West Ham were truly dreadful against Arsenal but were made to look so by a ‘ruthless’ visiting side, who took clear inspiration from Liverpool yet again.
And so Arsenal’s run of senseless thievery continues. Liverpool won a Premier League away game played around Valentine’s Day 6-0 against an opponent in a claret and blue kit once; it was kind of their thing.
The Gunners’ immaturity, much like their lack of killer instinct, knows no bounds.
No club sets the agenda and decides the discourse quite as effectively. Arsenal countered accusations of over-celebrating through the ingenious method of scoring so many goals that their joy eventually evened itself out and morphed into mild apathy. If Mo Elneny had scored then there might be a case to answer but this was a routine dispatch.
The Celebration Police might even drop their case entirely after Declan Rice marked his stunning strike with an embarrassed show of respect and sorrow towards those few West Ham supporters who remained by a stage so late as the 65th minute.
And therein lies the latest talking point, fuelled by those narrative-driven Gunners: is leaving a match early ever justifiable as a fan?
Plenty of West Ham supporters stayed until the full-time whistle to avoid the crowds and beat the traffic; those who departed in their droves even before the first half had come to a close missed such spectacles as Gabriel Magalhaes at one point after the break losing his boot, waiting patiently for Leandro Trossard to recover it and slowly putting it back on. West Ham had the ball throughout that entire passage of play and deserve immense credit for showing the utmost respect and not at any stage looking even vaguely like they wanted to take advantage.
They offered what can technically be described as resistance for about half an hour, but their tactic of letting Jarrod Bowen chase shadows and relying on Arsenal being wasteful for an hour and a half had some drawbacks if you looked close enough. No approach is perfect and David Moyes cannot be faulted for only remembering to check the fixture list on Sunday morning before panicking and realising they were scheduled to actually play as association football match.
William Saliba scored from a corner. Bukayo Saka had two free headers from about six yards, set up by crosses from either side, then wasted another glorious chance before winning and converting a penalty. Gabriel Magalhaes scored from a free-kick. Trossard added a fourth. Half-time.
Moyes had seen enough by then. A double substitution told the whole story and a sequel; Kalvin Phillips and Konstantinos Mavropanos were sent on to shore things up, albeit a little belatedly. Off went Edson Alvarez and Kurt Zouma, and out West Ham were sent with a strict directive to sort this mess out. Still 0-0. Keep it tight.
Within a minute of the restart, a Gabriel Martinelli cut-back was skied by Trossard, who was waiting unmarked on the penalty spot as Martin Odegaard lurked behind him.
It felt like both sides would have probably shaken hands on ending the game then. For West Ham, the humiliation was practically complete. For Arsenal, those energy reserves could happily be saved for tougher tasks down the line of this title race.
The mentions of the last time Arsenal scored four goals in the first half of a Premier League away game – the Cheick Tiote 4-4 Newcastle draw – were a desperate attempt to inject any sort of jeopardy and intrigue into a laughably one-sided spectacle.
West Ham didn’t so much as conjure a shot on target, their only one of the game, until the 82nd minute. Those impressive consecutive 2-0 victories over Manchester United and Arsenal feel like a lifetime ago, particularly after losing the return fixtures by an aggregate score of 8-0.
Perhaps there is no better way to sum up the clear divide between the Moyes In and Moyes Out camps than those diametrically opposing series of results. But a side with no wins in seven matches this calendar year has hit quite the bump in the road, especially after that miserable January transfer window.
Arsenal lost the game immediately after that Hammers smash-and-grab at the Emirates in December, but four league wins and 16 goals have followed since. Not bad for a team lacking that cutting edge.