A weary Asene Wenger admitted Andy Carroll exposed the weaknesses which have all but cost Arsenal the title this season.
West Ham striker Carroll grabbed a hat-trick in eight minutes to leave Wenger’s hopes of landing the Premier League crown in tatters.
Laurent Koscielny’s equaliser rescued a 3-3 draw for Arsenal, but they could find themselves 13 points adrift of leaders Leicester with just 18 to play for by Sunday evening.
And Gunners boss Wenger admitted that, not for the first time this season, his side could not cope with an aerial assault as Carroll ran riot. It was predictable – as detailed in 16 Conclusions.
“Why did we struggle with Carroll? Because he’s good in the air,” said Wenger.
“We had a good game but a bad result, and we paid for a weakness we have had all season – headers in our box.”
However, Wenger did question whether Carroll should have still been on the pitch after escaping with a yellow card for a nasty challenge on Koscielny early on.
“Yes of course, he was lucky to finish the game,” added the Frenchman. “But that doesn’t mean we have to concede goals from headers, we have to look at ourselves.”
They were 2-0 up and seemingly cruising to a third-straight victory by the 35th minute thanks to slick goals from Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
But Carroll, making a rare start in what has been another injury-hit season for the Hammers, turned the game upside down with his first treble since August 2010 for Newcastle.
First the former Liverpool frontman got on the end of Aaron Cresswell’s cross to power a header in at the far post.
And moments later, in first-half stoppage time, Carroll acrobatically turned in Mark Noble’s centre at the second attempt to haul his side level.
Carroll was not finished there, though, and completed his hat-trick when he nodded Michail Antonio’s cross home to perhaps stake a late, late claim for an England call-up for Euro 2016.
But Arsenal dragged themselves level in the 70th minute when West Ham failed to clear Hector Bellerin’s cross and Koscielny lashed the loose ball home.
Arsenal’s title bid is realistically over but Wenger vowed to keep fighting until the end of the season.
“We are third on 59 points and that’s not where we want to be,” he said. “We have made it much more difficult to have a chance to win the championship but no matter, we have to keep going.
“You never know what will happen, and we have clubs chasing us as well, so we have to be serious and focus on finishing as high as possible.”