At some stage this wave is going to break. But right now Arsène Wenger and his players are riding such a thrilling crest even Nicklas Bendtner is getting in on the act. A man who dallies with caricature and hoped to leave the club last summer suddenly finds himself involved, and scoring goals, for the team enjoying the ride at the top of the league.

It was quite a tale of the unexpected as Bendtner broke Hull with his first league goal in Arsenal colours for three years. But apart from that, much of the evening was predictable enough as the home team coasted to another three points, outpassed their opponents in a manner Steve Bruce described as "breathtaking" and notched up another blank in the goals against column. These are good habits, and the major plus for Wenger was that they were sustained despite five changes to the lineup which played over the weekend.

The Arsenal manager had hinted that a tinker or two was necessary to deal with the demands of a quartet of challenging fixtures, but it still came as a surprise to see Bendtner selected for his first waltz in a Premier League starting XI for Arsenal since March 2011, in place of Olivier Giroud.

His most recent chance, as he ambled ineffectually through a Capital One Cup defeat to Chelsea, had hardly advertised his wares. And since then, Wenger had wondered aloud whether Bendtner's head was focused on the here and now at the Emirates Stadium, or a future elsewhere.

As it turned out, his head was in exactly the right place to thump Arsenal into the lead before Hull even had the chance to adjust to the floodlights. It took a mere minute and a half for the Dane to make a mockery of the pre-match jokes. Tomas Rosicky's deft touch confused the visiting defence and in an instant Carl Jenkinson was freed to loft a pinpoint cross for Bendtner. He towered over his marker to steer a firm header past Allan McGregor.

"It was Sod's Law, he was always going to do that today," groaned Bruce, who has twice worked with Bendtner and had toyed with the idea of taking him to Hull last summer only to be put off by his wages. "I hope that sooner or later he knuckles down and really makes a go of his career. He reminded us all he's a really good player. The mentality is always what everyone questions. He's got the lot if he wants it. But there's always a but …"

Wenger has pondered those buts intensely and accepted this selection was a gamble. "His last performance was not convincing against Chelsea," the Arsenal manager noted. "He worked hard and deserved the chance. We all know that when he has his mind on the game he has the qualities."

Hull never recovered. Bruce felt his team were leggy after the efforts they put into that uplifting win over Liverpool, and regretted that he did not have the luxury of rotating. Arsenal seized control and began to attack in swarms. Such was their dominance in the opening 20 minutes, Bruce feared the worst, and then praised his team for hanging in there to avoid an embarrassment.

Aaron Ramsey was at the heart of Arsenal's best work, aided by the fluent movement of Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla. With only a slender scoreline to show for a dominant first half, Arsenal stepped it up after the break and struck another quick blow. Nacho Monreal kept the ball in play on the left flank but Hull's players paused as if half-expecting a throw. Ramsey seized the initiative and his wonderfully crafted pass arced into Özil's stride. The German guided the ball into the net with a typically sweet touch.

Hull mustered little in response – the most worrying moment for Wenger came when Yannick Sagbo collided with Wojciech Szczesny – and the league leaders were able to canter on. With this job done, the challenge of staying aboard the cresting wave is about to get a whole lot more interesting. Attention now turns to Everton, Napoli and Manchester City in the space of seven meaningful days.

"For us it is a very, very heavy schedule," said Wenger, who is slightly narked by the television scheduling that sees his team come back from Naples in the early hours of Thursday and head to the Etihad for a Saturday lunchtime kick-off. Arsenal are as rested, and as ready, as can be.