Having finally stopped the bleeding by drawing on Sunday against Manchester City, Arsenal have now taken a first meaningful step towards recovery.
Yes, the collective seizure they suffered through February and March might yet prove terminally damaging for Arsene Wenger but this emphatic 3-0 win against West Ham United does at least open a window of opportunity.
His Arsenal team have not only risen back above Manchester United into the Premier League’s top five but they could also move level with Liverpool and to within a point of Manchester City by winning their games in hand.
One very obvious caveat was the limitations here of West Ham United – whose alarming slump now stretches to five consecutive defeats – but Wenger will not much care how his own team’s urgent need both for momentum and confidence has been answered.
After another pre-match protest, there was even the post-match sight here of a similarly small section of fans staying on to chant in favour of Wenger staying.
West Ham’s fans summed up what has become an almost comically oscillating debate by singing about what they called the in-out Wenger hokey cokey.
Wenger simply called the result “a relief” – and also pointed out that his team had qualified previously for the Champions League from worse positions – but most instructive were his observations on Mesut Ozil.
His £42 million record signing had delivered a long-awaited match winning performance by scoring Arsenal’s first and then creating the second, with Wenger claiming that he had been “hit hard” by the 10-2 Champions League mauling against Bayern Munich.
“It took some time for him to recovery mentally,” said Wenger. “We live in a world of extremes. We are always praised too much when it goes well and too much [criticism] when it doesn’t.”
Bilic is at the other end of that equation just now and, with the gap to Swansea City in 18th down to five points, he warned his players that they are in the relegation scrap.
“We are in that fight now,” he said. “It’s not being negative. It’s being realistic. Now is the time to show leadership.”
Bilic then described Saturday’s visit of Swansea to the Olympic Stadium as “very, very vital” and admitted that both Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll, who were respectively suffering from sickness and a tight groin, had also been substituted with that game in mind.
“I am not expecting the beautiful game on Saturday, we have to win and give everything, said Bilic, before noting that Tottenham’s dramatic comeback could prove psychologically devastating for Swansea.
“It is a confidence killer,” he said. “It harms you but they probably played good to be winning against Spurs. It’s a killer but also a big warning for us.”
After not knowing who was captain throughout the second-half of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with City, Wenger took the continental approach here in the absence of his three usual options by asking Theo Walcott – his longest-serving player - to wear the armband.
He responded positively and, with Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, was the creative inspiration behind Arsenal’s win. Walcott had forced two good saves as Arsenal gradually increased their first-half pressure and, although they remained dominant in possession at the start of the second-half, it was a goalkeeping error by Darren Randolph that ultimately led to their crucial first goal.
Centre-back Jose Fonte had only half cleared a speculative ball into the feet of Ozil on the edge of the penalty area.
The 28-year-old’s curling shot was far from convincing but a combination of the ball bouncing just in front of Randolph and Sanchez’s darting run forward provided sufficient distraction.
West Ham’s players felt that Sanchez was both offside and influencing play but replays confirmed that Atkinson was correct in allowing the goal to stand. You could tangibly sense the confidence flooding back into the Arsenal team once they had taken their 58th minute lead.
Walcott then brilliantly sprinted into the penalty area and released Danny Welbeck, only for Randolph to make a good reaction save. The wait for a decisive Ozil contribution has been lengthy but he then combined brilliantly with Sanchez to create Arsenal’s second.
Ozil had started the move but Sanchez delivered a wonderful back-heeled return from which Arsenal’s record signing crossed for Walcott to complete what really had been a captain’s performance with an accurate low finish. Arsenal soon almost made it 3-0, with Sanchez’s lofted pass met on the half volley by Hector Bellerin but directed narrowly wide.
Wenger also had plenty of attacking options on the bench and two of his substitutes combined to add the third, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain passing for Olivier Giroud to immediately stake his claim to start ahead of Welbeck as the main central striker with a superb left-footed finish.
Still in the mix
An even first-half but a very one-sided second as Arsenal turned the screw and ran out comfortable winners in the end.
Alexis Sanchez didn't score for once but he was at the heart of everything good Arsenal did, and was a constant menace. Mesut Ozil also deserves credit for an inventive performance, capped off by the opening goal - even if Randolph probably should have saved it.
The win keeps alive Arsenal's top-four hopes and ends a dismal run of two defeats and a draw from their previous three league games.
For West Ham however, the defeat makes it five straight losses in a row and no win in seven. Slaven Bilic's side are now just five points above 18th-placed Swansea.
