PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG answered Mikel Arteta’s call to arms as Arsenal finally remembered how to win again.
Arteta had urged his senior stars to step up and take responsibility after the club’s worst ever start to a top-flight season.
And captain Aubameyang climbed off his sickbed to see off West Brom’s reserves and get the Gunners’ up and running.
Starting his first game since contracting Covid two weeks ago, the £60million superstar scored three and set up Nicolas Pepe for another to put this Carabao Cup tie safely to bed.
Bukayo Saka and Alex Lacazette were also on target as Arsenal racked up their biggest win since December 2017.
And how Arteta needed this result after back to back Premier League defeats by Brentford and Chelsea had left him feeling the heat like never before.
Of course the Spaniard is not out of the woods yet and Saturday’s trip to Champions Manchester City will certainly provide him with a much sterner test than Albion’s kids could manage last night.
But you can only beat what is put in front of you and Arsenal are in no position to turn up their noses at any sort of victory right now. It was the first time that Arsenal had appeared at this early stage of the League Cup since they last failed to qualify for Europe 26 years ago.
And the fact that West Brom changed the entire team which had beaten Blackburn at weekend confirmed that boss Valerien Ismael wasn’t half as desperate for a result as Arteta.
The Carabao Cup was clearly way down on his list of priorities as he handed debuts to six players after David Button and Callum Robinson tested positive for Covid and Rayhaan Tulloch was injured in the pre-match warm-up.
Yet what Albion lacked in experience they more than made up for in enthusiasm as Martin Odegaard, Granit Xhaka and Nuno Tavares were all subjected to early bone rattlers.
And anxious Arsenal supporters would hardly have been reassured by the sight of teenager Caleb Taylor at the heart of the home defence.
Because it was Taylor’s father Martin who infamously broke the leg of Eduardo while playing for Birmingham against the Gunners back in 2008.
No wonder Arsenal were a bag of nerves as Aaron Ramsdale was forced into the first save of the evening by Tom Fellows and Taylor Gardner-Hickman shot narrowly wide from the corner.
Ramsdale was making his Gunners debut following last week’s £24million move from Sheffield United and quickly realised that he is going to have his work cut out at the Emirates.
But just when it was shaping up to be the ultimate humiliation for the visitors, they bought themselves some much-needed breathing room with their first goal of the season.
Midfield rookie Quevin Castro was caught in possession by Saka and though the England star’s 17th minute shot was saved by Alex Palmer, Aubameyang was lurking for a simple tap-in.
It was a similar story just before the break, when he stroked home the rebound after Pepe’s shot had come back off a post.
And Aubameyang returned the favour in first-half stoppage time when he hooked the ball across goal for Pepe to convert from close range.
Saka was next up to make his mark, firing home after a beautiful backheel from Odegaard in his first appearance since completing his £30million permanent move from Real Madrid.
But Aubameyang was not finished yet, cutting inside to complete his hat-trick with a beauty into the top corner before Lacazette came off the bench to complete the rout.
Odegaard and Pepe also struck the woodwork as Arsenal’s superstars took full advantage of their opponents’ naivety to run riot.
Yet Ismael won’t be too downhearted by this result as he focuses all his efforts on securing an immediate return to the Premier League.
It was West Brom’s 3-1 defeat at the Emirates in May which confirmed their relegation and led to the departure of manager Sam Allardyce and half of the squad.
But now their supporters have a new spring in their step after watching their team challenge Fulham at the top of the Championship.
And they certainly won’t be losing any sleep over this one as they responded to the taunts of visiting fans by demanding: “How s*** must you be, we’re playing our kids.”
It was hard to argue with their logic.