Arsenal overcomes West Ham with inspired second half

LONDON (AP) — An inspired second-half display gave Arsenal a much-needed 3-0 victory on Wednesday as West Ham continued its fall toward the Premier League relegation zone.

A goalkeeping error from Darren Randolph allowed Mesut Ozil to give Arsenal the lead before Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud wrapped up the victory at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger and his side came into the game under increasing pressure, with Arsenal having won just one of its previous six league games. But the home side overcame a lackluster first half to reignite its challenge for a Champions League qualification place.

“In the first half we needed to be patient and not make a mistake, and in the second half our technical superiority made the difference,” Wenger said. “It was a convincing performance with good individual performances from everybody.”

“It’s a good result tonight and a relief as well because we have gone through a bad period.”

While the victory offers at least temporary respite for Wenger and Arsenal, a fifth consecutive defeat for West Ham leaves the club just five points above the relegation zone and its manager Slaven Bilic facing further speculation over his future.

“We started the game good, we were very good in the first half an hour,” Bilic said. “We were good on the ball and breaking their rhythm, but last 15 minutes of the first half we started to lose the ball very quick and if you give them that quantity of attacks they’re very quick to close to your goal.”

“After the second goal it’s very dangerous to play against them because when you have the ball they let you create and they take a risk staying up with a few players and when you lose the ball it’s a problem for the defenders.”

Arsenal had failed to assert itself in the first period as West Ham threatened through a Manuel Lanzini free kick before Mark Noble drove narrowly wide after stealing possession.

The hosts did eventually begin to find some joy down the right flank, with West Ham left back Arthur Masuaku struggling to cope with the pace and trickery of Hector Bellerin and Walcott.

Walcott and Danny Welbeck wasted clear openings, while the former was denied a penalty when he went down under Masuaku’s challenge.

The warning signs were there for West Ham as only last-ditch defending from Jose Fonte and James Collins ensured it went in level at the break, with the central defensive duo blocking close-range efforts from Bellerin and Mohamed Elneny.

Arsenal emerged for the second half with the sort of attacking verve it has lacked in recent weeks, although West Ham, who lost Michail Antonio to sickness at half time, did contribute to its own downfall.

Fonte’s poor clearance went straight to Ozil and the Germany midfielder sent a tame left-foot effort toward the bottom corner that Randolph allowed to squirm under his body in the 58th minute.

With the pressure relieved, Arsenal’s quality increased.

Ten minutes after the opener, Ozil played a one-two with Alexis Sanchez before crossing for Walcott who coolly placed the ball into the bottom corner.

Welbeck and Bellerin came close to extending the lead before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain set up fellow substitute Giroud, who bent the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box in the 83rd minute.

The win saw Arsenal retake fifth place from Manchester United on goal difference and close the gap to four points, with a game in hand on fourth-place Manchester City which lost 2-1 at Chelsea.