West Ham United 1 Arsenal 3
(Cole 46, Walcott 68, 71, Podolski 79)

Arsenal returned to the Premirship summit with a resolute display in overcoming relegation threatened West Ham at Upton Park. Having dominated the opening 45 minutes, the Gunners were rocked momentarily seconds after the re-start when Carlton Cole put the home side in front. Not showing any signs of panic, Arsenal took stock of the situation then proceeded to dominate the possession. Their efforts were duly rewarded when Theo Walcott grabbed a memorable double, (one his second a first ever headed goal), with substitute Lukas Podolski firing in the Gunners’ third.

The Gunners return to winning ways was timely after a sequence of their last four games in all competitions had failed to yield a victory. The draw against Everton was followed by the loss at Napoli, the loss at the Etihad and the stalemate at home to Chelsea. Questions have been asked – and will continue to be asked, about the durability of Arsene Wenger’s side and faced with a London derby on Boxing Day presented the perfect response to the Gunners’ inquisitors.

Santi Cazorla scored against the Hammers in both of their Premiership encounters last season and was at the heart of the Gunners’ midfield here. Cazorla looked to have gotten on the scoresheet here too, but Adrian dived to save the midfielder’s header. Olivier Giroud was his robust busy self, tirelessly working to hold up and create. The France striker is going through a lean patch of late, having not scored since the 2-0 home win over Southampton in late Novemeber.

That statistic should have changed for the Arsenal number 12, but East London would not comply. Giorud could not take advantage of Bacary Sagna’s cross for a header, nor anticipate the supply lines from Mesut Özil, Kieran Gibbs or Aaron Ramsey from the wings. Left to his own devices, Giroud’s powerful run set him up for a low shot, which failed to test Adrian.

Walcott perhaps had the best sighter on goal as the first half drew to a close. Ramsey found the Arsenal 14 who timed his run to perfection. The side footed finish wide should have been better, but the 24 year old would make amends later.

Seconds after the restart however, Cole gave the Hammers the lead. Wojciech Szczesny was right behind Kevin Nolan’s effort but somehow managed to spill the ball to the grateful boot of Cole from close in. Upton Park sprung into life as Matt Jarvis and Joey O’Brien then tested Szczesny further.

Having survived that mini burst, Arsenal decided enough was enough. Cazorla and Özil saw chances that Adrian managed to thwart with a fine double save. The away side were totally dominant in possession but still the Hammers had the lead.

Ramsey went off with what appeared to be a torn calf, and on came Podolski for his first taste of action since August.

After 68 minutes, Arsenal drew level. Walcott ran and cut away with a shot that was low and through a series of defenders seemingly obscuring his view , Adrian looked on as the ball was in his net.

Three minutes later, Arsenal took a lead they would not relinquish. Gibbs and Podolski were causing the Hammers’ defence all sorts of problems. The two exchanged passes and Podloski’s slightly deflected cross fell just right for Walcott to head past Adrian for his first ever headed goal.

Podolski looked lively and certainly knows where the goal is. But having seen a chance set up by Mikel Arteta – playing his one hundredth game for Arsenal – go begging. Arteta who had a fierce first half drive cause Adrian some panic was the stable presence in a very fly if Gunners midfield.

Podolski showed intelligence showed that game sharpness still has to be worked on. The German knows where the goal is, but having been set up by an inventive Cazolra chip, couldn’t get sufficient power or bend when through on the Hammers’ goal, his shot gratefully gathered by Adrian.

However Podolski then went one better. He grabbed the Gunners’ third when Giroud showed his strength in hold up play to lay off to his team-mate. From 20 yards out, Podolski’s left footed thunderbolt was too good for Adrian. Substitute Nicklas Bendtner and Cazorlathen had chances as the Gunners continued their onslaught.

With the win assured, Wenger will set his sights on more of the same for the next festive fixture, the trip to Newcastle on Sunday.