News broke early that Mesut Ozil would miss the trip to the Hawthorns. Arsenal Wenger explained that he had picked up a minor hamstring niggle in training yesterday. The manager also opted for a very flexible potential front three of Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, and Alexis. I doubt the players would have seen Thierry Henry’s view ahead of the match which was damning of the current squad.
“Is the Arsenal shirt too heavy for you? Stop hiding behind Arsene Wenger and be more than mediocre.”
The opening phases of play suggested that the Baggies would be more than content to sit deep and let us have all the sideways possession we wanted in front of them. They soon showed their menace on the break as left-back Nyom went on a powerful marauding run down the left before cutting a dangerous ball across the face of the goal.
Theo Walcott was denied at point-blank range by Foster following a Nacho Monreal cross as we produced our first moment of menace. When Alexis gave the ball away, not for the first time, in the twelfth minute McClean’s drive was parried away for a corner. When the set piece was delivered Dawson out-muscled Laurent Koscielny and out-jumped a hesitant Cech to head home. Who expected West Brom to be a threat from set pieces?
West Brom 1-0 Arsenal
The advantage didn’t last long. Granit Xhaka picked out a surprisingly unmarked Alexis on the left hand side of the box. The Chilean did what he does best, wriggling inside before lifting the ball high into the net.
West Brom 1-1 Arsenal
Alexis was becoming the focal point of the match and McAuley avoided censure for pulling him back in the next attack. Livermore went one better, pulling his shirt then tripping him up without even seeing a free-kick awarded. Rondon was next to join in the clearly rotational fouling of the Gunners main man. Referee Swarbrick was showing no sign of getting a grip of the situation.
The football was proving less of a distraction than the two competing aircraft carrying anti and pro-Wenger sentiments. They were both absurd and embarrassing.
A prolonged spell of painfully slow possession ended on the half hour mark when Rondon got on the end of a direct through ball and dragged his effort just wide of Cech’s far post. That sparked the Arsenal into life and Foster had to go full length to his left to deny Aaron Ramsey. Theo Walcott was unable to convert the parry. West Brom responded with a Fletcher effort that drew a fine save by Cech.
The goalkeeper hobbled off a couple of minutes later after appearing to pick up a muscle problem. David Ospina entered the fray from the bench. A brutal late ‘challenge’ on Alexis by McClean resulted in just a yellow card. Would that be sufficient to deter the next Baggies thug from assaulting the Gunners most influential player in the first-half?
It was the visitors who earned the first corner of the second-half when, for the first time, Walcott found enough space to play a dangerous ball across the face of the goal. Back came the Baggies and Rondon again out-muscled the skipper to glance a header just wide of the far post.
Just eight minutes after the break Robson-Kanu came on for Rondon who looked disappointed to say the least. Little more than a minute later he put the hosts ahead again when Ospina failed to deal with a one on one with McClean and the substitute poked the ball through the legs of McClean, by now in an offside position having shoved Bellerin over his prone goalkeeper, and into the net. After a consultation with his assistant Swarbrick awarded the goal. To be fair I would have wanted it given at the other end.
West Brom 2-1 Arsenal
With twenty-five minutes to go the anonymous Walcott made way for Olivier Giroud. From the following corner Danny Welbeck thumped a header against the crossbar. Was that to be a sign of things to come? We survived what would have been a killer third goal for the Baggies when Ospina denied Robson-Kanu and Chadli’s follow-up was kicked off the line by Mustafi.
The surprising lack of an increase in tempo from the Arsenal spoke volumes. Thierry’s plea to be ‘more than mediocre’ went unheeded. The humiliation was complete when Dawson repeated his first-half header from a corner. Arsenal’s players, almost to a man, raised their hands whilst looking to blame each other. It was a pathetic surrender to a bang average side. “You’re getting sacked in the morning” taunted the Baggies support.
West Brom 3-1 Arsenal
The substitution of Alex Iwobi for a limping Alexis wasn’t appreciated by the travelling Gooners. Unaware that the Chilean was still suffering they roared out “You don’t know what you’re doing”. With every passing poor performance the pressure on Arsene Wenger is understandably building. Four defeats in five Premier League matches, with two of them against Watford and West Brom is not a blip. It’s indicative of a greater malaise around the club right now.
The ole’s rang out as the home side strung together a succession of passes against dispirited, gutless opponents in the closing stages. Typing as the match is in progress even I cannot find any sense of perspective watching this. It is painful. Top four? Not like this we won’t.
Something has to change.