Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says club great Arsene Wenger “picked the right moment” to go back to Emirates Stadium as he saw them underline their title credentials.
Arteta’s young team produced a second-half fightback to beat West Ham and move seven points clear at the top of the Premier League, which was resuming after the World Cup.
Wenger, who was the last Arsenal manager to win the title, made his first return since stepping down in 2018.
“His presence is something that has to be very, very attached to this football club so thanks [to him] for doing that because it means a lot for everybody at the club,” said Arteta.
“Hopefully he is willing to spend more time with us and be around us because he is such an influence.”
West Ham took the lead against the run of play when Jarrod Bowen was judged to have been clipped in the box by William Saliba, allowing Said Benrahma to smash a confident penalty down the middle.
There was a mood of frustration among the home fans until Bukayo Saka converted from close range after collecting Martin Odegaard’s mis-hit shot.
The equalizer gave added impetus to the Gunners and another home goal looked increasingly likely.
Five minutes later, it duly arrived. Gabriel Martinelli put the hosts ahead, catching out West Ham’s former Gunners keeper Lukasz Fabianski by tucking inside the near post from a tight angle when he seemed more likely to cross.
The points were sealed when Eddie Nketiah – starting in place of the injured Gabriel Jesus – spun sharply in the box before firing into the opposite bottom corner.
Arsenal extended their lead at the top over Newcastle, who moved second by beating Leicester earlier on Monday.
Reigning champions Manchester City – who go to Leeds United on Wednesday – are now eight points behind the Gunners
West Ham are 16th and just a point above the relegation zone after their fourth league defeat in a row.