move to the Emirates, but Arsenal will be hoping to navigate the tie comfortably.
Brentford have struggled for results and consistency this season, winning only two of their last 11 games in all competitions (D1, L8), most recently dispatching Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 at Molineux Stadium.
Toney’s return to the fold has given the Bees a spring in their steps, and the England international will be hoping to show his potential suitors what he’s capable of.