West Brom 2-1 Arsenal: Gunners Miss Out on Chance to Go Top…Again!
West Brom 2 (Morrison 35′, Arteta o.g. 40′) – Arsenal 1 (Giroud 28′)
Although it was somewhat scrappy, Manchester United got the result they wanted against Watford in the lunch-time fixture of the Premier League weekend, so the onus was on Arsenal to come with the goods against a West Brom side that had a shambolic record against Arsene Wenger. In terms of team selection, it was only Hector Bellerin that took his place from the injured lot but Kieran Gibbs was rewarded for his goal in the North London Derby by replacing the ineffectual Joel Campbell.
The game began in a rather dull pace but with the way Francis Coquelin has grown into the team in stature and confidence, he was doing his bit to control the midfield but when he came out second best after a crunch tackle with Claudio Yacob, I feared for the worst when Mikel Arteta stripped off and came into the pitch. It’s not like I have anything against Arteta but his performances in recent times has shown that his body cannot cope with the rigors of high-octane Premier League football.
My fears were compounded when the midfield was ‘lost’ with Arteta’s introduction but Arsenal opened the scoring when Mesut Ozil swung in a brilliant ball that was headed home by Olivier Giroud. While Ozil was on a mean assisting streak (11 in the Premier League – in just 13 games!), Giroud was also on a purple patch in terms of goalscoring. This was his seventh goal in nine League games.
Arsenal failed to get a grip of the game after getting ahead and the defense was culpable for some atrocious marking as Chris Brunt’s cross found an unmarked James Morrison that guided the ball past Petr Cech to give the home side the equalizer. As if conceding in such a fashion wasn’t bad enough, West Brom got the lead when James McClean’s cut back was deflected into the net by Arteta. After wrecking the game for his side, he decided to leave the pitch in tatters when he picked up what seemed to be a calf injury, and was replaced by Mathieu Flamini.
This goes back to what many fans were clamoring for in the summer. Most of the fans expressed their disappointment in the club’s failure to sign Morgan Schneiderlin or any other holding midfielder because it was evident that Arteta and Flamini aren’t good enough to deputize for Coquelin. Aaron Ramsey is another option worth taking in the holding role but he clearly lacks the discipline to play that position because he has a penchant for going forward. Now we can only hope that Coquelin’s injury isn’t that bad.
As the game progressed, Arsenal probed for an equalizer but it wasn’t forthcoming. Ozil latched onto a loose ball and clipped the post with his shot and when the manager decided he had seen enough of Gibbs, he brought on Mr. Campbell and his pink boots in his bid to get something from the game. Campbell was located with a peach of a pass from Cazorla but his finish was absolutely pathetic, which was a constant reminder of why he never sees games for the club – he’s not just good enough.
At the death, Alexis was fouled by Brunt and Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot. Up stepped Santi Cazorla, Arsenal’s supposedly ‘best penalty taker’ and he slipped on the turf before firing the ball over the bar. A West Brom defender tried to console Cazorla to pick him up from his knees but the Spaniard was having none of that, as he was clearly disappointed in himself for squandering such a vital opportunity to bring his team level.
Arsene Wenger was his usual self in his post-match press conference, declaring the game as a bad day in the office but he was quick to say that his team has to move on. There was a time the Gunners were grinding out results and people were talking about how they were exhibiting the stuff of champions, but the last games against Tottenham and West Brom has shown that things aren’t always as they seem in the Premier League.
The hurt from the defeat was softened with the result at the Etihad Stadium between Manchester City and Liverpool which makes next week’s clash against Norwich and all-important game. With the top two battling each other at the King Power Stadium as well as Manchester City hosting Southampton, Arsenal can still stay within the title race if they can get a positive result against Norwich.
Till then, the players have to lick their wounds and move on. These things happen.
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