As a trio of striking options to take you through the business end of the season, it still beggars belief that Arsène Wenger – a man who 10 years ago had Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Sylvain Wiltord and Kanu to fire Arsenal to the title – could imagine he could make do with a toiling Olivier Giroud, a rookie Yaya Sanogo and the enduring curiosity that is the last vestiges of Nicklas Bendtner's career with the club.

There are foibles aplenty in the Arsenal attack, as has been painfully exposed as Wenger's team have slipped wearily down the table since leading the Premier League in mid-January. But at a critical moment in their season, with no more slips allowed in the chase for a Champions League finish, Giroud and Lukas Podolski found a boldness, and a clinical edge.

This was arguably the game Arsenal dreaded most, looking at what remains on the league calendar. Coming only three days after a two-hour slog at Wembley, and with the squad overstretched by injuries and fatigue, Wenger leaned on experience. He reckoned it was the oldest squad he had ever selected.

In fact, Wenger actually chose a marginally more wizened team in his very first year at Arsenal (including players such as John Lukic, Andy Linighan, Ian Wright and his current sidekick, Steve Bould, in a match at Nottingham Forest) he could be forgiven for not remembering that far back.

If it was out of character, the situation demanded it. West Ham United's fans teased Arsenal with a slightly cruder variation of "top of the league and you mucked it up", before the home side's players found and turned the knife. When Antonio Nocerino and Matthew Jarvis showed a first-half appetite to tear into Arsenal, Wenger's men were flummoxed, and fell behind.

But just as they had at Wembley, Arsenal summoned something from the depths of their experience. Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta provided the platform, probing intelligently. Then it was up to Podolski and Giroud to put a low period behind them and remember how to do what they do best.

Podolski's hammer of a left foot produced a swift response to the unease of going a goal behind. Then Giroud put an excruciating miss behind him to demonstrate the sweetest touch as he cushioned Thomas Vermaelen's lofted pass to thump Arsenal into the lead. Podolski gave his second such welly that West Ham's goalkeeper Adrián ought to have been relieved he was not in the line of fire.

Relying on these two forwards, who were bought two summers ago to replace Robin van Persie, has not always been straightforward. Giroud needed a spell of adaptation last season, yet once he found his assurance this time round there was the delicate problem of some nocturnal shenanigans which Wenger suggested knocked him sideways.

Podolski appears to drive Wenger up the wall, a conundrum that is not easily solved as the German's efforts outside the box frustrate even though his efforts inside can be deadly. He is praised as the best finisher at the club, yet the manager does not think he is physical enough to play centrally.

Interestingly, when Wenger discussed that after the West Ham game, it was only in terms of playing as a lone striker.

Seeing Podolski and Giroud deliver against West Ham last night it begged the question as to why Wenger seems so reluctant to play them closer together, with the opportunity to form a closer on-pitch rapport.

In desperation the Frenchman put Sanogo and Giroud together in an old-fashioned 4-4-2 at Wembley and – albeit against a tiring Wigan – there was instantly more threat.

Giroud and Podolski in tandem could potentially be more of a handful for an opposing defence than Giroud, toiling alone, waiting for support to arrive. "I am tempted," smiled Wenger coyly, before going on to explain why he does not seem to be hugely drawn to the idea.

Theo Walcott's damaged cruciate has been catastrophic for Arsenal – especially with Aaron Ramsey's troublesome thigh meaning that two of Wenger's best weapons have been kept out of the team for so long simultaneously.

But with Ramsey back, and showing his worth with a deft headed assist at the Emirates last night – and with Mesut Özil expected to be fit by the weekend – some more creative bursts bring a welcome boost.

Arsenal's attack is sharpening up just in time to keep up the pressure on Everton. The FA Cup, and a Champions League finish, are targets that Wenger's players believe they can aim for with improved confidence.