Can Arsenal finish in top four? Win vs. West Ham showed Gunners are playing for Mikel Arteta

what a difference a year makes.

When Arsenal lost at Everton nearly 12 months ago, they fell to 15th place in the Premier League and were just four points away from the relegation zone.

It was the nightmare before Christmas for Mikel Arteta, but things are looking very different this time with the Gunners climbing to fourth place after Wednesday night’s 2-0 win against West Ham.

All eyes were on Arteta’s side when they lined up against Hammers, with many predicting that they might implode following the controversy surrounding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

But they did the exact opposite, converting what was arguably their most comprehensive performance of the season as they did what it took to climb over David Moyes’ side and into the Champions League zone.

“I was really pleased,” Arteta said after the game. “With the attitude, commitment and quality that we show.

“There are really positive signs in the way the team has played. We have made progress, but there is still a lot to do and we have to be aware of it.

“We have had some bumps along the way, but we have learned a lot from them and we have stuck together, from the top of the club to every member of the team and staff.

“The biggest compliment I feel, and the players feel the same, is the way we have our crowd behind us, and it’s been a while. Seeing that the chemistry between the team and the crowd is unique and I’m very proud of it. that. “

Given everything that had happened in the past week, the response from the Arsenal players was truly impressive.

They might have gotten into their shell after the losses at Manchester United and Everton, but instead they dusted themselves off and scored maximum points in matches against Southampton and West Ham.

And they did so while playing against the backdrop of the Aubameyang situation.

It would have been easy to let the fallout from the decision to strip the forward of the captaincy have an impact on the field, but if anything, it inspired two of their best performances of the season.

Questions were rightly asked about their top four credentials after the losses at Old Trafford and Goodison Park, and while they haven’t answered them all in the last week, they have at least shown they are ready for the fight.

Many wondered if Arteta’s tough stance on Aubameyang after his latest disciplinary offense could lead to a split at Arsenal’s field.

But there was no sign of that as the Gunners largely dominated West Ham.

Alexandre Lacazette received the bracelet, as he was against Southampton, and put in a tireless performance as a center forward, while Gabriel Martinelli, 20, and Bukayo Saka, 20, were electric on either side of him.

Both young men were exceptional and it was no surprise that they were heavily involved in scoring.

Martinelli scored the first, finishing magnificently on a pass from Lacazette, while Saka set up 21-year-old Emile Smith Rowe for the second after a fabulous late breakout.

It was a performance full of intensity and energy from Arsenal and one that should end any conversation about a possible division in the locker room.

Aubameyang might be very fond of the team, but Arteta clearly still has the full backing of his players in this evidence.

“The players play for the club,” said the Spaniard. “They played with the fight and the energy that we expect from them. They were very good, everyone.

“The veteran players led by example and I am very happy. They seem to really enjoy helping [young] guys in a context that has been difficult. “

Arsenal will now head to Leeds on Saturday 18 December sitting inside the Champions League venues. Whether they can stay there will largely depend on how they do in places like Elland Road from now until the end of the season.

Arteta’s side have been excellent at home since the start of the campaign, having accumulated 22 points in their nine Premier League games at the Emirates. No team has collected more.

It has been a different story on his travels though, with five of his six league losses so far outside North London.

That’s something that has to change if the Gunners are to secure a seat at Europe’s head table next season.

For now, however, Arsenal are fairly fourth in the Premier League. And who would have predicted that last week, much less last year.