Arsenal looked to be cruising to a 2-0 win before Mertesacker’s red and a resulting penalty turned the game on its head. In a repeat of the Sunderland game, the Gunners defended stoutly to bring home all three points that temporarily moved Arsenal into fourth place. It was a roller coaster ride that turned from rocky to smooth before plunging into a nose dive that kept fans on the edge of their seats. The team rode it out and brought home a much needed win.
Arsenal played poorly in the first half. West Brom set themselves up neutralize the Gunners and it worked well. By blocking off the middle, Arsenal was deprived of their most effective channel and were pushed to the flanks. This resulted in a series of poor crosses which is not surprising considering we are the team with the worst crossing success in the league. In robbing us of the middle, our defence was put immediately under pressure whenever they pressed forward. Ramsey and Rosicky both picked up yellows after multiple fouls. Some of the decisions may not have gone Arsenal’s way but it was clear that Arsenal was not coping with West Brom every time they came forward. Our tackle success rate was low and they looked more threatening in the first half.
Arsenal was not coping with West Brom every time they came forward
But, the critical moments fell to the Gunners. Gervinho’s industry down the left after an accurate long ball from Arteta allowed the Ivorian to turn provider as Rosicky directed a headed ball into the goal with no fuss. Just before half time, Ramsey was put through after a clever reverse pass from Giroud that followed a sweet through ball from Cazorla. Unfortunately, Ramsey just couldn’t break his duck. The first half gave Arsenal a favourable scoreline but West Brom had better control of the half as Steve Clarke got his tactics right.
Arsenal are known to be the best team in the league in the second half of matches played this season. Frankly, such statistics mean nothing but the Gunners took better control of the second half as WBA was forced from their defensive positions. With more holes to exploit centrally, we found space to build attacks and regained control of the midfield. The gaps that opened up led to Rosicky’s second of the match as Ramsey picked him out from the right allowing the Czech international to test the keeper. The save fell to Rosicky and he made no mistake for his second goal.
That goal proved decisive. Arsenal was well on top and knocking the ball around in second gear. The game felt like it was over but that soon quickly came to a halt as it usually does when you are an Arsenal fan. An accurate long ball from the left eluded the back four as Mertesacker was a yard too far to stop Shane Long. The big German took Long down and was deservedly red carded. He did not protest as Morisson brought the game to 2-1.
Wrong call, Per.
I think the BFG made a wrong call here. There are fans who would say there was nothing else Mertesacker could do. Yes, there was. He could have not made the tackle and bet on Long missing or Fabianski saving it. Even if Long netted it, it would have been 2-1 and 11 men on our side. PM4 distinctively made the decision to bring Long down. He knew it would be a penalty and a highly possible red.
It was a wrong call from him. In doing so, the outcome would be still 2-1, this time with a man short. A high chance of a red would also mean PM4 will serve a one match ban. Wrong call, Per. We were two nil up, just let it go in future.
Backs to the Wall
Just like the Sunderland game, West Brom took the initiative from then on. It was wave after wave of attacks. Crosses, long balls, short ground passes, you name it they tried it. Lukaku was the main threat up front, his physical prowess out-muscled Sagna multiple times. For more than 20 minutes, Arsenal survived close calls and defended for their lives. Leaving the Hawthorns with a point would not be shameful considering the red card, but that was not an option in the race for CL spots.
Luck favours the brave and it showed today.
Lukaku came the closest but fired wide when he had time and space near the six yard box to finish. Fabianski bravely dived at the feet of players making plucky saves that atoned for some questionable goalkeeping before the red card. Monreal and Vermaelen did their part in winning most of the headers as Koscielny booted every ball out of the half when given the chance. It was backs to the wall but the team stood firm. Luck favours the brave and it showed today.
Many Arsenal fans will be calling Webb out for a poor performance. I think we have to re-look his performance with some objective moderation. Webb got most of his calls right. There was a hint of bias but the cards he dished out were mostly concrete cases. Yes, he did allow WBA to get away with 50-50s more often than Arsenal players but none of that resulted in a major game changing incident.
Some fans will point out at how Webb literally redirected an Arsenal clearance (first half) and pass (second half) to WBA’s players. It was unfortunate but that didn’t result in any actual change to the game. It was not a good performance from Webb but to call it poor and biased would be taking it too far.
When the chips were down in the first half, Gervinho stepped it up again. Switching freely from flank to flank, Gervinho was many a times our only outlet in the first half. His trickery meant that WBA would place two to three defenders on him, creating space for the rest of the team. It is no surprise that the man with a giant forehead did most of the legwork and created the opener for Rosicky to net from close range.
This is a turnaround in fortunes as he has now put three solid back to back performances for the team. Gervinho is a frustratingly inconsistent player, fans will hope that this is a permanent change in direction for a player known better for his indecision and ironic lack of mental strength.
One would only wonder what things would have been if Rosicky did not have to be our second worst injury hit player after Abou Diaby. Rosicky is our replacement for Pires. After he was signed, he played brilliantly for Czech Republic in the World Cup. I remember getting all excited after he scored a long range screamer against the United States. Rosicky has always been a player that could be depended on to change the game. Unfortunately, his injuries have been equally consistent.
Rosicky is our replacement for Pires.
The consistent positive approach from Rosicky, dependable finishing, relentless pressing and those accurate passes from the outside of his boot are elements that we missed in the seasons past. It must be noted how Rosicky displaced Cazorla at the peak of the midfield triangle as Cazorla was shifted to the LF position. While Cazorla has effectively played a second CAM role even when positioned as LF, Rosicky has shown he can do just as well as the little Spaniard. It is nice to have two little Mozarts in the team and fans can only hope that Rosicky can stay injury free in his final years in football. I’d give him a Bergkamp contract.
Grit and Desire
Desire to bring home all three points kept us in the game. A positive experience from the Sunderland game also helped. The defence stepped up a notch after things turned adversely and one of them was Fabianski. He had a rather poor game before the penalty, missing two crosses that he came out for. However, the often derided Polish ‘keeper turned a commanding performance making 3 crucial stops and did not falter when he came out for the ball. Fabianski did for us what Sagna accomplished in the Sunderland match.
Such performances lift the team and give them belief and momentum. It was great to see the team successfully defend all three points which passes the pressure on to Tottenham and Chelsea.
Three deserved points in the bag. Have a great weekend, Gooners!
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