brace from Van Persie and a Walcott strike secure victory for Arsenal against West Ham.

The Dutchman expertly rifled home Theo Walcott’s pass before Walcott crashed home from close range.

Carlton Cole shot straight at Wojciech Szczesny and glanced a header wide in rare attacks for the disjointed hosts.

Van Persie then scored from the spot after Wayne Bridge fouled Walcott to cap a dominant Gunners display.

The comprehensive defeat is expected to be signal the end of Grant’s tenure as Hammers boss, with former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill strongly rumoured to replace the Israeli this weekend.

Arsenal took full advantage of an uncertain display from an injury-hit Hammers side, playing in an almost funereal atmosphere at a normally buoyant stadium after a day’s events that increasingly depicted Grant as a dead man walking; the club’s board have refused to comment on their manager’s future amid fevered speculation that O’Neill is set to take the helm as soon as this evening.

The Gunners gave a fluent and assured display as they moved within one point of Manchester United and stayed three behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, although Arsene Wenger’s side rarely needed to be at their best against such troubled opponents.

The visitors had endured a torrid week of their own, drawing at home to Leeds in the FA Cup and losing to Ipswich in the Carling Cup, but they took the lead with the first meaningful attack of the game.

Hammers debutant Bridge allowed Theo Walcott space on the right to send in a pass that was expertly dummied by Nasri, allowing Van Persie to swivel and smash right-footed past Robert Green.

Walcott should have doubled the Gunners’ lead after wriggling free of James Tomkins on the break but the winger hit a weak shot straight at Green.

The depleted Hammers, who were without the injured Scott Parker and then lost Mark Noble early in the game, could be mildly encouragement by a nervy start in the Gunners’ inexperienced backline, with a mistake from Johan Djourou almost leading to a Hammers equaliser.

The centre-back’s sloppy backpass let Cole through on goal but Wojciech Szczesny parried superbly and Zavon Hines blazed a follow-up chance over the bar.

It looked a costly miss because at other end, it seemed the fluent Gunners could score at will. Samir Nasri should have done better with a effort that went straight at Green and Van Persie then hammered a shot against the post from 12 yards.

But the dominant visitors did not have to wait much longer for their second goal as Van Persie, played onside by Bridge, burst to the byline and pulled the ball back to Walcott to blast into the roof of the net from close range.

The Hammers had an instant chance to reply but Cole glanced a header off target after being set up by an excellent Freddie Sears cross.

Relaxed Arsenal continued to control the game after the break and peppered the Hammers goal, although the hosts almost grabbed a fortuitous lifeline when Sears’ miss-hit cross was tipped just wide by Szczesny.

The last flickers of a Hammers challenge, and perhaps of Grant’s reign at the club, were extinguished when the hapless Bridge hacked down Walcott in the box and Van Persie stepped up to fire confidently into the bottom corner.

West Ham had the excellent Green to thank for keeping the score respectable, the keeper parrying a late Jack Wilshere effort just wide at a rapidly emptying stadium.

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