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BREAKING: Bukayo Saka fires back at West Ham as Arsenal find secret to Premier League success

If the London Stadium is where Arsenal’s title hopes died last season, then this time around it is where they were reborn.

The Gunners had done superbly to get themselves back into the Premier League title race with a win over Liverpool last week. Had they slipped up against a side they hadn’t beaten in three matches, though, it would all have been for nothing.

They knew this and addressed it emphatically.

The funny thing is, though, this wasn’t even a vintage Arsenal performance. They were still missing several key players with Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchekno, Emile Smith Rowe, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Thomas Partey all ruled out in the build up.

They also still looked like a team who could do with a 25-goal-a-season striker, particularly as Leandro Trossard and Martin Odegaard passed up early opportunities.

Two things were different, though. The first, and perhaps most obvious, was that they were able to get their noses in front. Set-pieces have been crucial for Arsenal all season and as William Saliba headed home Declan Rice’s corner on the half hour mark, the Gunners were finally able to achieve the all-important game state that Mikel Arteta has been craving in his press conferences.

More important even than that though, was the energy and hunger with which they were able to follow the opener up. Prior to their winter break Arsenal had looked a team both physically and mentally exhausted by a December schedule in which they had played eight matches in 29 days.

Since the warm weather training camp in Dubai, the Gunners have looked vitalised enough to put teams to the sword in a way that simply wasn’t possible prior.

Few players symbolise this shift more than Bukayo Saka. Castigated for his profligacy in front of goal around the festive period, the England international now has four in his last three matches.

His first strike would have meant that the most to him. Having missed a penalty that arguably swung the momentum of the title race in Manchester City’s favour last season at this very ground, Saka stepped up to slot home a spot kick that could have the opposite effect this time around.

In doing so he became the youngest Arsenal player to hit 50 goals in the Premier League era, but even as Gabriel and Trossard’s goals gave his side an unassailable lead by half time, Saka had no interest in declaring there.

“We smelled blood” he told reporters after the game. This hunger saw him continue to relentlessly run at a West Ham defence that had long since checked out of the game along with half of the crowd at the London Stadium.

Saka was rewarded with a second goal of the game before Declan Rice made it six two minutes later, but even then the 22-year-old wanted more.

As the ball bounced slowly towards the touchline Saka raced to keep it in play and sustain the Arsenal attack with the intensity of a man who still has so many of his lofty ambitions to achieve.

This is something he shares with his manager Mikel Arteta who greeted the action with rapturous applause.

“What I smell is a team that wants to be better and better,” the Spaniard said in his post-match press conference. “The way they trained this week they are totally focused after Liverpool saying now it’s a big test and now we have to go to another level to beat West Ham. We’ve done that today.”

If Arsenal are to topple Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, then winning cannot simply be a desire. It has to become an obsession.

The intensity and hunger with which they, and Saka in particular, have approached their matches since the winter break give them as good a chance of winning this season’s Premier League as anyone.