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Lessons Learned From Arsenal’s Victory Over West Brom

Giroud’s goal takes his tally to 22 for the season

If Everton had managed to get a superior result against Manchester City on Saturday, this game would have had a greater significance but as the events turned out, Arsenal had already secured a fourth-place finish before the ball was even kicked on a warm Sunday afternoon. Unlike Arsenal, West Brom had other fish to fry as they are currently flirting with relegation so getting a positive result in the match was quite important to them but in the end, all it took was an Olivier Giroud header to settle the score.

In the wake of Arsenal’s win over West Brom, Gooner Daily has decided to reflect on the game and share a couple of lessons that were learned…

Aaron Ramsey’s Absence Left a Void in the Team

This season, Aaron Ramsey has risen to prominence to become a very indispensable member of the club and after a blistering start to the campaign, he suffered a thigh injury that kept him out for the best part of four months. Since his return in the tail end of last month, Ramsey supplied an assist against West Ham, scored and created an assist against Hull and he was directly involved in Giroud’s match clincher against Newcastle.

Sky Sports reported that he was having a thigh problem, so Arsene Wenger opted to give him a rest. Mathieu Flamini deputized in Ramsey’s stead and as expected, he alongside Mikel Arteta hovered around the center of the park, even though there were moments when Flamini drifted forward to no devastating effect.

With Ramsey out injured, his impact was keenly felt.

We Probably Have Witnessed Sagna’s Last Game at the Emirates

Sayonara folks!

After amassing a whooping 279 appearances over a period of seven consistency-laden seasons, Arsenal fans may have witnessed Bacary Sagna at home for the last time, especially with the Daily Mail reporting that he is set to hold talks with Manchester City after the FA Cup final.

Sagna has been a devoted servant to the club for many years and his absence would leave a vacuum in Arsenal’s defense, but we can only hope that he would be replaced with a player of equal or even better quality. It has been an honor watching Sagna maraud the right flank all these years but I guess the saying is really true that all good things come to an end someday.

For those that don’t know, here are 30 reasons to love Bacary Sagna.

Giroud is a Dependable Striker, But he Needs Someone to Share that Burden With

Despite all the vitriol and abuse he has suffered from his fans this season, Giroud’s stats (via WhoScored) show that he has had a great season by his standards.

His historical data with his previous clubs also show that he does better in his second campaign with the clubs he has played for. When he plied his trade with Tours FC in the French Ligue 2, he scored 14 goals in his debut season for the club before scoring 24 goals in the next season. After securing a move to Montpellier, Giroud scored 14 goals for the French outfit before his 25 goals (21 goals in the Ligue 1) helped his team secure a maiden Championnat title against all odds.

He scored 17 goals in his first campaign with the Gunners but he was deemed not good enough, as filling the boots of a lethal forward like Robin van Persie is no mean feat. This season, Giroud’s surpassed his previous goalscoring tally with the club and despite scoring 22 goals, many fans still believe that the club needs to sign a new center forward.

If Arsenal wants to challenge for the Premier League next season, they need to get a striker that would share the goalscoring burden with Giroud.

A Fortress Called the Emirates Stadium

With 19 games played at the Emirates this season, Arsenal lost its first game against Aston Villa in August and went on to record 13 victories and five draws. While the Gunners dispatched “weaker” opposition with consummate ease at home, there would be some regret in the fact that when the Gunners faced off with the juggernauts of the Premier League, they failed to secure victories, earning creditable draws in the process.

Arsenal would seek to build on this next season and hopefully, the Gunners can produce better results against the big clubs next season.

Sayonara.

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West Brom 1 Arsenal 1: Gunners Share the Spoils in the Battle of Hawthorns

Wilshere scores his first league goal since November 2010

The Hawthorns (Premier League)

West Brom – Yacob 42′; Arsenal – Wilshere 63′

After predicting the right lineup in my West Brom preview post, I’d hoped for another class act performance from Arsene Wenger’s team that was rampant against Napoli but I was also mindful of the fact that West Brom was in a good run of form following wins against Sunderland and Manchester United.