Full-time - Arsenal 3 West Ham o
That's the final whistle, Arsenal up to fifth and as it stands just four points behind Manchester City with a game in hand.
Arsene Wenger couldn't mastermind yet another top four finish, could he?
Average touch positions (full time)
Time on ball (at full time)
Er, surely that was a penalty? Byram, who's already on a booking, absolutely clatters Monreal in the area but somehow Martin Atkinson decides it wasn't a foul.
Good hit from the sub Fernandes but it's right down Martinez's throat. Comfortable save for the stand-in keeper.
Arsenal stroking the ball around now, safe in the knowledge they're about to record their first league win since early February.
5 - Olivier Giroud has scored more goals as a substitute than any other Premier League player this season (5). Option.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 5, 2017
GOAL! Arsenal 3 West Ham 0 (Giroud 83')
That is a lovely goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain bursts clear of Masuaku down the right and feeds Giroud, who perfectly bends a left-footed strike into the far corner from about 18 yards out. Arsenal home and hosed now.
Elneny's been decent tonight, and has certainly looked assured than the increasingly hapless Coquelin who he replaced. As a consequence Xhaka has been far more comfortable than for much of the season.
Xhaka, looking for his first home goal for Arsenal, fires a decent effort from the edge of the box but Randolph makes the save. Giroud tries to gobble up the rebound, but Collins makes the block.
West Ham make their final change of the night - Noble off for Fernandes. Arsenal make a double change, as Walcott and Elneny go off for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey.
Byram is booked for bringing Sanchez down around the half-way line. Clear foul and yellow card.
Time on ball (60 - 75 min)
Martinez is finally forced into a save after Lanzini does brilliantly to work the space for a shot, but his effort from about 25 yards is straight at Arsenal's third-choice keeper. Still he does well to beat it away from the onrushing West Ham attackers.
Ozil has well and truly found his groove in the second half, and he plays a trademark slide-rule pass to send Walcott scampering away. Walcott though is forced wide and his attempted cross drifts out for a goal kick.
Welbeck, who's been busy, is replaced by Giroud.
West Ham have really offered nothing this half after losing Antonio at the interval. Arsenal for the first time in a good while are playing as if they're actually enjoying themselves.
So nearly 3-0 but Bellerin puts his half-volley just wide from only about six yards out after a sumptuous sand-wedge pass from Sanchez. Sanchez is absolutely purring at the moment.
GOAL! Arsenal 2 West Ham 0 (Walcott 68')
Classic Arsenal goal. Ozil plays a one-two with Sanchez, who back-heels a lovely pass into the German's path. Ozil's pull-back to Walcott is perfect, and the Arsenal captain beautifully strokes a finish into the bottom corner.
That's Walcott's 19th goal of the season.
Sanchez does superbly again to feed Ozil down the left, and the German produces an inviting cross to the back post. Elneny though can only put his header straight at Randolph from about 12 yards out.
One-way traffic at Emirates Stadium
It's been all Arsenal, with the hosts racking up 15 shots so far - West Ham have managed just five in reply.
Welbeck has another decent chance after Ozil sends him scampering through, but his left-footed shot hits the side netting from a tight-ish angle.
Xhaka has looked far more comfortable tonight with Elneny next to him than he has done with either Ramsey or Coquelin by his side in recent weeks.
Mustafi goes in strongly on Snodgrass, and is booked despite his protestations. The resulting free-kick is in a promising position out wide on the left, but Lanzini skies his delivery.
West Ham respond by replacing Carroll with Diafra Sakho, last spotted playing in November.
Both teams have chances straight after the goal, but Carroll's shot is blocked by Monreal and Welbeck is then denied in a one-on-one by Randolph. Welbeck could have all but won it for Arsenal there.
Time on ball (45 - 60 min)
GOAL! Arsenal 1-0 (Ozil 58')
Arsenal lead! Ozil's shot from the inside-right channel doesn't have much power on it, but Randolph somehow lets it squirm through his hands. The West Ham keeper claims that an offside Sanchez blocked his view, but nothing doing from the linesman on that side.
For the umpteenth time Kouytate steps across to outmuscle an Arsenal attacker. This time it's Ozil who is sent sprawling to the ground. Fairly I should add.
West Ham finally enjoy a bit of possession, and Carroll actually scores with a volley, but Byram was correctly adjudged to have been offside when he crossed the ball.
