This fixture last year was won by Arsenal through a Danny Welbeck header. Remember him? The game was somewhat overshadowed by protests by a minority of fans against Arsene Wenger.
Today the game was lost by the Arsenal, in what unfortunately what was the kind of performance that everyone was waiting for. What will be blamed? The famous hand break? Or the International break? Or the various breaks in bones and muscles that seem to hamper the Arsenal every year.
It was a series of unfortunate events that doomed the Gunners to a disappointing loss today. The title will be something of a dream if there are any more to follow.
A frosty afternoon saw a cagey start between the two teams, with only James McClean looking lively from the two sides. A slow opening ten minutes for Arsenal ended in misery, as Francis Coquelin required substituting after coming off badly with a challenge from Yacob. Mikel Arteta was to come on. Watch this space.
The next ten minutes were to provide more entertaining action. Alexis Sanchez was growing into the game and had a well-positioned free kick superbly held by Boaz Myhill. It was to be a free kick that the opening goal would come from. Quick feet from Sanchez led to a free kick that Mesut Ozil delightfully flighted in to brush off the head of Giroud and into the net.
After half an hour the game was comfortable for Arsenal. West Brom had scored just ten goals in twelve games and Arsene Wenger would’ve had faith in his team shutting this one out. However, on the 35 minute mark Chris Brunt whipped a free kick into the area that was magnificently volleyed in off the side of James Morrison’s right boot. A superb piece of skill and West Brom were back in the game.
Now I told you to watch this space. And the tale of Mikel Arteta at the Hawthorns today is a sad one. In what could prove his last performance for the club, he went out in a depressing fashion.
A good servant to the club, Arteta has not been good enough to be a part of this squad for at least the last two seasons, I would argue three. One would think it is only Arsene Wenger’s loyalty that is keeping the Spaniard at the club.
Just five minutes after the West Brom equalizer, some clever play from Rondon allowed Chris Brunt to fire in a cross. After watching several players, it is still not clear what Arteta was attempting to do when angling his arm and body towards the ball in an angle facing the goal.
The result was an own goal, a trait becoming too familiar of this Arsenal team, and Arsenal found themselves 2-1 down at half time.
Five minutes into the second half and Arteta was off. A calf injury would see a very sorry looking man limp off. His 35 minute appearance would include a 100% pass accuracy, 0 tackles won, 0 interceptions and 1 own goal.
A strange second half
The second half was a classic chaotic Arsenal performance in their quest to come behind from a losing position.
Mesut Ozil was unlucky to hit the post very early into the half from a shout just outside the box and the game would’ve certainly been there for Arsenal to win if that chance had trickled in.
Alexis Sanchez continued to provide Arsenal’s greatest spark, showing no signs of tiredness after travelling across the world and playing two matches for Chile in the international break.
But with just over twenty minutes to go it was another South American who wasted an unbelievable chance to draw Arsenal level. After fine play from Santi Cazorla, again watch this space, Joel Campbell, on for Kieran Gibbs, was provided a volley around six yards out to belt home. He sliced horribly wide and it was then it started to feel like it wouldn’t be Arsenal’s day.
West Brom nearly added to their lead and Arsenal’s misery a few minutes after the Campbell miss when Chris Brunt whipped in a wicked corner that was almost scrambled in.
But it was on 82 minutes where the day really went from bad to worse for Arsenal. The ever-lively Sanchez was hauled down by Brunt after a cross was lofted into the box which saw referee Mark Clattenburg award a penalty. West Brom felt harshly done by but it was a good spot by the referee.
Santi Cazorla was to step up and take the penalty, Arsenal’s first in the league since February. West Brom did what they could to slow down the taking of the penalty and unfortunately for Cazorla, it worked.
In what can only be described as Arsenal’s worst penalty since the Henry and Pires debacle, Cazorla took a longer than normal run up than usual and kicked his shooting leg with his standing leg which propelled the ball miles wide and high to the right.
The normally cool Spaniard missed when it really mattered. A draw in the circumstances would have been a decent result for the Arsenal but after more pressure after the miss, West Brom would hold on for a famous win.
Same old same old?
These are the games you can’t afford to lose when winning a title. Arsenal had many chances to get at least a draw from this game and that will be Arsene Wenger’s biggest gripe with the result today.
The fans are tired of seeing players drop like flies and then that being used an excuse for failure.
But for now, Arsenal should not be too disheartened. Still within touching distance from the top, a win in the next league fixture away to Norwich must end in victory. But after that, days like this cannot happen again if the title is to be won.