The hosts began the game better and almost drew first blood when Stephane Sessegnon connected well with Saido Berahino and the winger moved with the ball before fashioning a chance for Liam Ridgewell. The fullback drilled a cross with Nicolas Anelka being its intended target but Per Mertesacker showed great anticipation to make a vital interception. Arsenal launched a counter attack with Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil connecting well but after receiving a pass from the German schemer, Olivier Giroud’s cross was very casual and that chance went begging.

Berahino was hitting the headlines for all the right reasons following his match winner at Old Trafford but he almost scored the game’s opener when his goal-bound shot took a wicked deflection off Mathieu Flamini’s foot which forced Wojciech Szczesny to dive low to make a superb save. Arsenal responded with a swift attack as Ozil threaded an inch-perfect pass to Kieran Gibbs but the fullback launched his shot into orbit when a pass to Giroud would have been a better option.

The Gunners kept probing with Giroud laying off a chance for Jack Wilshere but his shot was wide off the mark. Ramsey located the French marksman with a neat diagonal pass but Giroud fired a rather audacious shot from some distance which was easy pickings for Boaz Myhill in goal. Myhill was called into action again when a loose corner fell to Ramsey’s path and the Welshman wasted no time in letting one rip but the goalie was equal to the challenge.

With both teams heading towards the break on level terms, West Brom launched an attack that yielded a corner kick. Morgan Amalfitano lofted the resulting corner and Carl Jenkinson nodded the ball to safety but the ball found its way back to Amalfitano and the Frenchman swung in a delightful cross that was headed home by Claudio Yacob. That was the first time the Gunners were going behind this season.

The Baggies began the second half with Berahino steering clear of Jenkinson before drilling a cross that was miscontrolled by Anelka. Giroud fed Wilshere in an inviting position but his goal shyness was on show again as he blasted his shot to Row Z when it seemed easier to score. Attempts like those are bread and butter for Ramsey.

With Jenkinson bombing forward to support Ramsey on the right, his wing was exposed and Anelka was sent clean on goal with only Szczesny to beat. The striker bore down on goal, picked his spot, placed the ball but he missed by a lick of paint. Ramsey was struggling with a knock with clearly affected his movement and he was replaced by Tomas Rosicky.

The Czech maestro played a key role in Arsenal’s equalizer as he cushioned Giroud’s pass to Wilshere’s path, and the English midfielder lashed at the ball but his attempt went in after a slight deflection from Jonas Olsson.

WIlshere’s first league goal in almost 3 years

The goal brought relief to Arsene Wenger and the fans, and with 30 minutes or so to go, everyone connected with Arsenal wished that it was going to be one of those games were they might just grind out a result. We were mistaken.

There was a cause for concern when Jenkinson landed awkwardly on his shoulder after an aerial duel with Shane Long. Shortly afterwards, West Brom fullback, Jones, was given a chance to get a clear sight at Szczesny’s goal and he wasted no time in firing a shot that was parried by the big Pole in goal.

Arsenal had a glorious chance to score a second when Wilshere sent Giroud through and he tried to round the goalie but Myhill followed the French forward all the way and made himself big to block the Frenchman’s shot on goal. Wilshere almost had another chance to shoot the ball but it was blocked from a last-ditch Youssuf Mulumbu tackle.

Wenger removed the ineffectual Giroud for Nicklas Bendtner that made his first Premier League appearance since March 2011, but the Dane didn’t have any impact on the game. The last thing Arsenal could muster was a weak effort from Flamini and that was it as the impressive run of victories had come to an abrupt end.

Szczesny (7) was blameless for the goal he conceded but he made a couple of good saves as the game progressed.

Jenkinson (6) had a penchant for passing the ball back instead of attacking the West Brom rearguard from the right. His crossing was downright erratic as well.

Gibbs (7) made a couple of good runs forward but he could have done better from that Ozil pass.

Mertesacker (7) had a relatively untroubled evening, putting up another composed performance.

Koscielny (7) made some interceptions and did his job well at the back.

Flamini (7) was as industrious as ever, covering every blade of glass for his side.

