Arsenal claimed a seventh straight win in all competitions to take another step towards qualification for the Champions League knock-out stages for a 14th straight season after thrashing Ludogorets Razgrad at The Emirates Stadium. Arsene Wenger's side remain top of Group A ahead of Paris Saint-Germain after their joint-second biggest European win, a success inspired by a breathtaking first half strike from Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil's first career hat-trick in the second period.
The Chile international ended a run of three games without a goal with a sublime finish after 13 minutes, chipping Vladislav Stoyanov to break the deadlock. Ludogorets were denied on four occasions by David Ospina and were punished by some deadly Gunners finishing either side of half time.
Theo Walcott doubled the advantage three minutes before half time, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's razor-like reactions helped put the game beyond doubt less than a minute into the second period. The cherry was put on an emphatic victory which opens up a six-point buffer over group rivals and FC Basel and Ludogorets, with a 31-minute treble from Ozil - to cap the club's biggest win in continental competition for nine years.
Playing second fiddle to events at the Nou Camp where Premier League adversaries Manchester City were facing Barcelona, Arsenal knew they could very likely put one foot in the knock-out phase of Europe's premier club competition without registering a tremor on the footballing richter scale. In fact, given how the north Londoners have previously struggled at home in recent campaigns against vastly inferior opposition, the Gunners were surely relishing the chance to fly under the radar.
But in the form of Ludogorets, there laid the most embarrassing of all potential banana-skins. Hailing from the Bulgarian city of Razgrad whose population is just 32,500, the five-time domestic champions had never won a Champions League away match despite running Liverpool close on their only other trip to English shores two years ago. Forward Jonathan Cafu, with seven goals this season, headlined a team drawn predominately from Brazil and Bulgaria.
At kick-off it was clear that the lack of glamour surrounding the game had not been lost on the home faithful, many of whom rejected the opportunity to pay upwards of £56 for the privilege of watching a contest barely deserving of the title as a top flight European fixture. But inside just 13 minutes the game was illuminated by a goal fitting of any stage.
Walcott had already scuppered the chance to give the hosts the lead, but from the next attack Sanchez made no such mistake. The Chilean escaped in behind the Bulgarians for the umpteenth time in the opening exchanges and after cutting inside Cosmin Moţi produced a delicate chip to beat a helpless Vladislav Stoyanov.
Georgi Dermendzhiev were not overawed however and twice Ospina - again favoured over Petr Cech in Europe - came to the rescue. First, as Wooderson smashed goalwards from a tight angle, forcing the Colombian to beat the ball clear, before Cafu was denied he looked to round the Arsenal stopper after Ludgorets continued to open up the 2006 finalists.
Wenger's side refused to heed the warnings and though Virgil Misidjan was prevented a clear route to goal by Ospina's athleticism, Ludogorets almost opened up Arsenal to deadly effect minutes later. Misidjan broke through again and despite another intervention from Ospina he teed up Wanderson who smashed wide with the goal gaping.
It was a succession of chances that the visitors would live to regret passing up as two goals in the space of four minutes either side of half time eased any fears of an upset. Prior to the break, Walcott collected Ozil's cutback and lashed home his eighth goal of the campaign from 25 yards, before Oxlade-Chamberlain took his season tally to three after reacting first to Natanael's wayward clearance to steer home less than a minute after the restart.
As Ludogorets' first half sacrifices started to catch up with them, Arsenal and namely Ozil pilled on the pain with a quick-fire hat-trick. Ozil made it four after collecting Cazorla's perfectly weighted pass before substitute Lucas Perez turned provider for the German who side-footed home on the run.
Ozil still had time for a picture-book finale as he volleyed home from another Perez cross, with the remarkable late salvo sending Arsenal's fans home wondering if their latest stylish victory in Europe can be followed by a foray into the latter stages.