A reminder of Arsenal's bench if Wenger wants to change things:
Macey (GK), Mertesacker, Gibbs, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Giroud
Brilliant work from Noble, who hares back into his penalty area after giving the ball away to dispossess Sanchez as he goes to strike the ball. The pressure is building and building for Arsenal.
Mustafi has a pop at goal from Ozil's corner, but he sends his half-volley a few yards wide. Fonte and Masuaku receive treatment after clashing heads when attempting to clear the corner, but they both look fine to carry on.
Kouyate again in the right place to block a Xhaka pass. Ozil then thinks he's in on goal from Sanchez's clever reverse pass, but Collins makes a brilliant sliding tackle. West Ham cannot get out of their own half at the moment.
Sanchez bursts clear again, but Kouyate is there to stop him in his tracks. Kouyate has been an excellent shield in front of the West Ham defence so far tonight.
We're back under way for the second half. Snodgrass has come on for Antonio, who played well but can't be fully fit after returning from a hamstring problem for this game, at half time.
A pretty even first-half, with Arsenal likely to feel aggrieved that they weren't awarded a penalty for Masuaku's push on Walcott in the box. There was very little between the teams for the most part, but Arsenal stepped up their intensity towards the end of the half and just started to look a little more threatening. Alexis in particular, and to a lesser extent Ozil, became more and more influential as the half wore on.
Antonio has looked a threat for West Ham on the break, and Noble has been characteristically busy in the centre of midfield.
Mustafi goes down and claims he's been elbowed by Carroll. Martin Atkinson shakes his head, and promptly blows the half-time whistle. All square at the break.
Time on ball (first half)
Average touch positions (half time)
Ozil smashes a volley onto the post after Sanchez charged down Byram's clearance, but the linesman raises his flag for an obvious offside.
Walcott latches onto Elneny's lofted pass in the penalty area, but Randoph can rush out from his goal and smother the shot.
Sanchez is starting to boss things here, and he puts in a lovely cross that Collins heads clear. Ozil is also getting more involved, as Arsenal finish the half strongly.
West Ham starting to get overrun, and Bellerin and then Elneny have shots in the area blocked. Sanchez did brilliantly to set the chances up. From the resulting corner, Welbeck meats Ozil's corner well but his header is straight at Randolph.
Monreal puts in a lovely cross that evades Collins, but Byram does well to cover and head the ball away.
Lanzini meanwhile is booked for a clear trip on Walcott.
The shot count is similar
Arsenal and West Ham are evenly matched in attack so far - the home side have fired in five shots to the visitors' five.
Arsenal win a corner after a lovely slide-rule pass from Ozil finds Xhaka in the penalty area. The corner though lands at Elneny, whose attempt at a volley just about reaches the goal-line and almost dribbles out for a throw-in.
The home supporters are getting a little more anxious now, as West Ham dig in well and force Sanchez to give away a free-kick for a foul on Noble.
Walcott again has a chance, but he slices his effort high and wide of Randolph's goal from just inside the box. West Ham were almost the architects of their own downfall there, with the chance stemming from Collins giving the ball straight to Welbeck about 35 yards out.
Time on ball (15 - 30 min)
Arsenal give away another free-kick as Monreal upends Noble. It floats safely out though, and we remain at 0-0.
Arsenal try and break quickly through Elneny, but the move soon judders to a halt and West Ham can get everyone behind the ball and force their opponents sideways and then backwards. Arsenal really need to move the ball quicker to break down the West Ham defence, which is being well marshalled by Fonte and Collins, with Kouyate doing a good job sitting just in front of them.
Kouyate takes a bang to the head, and the game is stopped while he receives treatment.
Byram naively shoves Sanchez to the ground to give away a free-kick about 25 yards out. It's the Chilean who takes it, and he floats it cleverly to Welbeck, but he can't get any power on his volley from about six yards out. Not easy but Welbeck should have done better.
West Ham force another free-kick when Mustafi goes in clumsily on Antonio. It ends up at Antonio's feet after a few headers, but he can only send his volley wide of the near post.
The visitors shading the first half so far.
Penalty shout for Arsenal as Walcott goes down under the challenge of Masuaku in the box. There definitely looked like enough contact in that to be a pen, but referee Martin Atkinson waves away the appeals.
Bellerin then gets a booking for a blatant pull-back on Antonio.
Time on ball (0 - 15 min)
Brilliant stuff from Bellerin down the right for Arsenal, as the right-back skins Masuaku and finds Walcott with a neat pull-back. Walcott concentrates on keeping his shot on target, which he does but not with sufficient power to beat Randolph in the West Ham goal.