Arteta (7) steadied the ship in the middle alongside Flamini.

Wilshere (6) had a bad game (despite scoring the equalizer) in my honest opinion, holding on the ball for too much and was on the end of some tackles he should’ve avoided if he just passed the ball to a teammate. He needs to simplify his game like Ramsey.

Ozil (6) failed to really assert himself in the game.

Ramsey (6) lost some of that goalscoring mojo, which could be attributed to the fact that he’s now back on the right wing, playing out of position, thanks to the return of Arteta.

Giroud (6) was toothless in attack and should’ve done better with the rare chance he had.

Rosicky (7) did well to come and supply an assist.

Bendtner (N/A)

The sooner Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott return from their injury layoffs, the better for everyone at Arsenal. When Arteta was out injured, Arsene Wenger brought out the best in Aaron Ramsey, as he was given the liberty to roam forward with the confidence that he had Flamini doing the dirty work behind him. With Arteta and Flamini doing basically the same job on the pitch, Wenger has decided to push Ramsey out of position, and as we witnessed, he failed to influence the game as he would have wished.

I can’t deny the fact that Arteta has become an indispensable player to the squad and Flamini offers that steel, brute force and protection in front of the back four, but Ramsey has been brilliant in central midfield since the tail end of last season, only for the manager to draft him to the right wing, a position where he became a lightning rod for abuse from the fans in seasons past.

With Walcott returning as the incumbent right winger, Wenger will be forced to make a decision with Ramsey, as he could be featuring in central midfield again at the expense of either Arteta or Flamini, or he could be sent to the bench, a decision that certainly won’t go down well with the fans.

As for Jack Wilshere, I really don’t understand why he tends to hold onto the ball far too much, thereby inviting the opposition to tackle him. I know that he’s widely regarded as “Arsenal’s poster boy” but he really needs to make his game simple and I hope his manager will have a chat with him on that.

However, Arsenal is still on top going into the international break and we can only hope that the Gunners won’t suffer any injuries while representing their various nations.

Sayonara.

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West Brom vs. Arsenal Preview: Time to Return to the Summit

Arsenal’s hero at the Hawthorns last season

The games are coming thick and fast as Arsenal’s majestic outing against Napoli is now a thing of the past. There were several lessons learned from the game as the Gunners combined a swift attacking first half display with a more matured and efficient second half outing. While the Gunners are currently on top of their tough Champions League group (*yawns*), they have business to attend to in the Premier League with a visit to the Hawthorns, a happy hunting ground.

In Arsenal’s last four visits to this ground, they have won three times and the last time the Gunners suffered defeat in the West Midlands was in the 2005/06 season, where former Gunner, Kanu Nwankwo, scored a goal in the 2-1 victory over Arsene Wenger’s side. However, the North London outfit is high on confidence, and they have recorded victories in twelve consecutive away games in all competitions including a penalty shoot-out win against West Brom in the League cup last week.

Currently, Arsenal has won eight away Premier League games on the trot, which is widely regarded as their best run of away victories ever, but with three more wins on the bounce, the Gunners will equal a long-standing record of 11 straight away victories currently held by Chelsea in 2008.

Despite the fact that history isn’t on West Brom’s side today, they host the Gunners in a good run of form, following two wins in three games, as their 3-0 victory over Sunderland cost Paolo di Canio his job while their shock 2-1 win over Manchester United in Old Trafford was their first win since the time dinosaurs walked on Earth.

The Gunners will have to be mindful of the threat Morgan Amaltifano poses, as the Olympique Marseille loanee has announced himself in the Premier League with that amazing solo effort against the defending champions at their turf. He also provided an assist for Saido Berahino, that scored the match winner and it’s also worth noting that Berahino leveled the contest for West Brom when they met the Gunners in the Capital One Cup. Strangely enough, it was Amalfitano’s penalty that sealed the Baggie’s fate.

To injuries, West Brom will be without some of their influential players as strikers, Shane Long, and former Gunner, Nicolas Anelka, face late fitness test before the game but they will definitely be without Scott Sinclair, that has been ruled out until after the international break courtesy of a hamstring injury. Zoltan Gera and Matej Vydra are the club’s long-term absentees.

