Arsenal returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion with a 5-0 drubbing of toothless London rivals Crystal Palace to climb one place to third in the Premier League.
Gabriel’s headed goal from a corner and a Dean Henderson own goal – also largely the work of Gabriel – put Mikel Arteta’s side in control in the first half, and with Palace looking lacklustre, Leandro Trossard increased the lead just short of the hour as he finished off a sweeping move.
Substitute Gabriel Martinelli confirmed Arsenal’s superiority and added some gloss to the scoreline with two almost identical finishes in stoppage time.
Palace, who are 14th, had a few chances of their own and almost equalised when Jefferson Lerma’s swerving shot was well-saved by David Raya shortly before Arsenal made it 2-0.
But the way they subsided will raise more questions about the future of veteran manager Roy Hodgson.
Such was Arsenal’s comfort that Arteta was able to make four substitutions late on with Declan Rice, Kai Havertz, Trossard and Gabriel all being given a breather.
Arsenal’s victory ended a run of three successive defeats in all competitions and put them level on 43 points with Aston Villa and champions Manchester City. Arsenal’s goal difference is superior to Villa’s but worse than City’s.
“Today we were much more efficient in the opponents’ box particularly than the last few games,” Arteta said.
“Last few games we had moments playing better than today but this is about scoring goals. This is the second part of the season we want to tackle it with aggression and motivation.”
The past few weeks have been dispiriting for Arsenal who topped the Premier League before Christmas but whose title challenge stalled with a run of one win in five league games.
But Palace’s problems appear even greater with a banner being unfurled near the end that read: “Wasted Potential. On and off the pitch weak decisions are taking us backwards.”
They have won only once in 10 league games and went out of the FA Cup at Everton in midweek, when Hodgson was taunted by his own fans for some of his substitutions.
Arsenal spent their mini winter break enjoying some warm weather training in Dubai and escaping the freezing conditions back home appears to have revived them.
They needed only 11 minutes to taker the lead as Rice’s corner was met by defender Gabriel who headed in from close range. Another corner led to Arsenal’s second in the 37th minute as Gabriel again got clear of his marker all too easily and his header went in off Palace keeper Dean Henderson who was later credited with an own goal.
Trossard effectively killed Palace off in the 59th minute when Arsenal broke forward at pace and he applied a clinical finish from Gabriel Jesus’s square pass.
With Palace in disarray, Martinelli, who had gone six games without a goal, got in on the act with two silky finishes to give Arsenal’s goal difference a healthy boost and equal their best margin of victory in a Premier League derby.