Theo Walcott’s first-half hat-trick and a stunning strike from Jack Wilshere inspired Arsenal to a comprehensive 4-1 win over West Brom, ensuring a third-placed finish in the Premier League.
Arsene Wenger’s men headed into Sunday’s season-ending contest needing a draw to be certain of holding off Manchester United and booking a direct route to the UEFA Champions League group stages.
But any notion that Arsenal would s
ettle for anything less than maximum points was eradicated by a three-goal blitz in the first 17 minutes at the Emirates Stadium.
Walcott, one of three changes to the hosts’ starting XI, opened the scoring with a sweetly struck shot across Boaz Myhill, before the England international finished a well-worked move to make it 2-0.
The pick of the bunch came from Wilshere, though, as he celebrated his 100th Premier League appearance with a sensational half-volley that left Myhill a mere bystander.
Worse was to come before the break for West Brom as Walcott, playing in his favoured striker position, tapped in his third and Arsenal’s fourth.
West Brom, brilliant in Monday’s 3-0 win over Chelsea, grabbed a second-half consolation through Gareth McAuley – but it did little to derail Arsenal, who will now prepare for next week’s FA Cup final against Aston Villa.
Arsenal’s rout started in the fourth minute as Walcott broke the deadlock in fine fashion.
The England international collected Santi Cazorla’s pass on the right of the area before smashing an unstoppable drive that clipped the crossbar on the way in.
Walcott was celebrating again in the 14th minute. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil combined well and the ball fell kindly for Walcott, who took a neat touch before poking past Myhill.
The best was to come three minutes later for Arsenal, though.
West Brom only partially cleared a corner and Wilshere hit a spectacular first-time strike from 20 yards that cannoned into the top right-hand corner.
Arsenal continued to pepper the West Brom goal and a deserved fourth arrived in the 38th minute.
This time superb play from Wilshere and Cazorla led to the latter sliding a pass across the six-yard box that Walcott tapped in at the back post.
Myhill did well to palm away a bending Cazorla effort and keep the score down after the break, while West Brom substitute Victor Anichebe saw a rare shot tipped wide by David Ospina.
And from the resulting corner McAuley headed home Chris Brunt’s corner with Ospina stranded.
Wenger threw on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – back after two months out with a groin injury – and Aaron Ramsey in the closing stages, with the latter left exasperated after twice being denied by the woodwork.
Craig Gardner also hit the crossbar for West Brom late on, but Arsenal had done more than enough to travel to Wembley in high spirits.
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