Speaking of hamstrings injuries, Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna is the latest player to join the treatment table after the manager confirmed that he would be out for three weeks for twanging his hammy. Losing Sagna at this stage of the season will be a major blow, but Arsenal can count on Carl Jenkinson like 1, 2, 3… and he’ll be there. Arsenal’s injury list has some real depth with Sagna joining the likes of Abou Diaby (knee), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Knee), Lukas Podolski (Hamstring), Theo Walcott (Abdominal), Yaya Sanago (Back) and Santi Cazorla (ankle).

To team news, I would expect the same back line that started against Napoli to retain their places, with the exception of Jenkinson that is deputizing for Sagna. In midfield, the Mikel Arteta – Mathieu Flamini fulcrum was water-tight and I expect that partnership to continue, which would allow the fluid attacking midfielders switch places with consummate ease. These attacking slots will be occupied by everyone’s sweetheart, Mesut Ozil, the blazing-hot Welsh Dragon, Aaron Ramsey, and the poster boy with his smoking chronicles sorted out, Jack Wilshere. Olivier Giroud will lead the line.

I would expect both lineups to be like this,

West Bromwich Albion 4-5-1 football formation              Arsenal 4-3-2-1 football formation

With Liverpool grabbing all three points against Crystal Palace, the onus is on Arsenal to put up another great performance that will send them back to the summit of the Premier League.

Here’s to another exciting game of football.

Sayonara.

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West Brom 1 Arsenal 1 (3-4 pens.): Young Guns Win the Lottery of Penalties

Nacho Monreal kept a cool head to slot in the decisive penalty

The Hawthorns (Capital One Cup)

West Brom (Berahino 71′); Arsenal (Eisfeld 62′)

West Brom penalties (Reid scored, Rosenberg scored, Morrison scored, Dawson missed, Amalfitano missed); Arsenal penalties (Bendtner scored, Gnabry missed, Olsson scored, Akpom scored, Monreal scored)

Arsenal arrived at the Hawthorns on the back of an amazing winning streak of seven games in a row and as expected, Arsene Wenger was going to rest a considerable chunk of his first team squad, handing starts to some injury returnees and some of his young Guns.

In defense, Lukasz Fabianski and club captain, Thomas Vermaelen, made their first starts of the season alongside the ever-present Per Mertesacker while Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson provided wit down the flanks. In midfield, the manager handed a debut for Isaac Hayden, a center back by trade, and he played with seasoned professional, Mikel Arteta, while Thomas Eisfeld played as the creative hub. In attack, Ryo Miyaichi and Serge Gnabry supported the World’s Best Striker with his extremely new looks, Nicklas Bendtner.

West Brom almost drew first blood when captain of the night, Steven Reid, swung a dangerous cross that was sent into the danger area but Carl Jenkinson guided the ball to Fabianski who made a routine save. On the other end, Miyaichi made a darting run before lofting a cross that was missed by Bendtner but he clashed with the goal post, which definitely gave him a very nice dose of pain.

World Best Bendtner in his new looks

Fabianski was called into action again when Craig Dawson’s looping header was tipped over the bar by the Pole. Hayden exposed his naivety when he made a rash lounge on Youssouf Mulumbu and could count himself lucky to receive a yellow card because on another day, he would have received his marching orders. The last noteworthy highlight of the first half arrived when Reid curled a free kick that hit the cross bar before going over but the officials adjudged that Fabianski got a hand to it.

The home side continued to probe the Gunners back line and Berahino dinked a cross that was heading towards Scott Sinclair but Mertesacker was on hand to make a vital merteception. Mulumbu was free on the edge of the area and he fired another goal-bound shot that was saved by Fabianski.

Against the run of play, Gnabry moved forward before feeding Bendtner. The World Best’s striker noticed Eisfeld ahead of him and threaded an inch-perfect through ball for the German whose first touch was exquisite and second was even better, sending the goalie the wrong way to put Arsenal ahead.

