Arsenal are back in the top four of the Premier League after goals from Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe helped them beat West Ham United in convincing fashion
Arsenal leapfrogged West Ham United in the Premier League table to go fourth thanks to a convincing 2-0 win at the Emirates on Wednesday.
Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring only three minutes after half-time, coolly slotting past Lukasz Fabianski once Alexandre Lacazette, wearing the armband, played him through.
But Fabianski would spectacularly deny Lacazette from the penalty spot later in the second half when Vladimir Coufal was sent off for a highly contentious second yellow card.
Substitute Emile Smith Rowe then sealed the three points on late a counter attack as Mikel Arteta picked up his sixth successive home win.
There were no shortage of talking points in the lead-up to the match, as the top-four both came off the back of Arteta’s hotly-debated decision to strip Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of the captaincy after yet another disciplinary breach.
Here are five talking points from the Emirates.
Join the debate! Who should be Arsenal’s next captain? Give us your pick here.
Aubameyang’s absence continues
Although it was confirmed long before kick-off, the announcement of the team sheets at 7pm confirmed that Arteta was sticking to his guns and keeping Aubameyang out in the cold.
The Arsenal striker was left out of the matchday squad for the second successive match, having missed the 3-0 win against Southampton on Saturday.
No longer captain, Aubameyang not only has work to do in regaining the trust of his manager but also his place in the Gunners’ starting XI.
The 32-year-old striker has just four Premier League goals to his name this season, last netting in the 3-1 victory over Aston Villa on October 22.
The Saka show
An entertaining first half some plenty of exciting moments but one man stood out for the hosts.
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka was instrumental to the vast majority of good things that the Gunners did in the opening 45 minutes and assisted Smith Rowe for his late strike.
The 20-year-old, backed to be a candidate for the captaincy by club legend Nigel Winterburn, created two chances and completed three dribbles up against the attack-minded Arthur Masuaku, who was keen to push Saka back towards his own goal.
The England international looks to be over his injury worries after starting his third match in-a-row and being his usual lively self down the right flank.
Plus, he looked pretty snazzy in the warm-up.
Martinelli’s home comforts
But it was the man on the other side of Arsenal’s attack who broke the deadlock, as Martinelli slotted past Fabianski three minutes after the restart making it three direct goal contributions in as many games at the Emirates (two goals and one assist).
Spotting Lacazette dropping deep to pick up the ball, the Brazilian raced through on goal and was quickly picked and precisely out by the Frenchman.
Opening up his body in what could soon be seen as trademark fashion, Martinelli coolly hit the back of the net as the ball kissed the post on its way in.
The 20-year-old, who kept Smith Rowe out of the starting XI, helped make the Gunners’ XI against West Ham the youngest seen in the 2021-22 Premier League campaign.
Coufal sees red
In undoubtedly the game’s most controversial moment, Arsenal were awarded a penalty in the 66th minute after Coufal slid in on Lacazette in the penalty area.
Referee Anthony Taylor took his time but eventually pointed to the spot and sent the Czech Republic international off.
But Coufal could count himself unlucky, having won the ball and only taken the Gunners striker down on the follow-through.
The 29-year-old was bemused by the decision, as was his manager, David Moyes.
Nevertheless, Fabianski guessed right and denied Lacazette down to his left, but it ultimately proved to have no baring on the final outcome.
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Top four a long time coming
For the first time since 2018, Arsenal will end a Premier League game week in December inside the top four after Smith Rowe wrapped things up with four minutes to go.
Going one point above the Irons as a result of their win, the Gunners and their plus-one zero goal difference are back where they spent so long under Arsene Wenger.
In the legendary boss’ final years, fans were frustrated with those sorts of league finishes, but right now, supporters can look at where their team are after 17 matches and be optimistic of the future.