France striker Alexandre Lacazette thursday marked his first Arsenal start for two months with two goals as they took control of their Europa League quarter-final by demolishing CSKA Moscow in the first leg.
The Gunners scored four first-half goals, Aaron Ramsey’s side-foot finish setting them on their way.
Aleksandr Golovin levelled with a sublime free-kick before Lacazette, who has recovered from a knee injury, made it 2-1 with a penalty after Mesut Ozil was fouled by Georgi Schennikov.
Ramsey produced a brilliant third with an instinctive volleyed flick, with Lacazette adding a fourth after being picked out by the outstanding Ozil.
Arsenal were unable to add to their tally in the second half but they will head to Russia’s capital for the second leg next Thursday with a commanding lead.
Arsenal, who have won five successive games in all competitions, should have triumphed by a more handsome margin in what was a cracking match.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan missed a great chance early in the second half, while Ramsey fired over the bar after keeper Igor Akinfeev had spilled the ball into his path.
Ramsey’s hopes of a hat-trick disappeared when his curling 77th-minute shot hit the post.
Nevertheless, Arsene Wenger’s side will be confident of reaching the semi-finals of a competition that provides a team sixth in the Premier League – 13 points off fourth place with seven games left – with their most realistic chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Arsenal are certainly warming to the Europa League, collecting their eighth win from 11 games in the competition, scoring 27 times and conceding eight.
Assuming there is no second-leg upset in Russia, they still need to negotiate a two-legged semi-final to reach the final in Lyon on 16 May.
Yet the way they dismantled CSKA, who started their European campaign in the Champions League, was impressive although victory came at a cost.
Wenger confirmed after the game that keeper David Ospina, who suffered an ankle injury on the eve of the game, will be out for between two and three weeks while Mkhitaryan, who was substituted, will miss Sunday’s game against Southampton with a damaged knee.