Eisfeld picked his spot and placed his effort well

While the Gunners were basking in the euphoria of going ahead, West Brom equalized after 10 minutes courtesy of some lax defending. A corner swung into Arsenal’s danger area fell kindly to Shane Long that had all the time in the world to pick his spot and drop the ball into the six-yard with was headed home by Berahino.

Wenger brought in some reinforcements as Chuba Akpom replaced a visibly jaded Eisfeld while Kristoffer Olsson replaced Hayden. Nicklas Bendtner guided a header to the poor Gnabry but a rush of blood to his head made him fire the ball wide. Right at the death, Jenkinson fired in a dangerous cross but nobody in yellow was around to attack the ball.

Extra time beckoned as there was a major concern for Gunners as Mikel Arteta was replaced by Hector Bellerin for what seemed like a calf injury, but the manager confirmed that it was just a cramp and he’s okay.

The chance of the game arrived for Arsenal when Gnabry sent Bendtner clear on goal but the Dane wasted all the time in world before the ball was intercepted by Diego Lugano. It was a hilarious sight.

Chuba Akpom was afforded a lot of time on the ball and drilled his effort wide. Within minutes, it was end to end stuff as Markus Rosenberg tried to beat Fabianski on his near post but the goalie dived low to make a decent save. Bellerin had two quickfire chances that were wasted and West Brom almost won the game when Morgan Amalfitano blasted a shot the smashed the cross bar.

With both teams unable to cancel out each other after 90 minutes, the game had to be decided with penalty shootouts and West Brom won the toss to start.

Steven Reid, slammed Fabianski’s roof with the first spot kick and Bendtner responded with a placed finish to level the contest. Rosenberg fired the ball down the middle to make it 2-1 but Gnabry, that had a stinker all game long, compounded his misery with a poor penalty that was saved by Daniels.

James Morrison hit the roof to make it three but young Olsson kept a cool head to score a neat finish to make it 3-2. Craig Dawson handed the initiative back to Arsenal when he glanced his penalty wide and Akpom showed good composure beyond his years to make it 3-3.

The West Brom fans made themselves to be heard when Amalfitano made the long walk to the spot but their smiles changed to frowns when the stone-faced Frenchman blasted his spot kick wide. Up stepped Nacho Monreal to keep a cool head and sent the goalie the wrong way to send the Gunners to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup.

Sheer elation in the faces of the players

After the game, Arsene Wenger expressed his pride in seeing his youngsters play for two hours and the composure they showed to score their penalties where worth commending. However, the Gunners are set for a fourth round clash at home to Chelsea, which will reignite the Wenger-Mourinho rivalry.

All focus will be firmly fixed on the Swansea game this weekend.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 2 West Brom 0: A Tale of Two Penalties

There has been so much fuss in the wake of Arsenal’s recent run of poor results and many had hoped that the Gunners would have enough in the tank top see out an over-achieving West Brom side that has been a surprise package all season long. With so many first-team players rested from that shocker at Athens, Arsene Wenger welcomed a host of familiar faces for the crucial home tie against West Brom.

Gervinho has been a pain to watch in recent times and he was his usual annoying self yet again in the Emirates sunshine. Right from the onset, the Ivorian had a chance when the West Brom defense failed to deal with Santi Cazorla’s corner but he fired his shot wide. Shortly afterwards, the visitors lost Liam Ridgewell as he succumbed to an injury, before being replaced by Goran Popov.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took on his marker before supplying a cut back to Cazorla but the Spaniard blasted his effort over the bar. With Arsenal failing to take the initiative, West Brom almost punished them when Youssouf Mulumbu located Chris Brunt with a nice pass. The West Brom skipper sent a curler goalwards but it missed by a lick of paint.

Arsenal grabbed the lead in a somewhat fictitious fashion. Cazorla fashioned a chance for himself in the box before dueling with Steven Reid. The maestro made mince meat out of Reid but the West Brom midfielder made a fatal error in swinging his leg in Cazorla’s direction. Cazorla had probably anticipated that Reid was bringing his leg, so he wasted no time in hitting the turf for a glorious dive.

