Arsenal recovered from a goal down to beat West Ham 3-1 and extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points.
Arsenal recovered from a goal down to beat West Ham and extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points.
Said Benrahma’s 27th-minute penalty gave David Moyes’ side a slender advantage at half-time, after the Gunners had a spot-kick disallowed by VAR on the stroke of the interval.
Mikel Arteta saw his team move up through the gears after the break with Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli scoring with fine finishes at the start of the second period.
Eddie Nketiah sealed the victory in front of ex-boss Arsene Wenger by finishing off a slick move to fill the void of the injured Gabriel Jesus and earn Arsenal a 10th straight home win in the Premier League.
“There’s only one Arsene Wenger” erupted from the stands after Gabriel Martinelli pulled the hosts ahead in the second half en route to the hosts’ 10th straight top-flight home victory, equalling their all-time record.
“The players knew,” said the current Gunners boss, who was also exalted with a chant of his own.
“They were willing to keep it quiet and allow that space for Arsene. A very special day, thank you so much for him coming.
“Hopefully walking through the building he’s going to feel everything that he left here as well. His presence is something that has to be very, very attached to this football club so thank (him) for doing that because it means a lot for everybody at the club.
“I’ve been involved in the process (of bringing him) but it’s about him, the timing he needed to make that step and hopefully he’s going to live here and be willing to spend more time with us and be around us because he is such an influence. For me personally, in my career, the way I see the game but as well for this football club.”
Arsenal threatened throughout the first half, dominating with 72 per cent of the possession, but were frustrated as Said Benrahma’s spot-kick was the only goal at the break.
The Gunners regrouped and Bukayo Saka struck the equaliser eight minutes after the restart before Martinelli fired Arsenal ahead.
Eddie Nketiah, starting his first game for Arsenal in place of the injured Gabriel Jesus, had enjoyed the vocal support of the Emirates crowd from kick-off and they were finally rewarded when Martin Odegaard tapped the ball to the 23-year-old, who neatly pivoted around his marker before firing into the bottom corner as the elated fans chanted his name.
Arteta had not yet spoken to his predecessor as he addressed the media and admitted the victory, which extended his side’s Premier League lead to seven points, was an ideal conversation starter.
“Obviously it’s great,” he added. “Winning, my mood, it’s going to be much better to speak to him and be around the team.
“So, yeah, he picked the right moment, a really special day because Boxing Day is a beautiful day to play football and I thought the performance was at the level today that we deserve, and hopefully he will like it.”
The win inspired bookies to slash their odds on Arsenal winning the title once more, with Paddy Power now listing the Gunner at just 9/4 to be crowned as champions.
Newcastle’s odds to win the league are down to 20/1, with Manchester City 4/9 favourites even though they are eight points behind Arsenal with a game in hand.