West Brom 0 Arsenal 1: Gunners Return Back to Winning Ways in the League
West Brom 0 – Arsenal 1 (Welbeck 60′)
The win against Dortmund was definitely going to serve as a confidence booster and with the heavy December fixture list coming up, it was paramount for the manager to rest a couple of players which saw the young English duo of Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get some time on the bench. The return of Laurent Koscielny to the first team was pleasing to see and with the commanding center back returning to the mix, Nacho Monreal returned to his favored left back position. There was also a change in attack as Olivier Giroud was flanked by Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez.
The game began with the Gunners controlling possession but like the Manchester United game, there were a series of spurned chances but thankfully, it didn’t come back to haunt us. Or maybe it did if Saido Berahino’s header was a few inches lower (more on that anon). One of the most notable highlights of the first half was seeing Aaron Ramsey’s desperation to score that elusive goal. Since his strike against Everton way back in August, Ramsey has not been on the score sheet and it’s glaring that it’s starting to get to him. His primary task on the day was to provide adequate support for Mathieu Flamini but there were times he left the team exposed, especially that particular moment when he was sloppy in possession which allowed West Brom a swift counter attacking chance but he had his defense to thank for mopping things up at the back.
Sadly, there was yet another injury concern as Monreal looked to be in some discomfort and he was replaced by Gibbs, a player Wenger may have preferred to rest throughout the game given his fitness record. However, his introduction turned out to be a stroke of genius as the young lad put up an all-action efficient performance. It was no surprise when Arsenal’s goal came from that flank with some intelligent football from Santi Cazorla. After receiving a pass, he turned on the afterburners to make mincemeat of Andre Wisdom before showing off his ambidexterity with a left-footed dinked pass to Danny Welbeck that powered his header home. That was Welbeck’s first goal in eight games so it would have done his confidence some good bearing in mind that he has been shifted to the left wing to accommodate Giroud.
It was good seeing the Frenchman start a game for the first time this season and he offered the Gunners a focal point in attack, holding up play and offering a physical presence both in attack and defense. He almost marked his start with a goal when Ben Foster decided to take off a page from the Chronicles of Almunia up but Giroud failed to punish the goalie as his shot missed the goal by some margin. Even when the Frenchman got substituted for the Ox, I’d noticed that Welbeck still stayed on the left wing, with Alexis Sanchez spearheading the attack. The Chilean hotshot had a rather tame afternoon with his only noteworthy contribution in attack being that lovely pass he chipped for Ramsey but the Welsh Jesus chose to use his legs when his head would have been the better option.
Then of course, there were the West Brom chances. Berahino has been on the spotlight after his run of games with goals but recently, that well has kinda dried up. West Brom’s first chance of the game arrived when Berahino cut in from the left but his attempt hit the side netting. There was also a clean strike from Craig Gardner that took a deflection of an Arsenal player (Ramsey I think) but it seemed as if Emiliano Martinez had it covered. West Brom’s best chance arrived when an unmarked Berahino leaped in the air to nod the ball goalwards but the cross bar spared Martinez’ blushes. The young lad has kept two clean sheets in succession and this is down to the fact that the players in front of him have offered him better protection. He also grew in confidence as the game progressed and this was epitomized by the Argentine goalie claiming a cross even with Koscielny odds on to head the ball away to safety. That act made the French defender hit the turf with Martiniez falling like a heap on him, but he and Mertesacker commended the young goalie for commanding his box, which is what you’d expect your goalie to do
The end of the game had a rather nervy feel but getting three points from the Hawthorns was a step in the right direction. With the game against Southampton (a team above Arsenal) coming up, it would afford the Gunners a chance to continue to surge for a top four place, because challenging for the title is more or less out of our hands, despite Chelsea dropping points in the Stadium of Light. The Gunners currently have 20 points and are just two points off fourth placed Manchester United. With Southampton currently six points ahead of the Gunners, reducing the gap to three points would go a long way in building up the confidence of the lads.
Winning breeds confidence and it feels so good coming back to winning ways in the Premier League.
Thanks to that guy, Danny Welbeck.
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