Mikel Arteta had come under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons following his crucial penalty miss against Fulham a few weeks ago. This time, the Spaniard got it right, blasting the ball into the back of the net with a shot through the middle.

Kieran Gibbs drifted forward before crossing the ball into West Brom’s danger area. Gervinho was the first player to attack the ball but his header was awkward to say the least. Arsenal launched another counter attack with Gervinho in the thick of things yet again, he dallied on the ball before sending a teasing pass into the six-yard box but Jack Wilshere sliding effort went wide off the mark.

The Ox got goalside and blasted a shot that was intercepted by Gervinho. The Ivorian had an extra touch before firing a low drive heading for the bottom corner but Boaz Myhill was on hand to make a decent save. The West Brom defense mopped up the pieces afterwards.

Late in the first half, Oxlade-Chamberlain braced himself up for a Goal of the Season contender but he killed a bird in the sky with his proposed effort on goal.

Arsenal started the second half on a brighter note with a series of attacking play that reminded the fans of the old Arsenal. The Gunners switched midfield to attack in a blistering fashion with Giroud and Wilshere in the thick of things but when the ball got to the Ox, his cross brushed the woodwork and went out of play.

Gibbs connected with Gervinho yet again with a nice cross but his header was wayward. On the other end, Thomas Vermaelen did very well to block a Zoltan Gera cross that would have crept into Arsenal’s danger area. Wilshere and Giroud teed up a chance for Gervinho but the Ivorian miscued his effort at the vital moment.

Arsenal increased their tally when the Ox robbed Popov off the ball before drifting into the box. Chris Brunt’s attempt to get the ball was pretty much disappointing as he clearly scythed the Ox down, leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot yet again. I can remember when Arsenal went through an entire season without receiving any penalty at the Emirates, but in bizarre fashion, we witnessed tho in a game for the home side.

Mikel Arteta braced himself up to take the spot kick but Giroud appeared in the box, asking his vice-skipper to give him a chance to increase his Premier League tally. The last time Giroud took a spot kick, the goalie guessed the right way and Arteta probably had that in mind, which made him decline Giroud’s offer.

The Spanish midfielder fired his shot through the middle and went to celebrate in front of the Emirates faithful. While his teammates ran to celebrate with him, I noticed Giroud heading straight to the center circle. Maybe it was just me though.

Wenger withdrew the Ox for Coquelin to add steel to the midfield as the goal injected some life into West Brom. Arsenal had a free kick on the edge of the area but Arteta scuffed his chance of getting a hat-trick with a poor attempt of a free kick. Tomas Rosicky came on for Gervinho to have a quick run-out.

West Brom threatened twice with a long-range missile from Markus Rosenberg and a poor header from Romelu Lukaku. Lukas Podolski came on for Santi Cazorla right at the death and he was to be involved in some action straight away.

The German teed up a chance for Wilshere and after evading his marker, his shot was blocked. Wilshere in turn, provided a chance for Podolski late on, but the German prodded his shot over the bar from barely six yards out. For a player of Podolski’s quality, that would go down as a howler.

That miss didn’t really matter as Mike Jones’ final whistle brought Arsenal’s fruitless Premier League run to an end. The home side began the game five places and five points behind West Brom. The win propelled Arsenal to sixth place, putting them within touching distance of West Brom and fierce rivals, Tottenham.

Arsene Wenger answered a couple of questions in his post-match interview ranging from the team’s overall performance, Cazorla’s roel in winning the first penalty, squandering chances and his team’s response to criticism. The wily ol’ fox was his usual self, giving nothing to the media Vultures.

This victory was highly needed and it will give the Gunners a chance the much-needed confidence boost to press on as the season progress. A Capital One quarterfinal fixture against Bradford City comes up next and Wenger will be given a chance to rest some tired legs out there,

“I’ll rotate a little bit, yes. For example Sagna, he has played today with a very bad ankle. He is such a tough boy that he said he could play. He will be rested on Tuesday, maybe one or two more. But we will go with a strong squad, we are in the quarter-final and we have an opportunity to go through. We want to take it.”

Time to brace myself for the much-anticipated Manchester derby.

Sayonara.

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