Arsene Wenger took a risk by picking Arsenal’s old guard against West Ham United but it paid off with a 3-1 win as his weary side regained fourth place in the Premier League.
The Frenchman fielded a team with an average age of 29 at the Emirates, with Olivier Giroud their youngest outfield player at 27, as he banked on his golden oldies to get a result.
I said before the game it was the oldest team that I have ever played at Arsenal since I've been here
Goals from Lukas Podolski either side of a sublime Olivier Giroud finish secured the win for Arsenal, who fell behind to a Matt Jarvis header five minutes before halftime.
Wenger, renowned for developing young players, opted for a wealth of experience to overcome stubborn West Ham and wrestle back fourth place, and the last Champions League qualification spot, from Everton who are a point behind with a game in hand.
“It was a gamble,” Wenger told a news conference. “I said before the game it was the oldest team that I have ever played at Arsenal since I’ve been here.”
In fact he fielded an Arsenal team with an average age of 30 against Leeds United in 2003 but his point was valid.
“I trusted the experience of the players,” said Wenger. “Tonight it was an unusual around 30 (years of age) team and that experience helps when your backs are against the wall.”
Arsenal reached the FA Cup final on Saturday on penalties against second-tier holders Wigan Athletic but, without a win in four league games and with the semi-final having taken its toll, Wenger decided older heads were needed against West Ham.