Noble nicks the ball from Elneny in the Arsenal half and canters forward through some flimsy Arsenal tackling before dragging his shot just wide. Great work from the West Ham captain.
Better from Arsenal as Monreal and then Sanchez find space in the penalty area, but the former's cross is blocked and the latter's control just lets him down.
The planned protest where fans would watch in the concourses before emerging in the 13th minute (because it's 13 years since Arsenal's last proper title challenge) looks to have been a bit of a damp squib:
One of the concourses a couple of minutes ago. A few fans hanging around watching it on TV but not that many. pic.twitter.com/W4xIlI2n2C— James Olley (@JamesOlley) April 5, 2017
West Ham come straight back at Arsenal, and Antonio is tripped by Bellerin just to the left of the goal about 25 yards out. Perfect
Payet Lanzini range, but the midfielder puts his free-kick just over the bar.
West Ham threaten for the first time
Following the earlier Arsenal effort, West Ham register their first attempt at goal.
Noble is tripped by Sanchez, giving West Ham a free-kick in a very dangerous area about 30 yards from goal out on the right. Martinez in goal is presumably feeling a little anxious...but it's overhit and Arsenal can clear the danger.
Sanchez has an early 'sighter' but his right-footed shot from the left-hand side is well wide.
Lots of empty seats at the Emirates, though obviously unclear at this stage how many of those are just latecomers.
Either way, you can be sure the attendance will be a nice round 60,000.
Some stats to get you pumped for the game
The last time an Arsenal club captain started a league game was November 2014 - Mikel Arteta vs Manchester United.
Andy Carroll has scored four times in his last 63 minutes against Arsenal.
We're under way at the Emirates. Here's a reminder of the teams for this one:
Arsenal: Martinez, Bellerin, Gabriel, Mustafi, Monreal; Xhaka, Elneny; Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck
Subs: Macey, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Giroud
West Ham: Randolph, Byram, Collins, Fonte, Masuaku, Kouyate, Noble (C), Antonio, Lanzini, Ayew, Carroll
Subs: Adrian, Nordtveit, Fernandes, Feghouli, Snodgrass, Sakho, Calleri
Coquelin is not in the match-day squad tonight for Arsenal due to a family bereavement but his absence may not be the worst news for Arsene Wenger...
Since Dec 2014— Orbinho (@Orbinho) April 5, 2017
Arsenal win % with just Coquelin (no Cazorla) starting - 36%
Arsenal win % with Cazorla & Coquelin both starting - 69%
Who is Emi?
The 24-year-old Emiliano Martinez played in the EFL Cup tie at Nottingham Forest in September, having not played for Arsenal since a 3-2 away defeat at Stoke in December 2014. During his career he has had loan spells at Oxford, Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham, but he has stayed with Arsenal since returning from Rotherham in May 2015 .
Should he have to come off tonight, then Arsenal's fourth-choice keeper Matt Macey, a 22-year-old freshly recalled from a loan spell at Luton for this match, would step in.
West Ham, as their supporters like to sing about, were the first opposition team to win at the Emirates and the last to win at Highbury. The former match saw Robert Green have an absolute wordie in a 1-0 smash and grab, while in the latter Sol Campbell stormed out of the ground at half-time of a match Arsenal eventually lost 3-2.
Generally though, Arsenal have a very good recent record against tonight's opponents, winning 13 of their last 17 Premier League matches and losing just one - a 2-0 opening weekend defeat at the Emirates last season.
The reverse fixture this season ended in a 5-1 win for Arsenal thanks in part to an Alexis Sanchez hat-trick. He seemed happier then.
Welcome if you're just joining to our live blog of Arsenal v West Ham, where the hosts will look to get their first league win since February against a team boasting their bete noire Andy Carroll.
Caroll scored a hat-trick against Arsenal in a 3-3 draw last season and has five goals against them in his career, the joint most he has against a Premier League club.
So, what should we expect at the Emirates tonight?
Protests, fights, anguish obviously. But on Sunday against Manchester City, the Emirates crowd had taken on a new level of neurosis where many were talking amongst themselves throughout as though they couldn't bear to fully engage with the match and end up disappointed. It was like a jilted lover not wishing to get too close to the object of their affection for the risk of being hurt again.
Once bitten, twice shy and all that.
Lord knows what the atmosphere will be like if Arsenal go behind early tonight, but there's every chance that will happen given that they have fallen behind in five of their last six league games.
