Theo Walcott was Arsenal’s hero, as a first half hat-trick helped Arsenal to a 4-1 win over West Brom.
The England international found the net from an impossible angle after just four minutes and added another on 14 minutes, to put Arsenal in complete control.
A stunning volleyed effort from Jack Wilshere rifled past goalkeeper Boaz Myhill before Walcott latched on to a Santi Cazorla cross to secure his third career hat trick and stake a claim for a starting place in next Saturday’s FA Cup final.
Gareth McAuley’s header saw his side get a consolation goal but Arsenal’s superb first half performance had already done the damage.
Starting just his fourth game of the season, Walcott looked deadly from the start in the central striking role. After just four minutes superb work from Cazorla played in Walcott, who smashed the ball across the goal, beating Myhill from a tight angle and opening the scoring.
Arsenal had West Brom camped in their own half and made the most of their possession again just ten minutes later. Great interchange between Wilshere and Mesut Ozil fell kindly to Walcott, who out foxed Jonas Olsson and toe-pocked the ball into the net.
Wilshere then scored the goal of the game and made his 100th Premier League appearance one to remember. West Brom failed to clear their lines from an Arsenal corner and Wilshere struck the ball on the volley perfectly from 20 yards, to send it flying into the goal.
The pressure was cranking up and Walcott looked certain to make it a hat-trick when unselfish play from Alexis Sanchez found the Englishman, who stroked the ball towards the corner, just to see his effort saved by the Baggies’ goalkeeper.
Persistence paid off though and once again Walcott had his midfield to thank, as a bullish Wilshere run led to the ball being swiped across the box, beating the keeper before being converted by Walcott for his third career hat-trick.
It appeared Arsenal minds had drifted away with thoughts of next weekend’s cup final in the second half though, as the Gunners didn’t attack with the same impetus.
In fact, it was West Brom who found the net on the 56th minute, when some haphazard goalkeeping from David Ospina gifted McAuley the chance to head home and gain his side a consolation goal.
Arguably having the better of the second half, Victor Anichebe’s introduction seemed to lift Tony Pulis’ side and Jame Morrison could have set up a grandstand finish but dragged his shot wide of the target.
Wenger then began to alter the side with next weekend’s Wembley showpiece in mind. Aaron Ramsey was brought into the game and should have been on the scoresheet, hitting the post twice within the space of a minute. He first sent a left footed drive crashing against the post before finding the same place as he tried to delicately lift the ball into the far corner of Myhill’s goal.
It was the visitors though who could have ended the scoring, when Craig Gardener caught a trademark drive perfectly, only to see it mishandled by Ospina and crash away off of the crossbar.
Overall, today was Walcott’s day, reminding his manager that his claim for the central role in Arsenal’s squad is a genuine one. With Giroud out of form and Welbeck likely to miss out through injury, Wenger must now have something to think about as he looks to name his squad for the FA Cup final against Aston Villa next weekend.
By Alex Knight