West Ham know all about playing in a toxic home atmosphere, so they may enjoy being away from Stratford where they were hammered 5-1 by Arsenal earlier this season.
A West Ham win could take them as high as 11th, up from 15th, but a defeat could leave them as little as three points above the drop zone if Hull City beat Middlesbrough.
West Ham in fact are one of the few teams in the Premier League in more wretched form than Arsenal, having lost their last four league matches, and won none of their previous six.
Expect a lot of exasperation from both sides.
After Arsene Wenger admitted that he didn't know if Arsenal had a captain for the second half of Sunday's draw with City on Sunday, the home supporters will be thrilled to know that today's skipper is the Tony Adams-like Theo Walcott.
Caroll will presumably be pretty pleased
Andy Carroll will be licking his lips at the prospect of roughing up Arsenal's third-choice keeper Emiliano Martinez, though the Argentine can't be too much more fallible than the often hapless David Ospina.
Martinez coming in is one of three Arsenal changes from the side that drew with Manchester City on Sunday, with Mohamed Elneny and Gabriel replacing Francis Coquelin and injured captain Laurent Koscileny. The hosts also welcome the now fit Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the bench.
West Ham are grateful for the return of Michail Antonio after injury, while Diafro Sakho is fit enough to be a substitute after last playing in November.
In total, Slaven Bilic makes three changes from the team that lost to Hull on Saturday, with Robert Snodgrass and Sofiane Feghouli dropping to the bench and the injured Aaron Creswell missing out entirely. Sam Byram and Mark Noble replace Feghouli and Cresswell in the starting XI, while Antonio takes Snodgrass's place.
Here are the teams...Martinez in goal for Arsenal
Arsenal:Martinez, Bellerin, Gabriel, Mustafi, Monreal; Xhaka, Elneny; Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck
Subs: Macey, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Giroud
West Ham: Randolph, Byram, Collins, Fonte, Masuaku, Kouyate, Noble, Antonio, Lanzini, Ayew, Carroll
Subs: Adrian, Nordtveit, Fernandes, Feghouli, Snodgrass, Sakho, Calleri
Evening all, we'll have the starting XIs in the next couple of minutes.
What is it?
Where is it?
At the Emirates Stadium. West Ham incidentally were the first opposition team to win at the Emirates, back in April 2007. They were also the last opponents to beat Arsenal at Highbury.
When is it?
Kick-off is 19.45 on Wednesday April 5.
What TV channel is it on?
It's not on TV or radio, but you can follow it right here with our live blog.
What is the team news?
Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are expected to return for Arsenal after missing Sunday's draw against Manchester City with calf and hamstring problems respectively.
Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Lucas Perez (thigh), and Petr Cech (calf) are all out injured, while Santo Cazorla (achilles) will not play again this season.
Squad from: Ospina, Gabriel, Holding, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Monreal, Bellerin, Debuchy, Jenkinson, Elneny, Xhaka, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Walcott, Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez, Welbeck, Giroud
West Ham will welcome back Michail Antonio from a hamstring injury for the match.
Antonio will play some role, although manager Slaven Bilic refused to indicate whether he is ready to start.
Aaron Cresswell will miss the next two games with a thigh injury but Diafra Sakho could be on the bench for the first time since suffering a back injury in November.
Squad from: Adrian, Randolph, Byram, Fonte, Collins, Sakho, Masuaku, Arbeloa, Kouyate, Noble, Fernandes, Nordtveit, Snodgrass, Feghouli, Lanzini, Carroll, Fletcher, Calleri, Antonio.
What are they saying?
Arsene Wenger on facing Arsenal's bete noire Andy Caroll:
“The best way to keep him quiet is to play in their half. Apart from that, Carroll’s strengths are that he protects the ball well, he’s good in the air, he’s very forceful with his commitment as well, so we will need to be good to stop the crosses.
“Once a cross comes into the box, he’s always very dangerous against anyone.”
Bilic on the threat Arsenal pose:
"Arsenal have their problems, but they are still a team with a lot of pace, a team you can't afford to lose the ball against in your own half because the transition and pace they have up front is unbelievable.
"They attack with numbers which makes them more likely to create something, but when they lose the ball they are very vulnerable because they leave a big space behind which you can use."
What are latest odds?
Arsenal - 2/5
West Ham - 7/1
Draw - 4/1
What's our prediction?
Arsenal to edge a nervy encounter 2-1.
What do you think?