West Brom v Arsenal
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: October 6, 2013 4:00 PM BST
Looking at our current form, you could see us beating any team in the world. But after a midweek game against Napoli, and West Brom in a positive mood having beaten the champions 1-2 last weekend, we needed a good performance if we wanted to reclaim our place at the top of the league from Liverpool.
Wenger’s tactic against Napoli was to play with five midfielders and no real wide men. This worked superbly against the Italians but I felt it wouldn’t really be as effective against Premier League opposition. Wenger obviously didn’t share my feelings, as he continued with Ramsey out on the right, with Wilshere replacing Rosicky on the left. The only other change from midweek was Carl Jenkinson coming in for the injured Bacary Sagna. I felt this was a real blow, as Sagna has really been rediscovering his best in recent weeks.
The early goings saw Arsenal keep slightly more of the possession, but neither team really carving out any decent chances. Recently we have been starting off games superbly, but today passes weren’t finding their intended targets and we were being dispossessed far too easily.
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The first chance fell to West Brom’s Berahino, who cut inside and shot towards goal. It took a massive deflection, and after readying himself for a save to his left, Szczesny had to move his feet quickly to get down low to his right. He kept his hands strong and pulled off a fine save to deny the young West Brom forward.
We seemed to take control a bit more after the initial scare, with half chances falling to Gibbs, Wilshere and Giroud. But this control was interrupted by a twenty minute spell where the ref seemed to forget he had a whistle. Giroud, Wilshere and Ramsey were bundled to the floor on a number of occasions but the ref was having none of it, we weren’t able to play our usual flowing football, and West Brom started to look a little more threatening.
The Baggies were looking most dangerous from set pieces, and just before half time a corner wasn’t properly cleared and the ball was put back into the box onto the unmarked head of Jacob. Jacob headed it down, and although Szczesny got a hand to it he wasn’t able to keep it out of the net. 1-0 West Brom.
With a disappointing end to the first half you really wanted to see us come out for the second half with a renewed vigour and sense of determination. It was West Brom that initially came out firing though, Berahino was set free down the left and put a good ball across the box for Anelka. Koscielny was at full stretch trying to get a toe on the ball but wasn’t able to, it fell to Anelka for an easy finish, and I fully expected him to put it away. The Frenchman’s first touch was poor though and thankfully we were able to clear the danger.
We replied instantly by going straight up the other end, with some good link up between Özil, Giroud and Wilshere. Jack drove into the box and shaped to shoot, but Jones came in with a bad tackle getting none of the ball and taking Wilshere out. It was a clear penalty in my eyes, but just like he had done so many times throughout the course of the game, the ref waved play on.
Ramsey had picked up an injury midway though the first forty five minutes, and never really recovered, he was subbed off for Rosicky early on in the second half; lets hope it’s nothing serious. Many seemed to feel that if it wasn’t for the injury, it was Wilshere that would have made way after an extremely poor first half from him. It was a good thing he was kept on though, after some superb hold up play from Giroud allowed Rosicky to lay the ball off, Wilshere put his laces through it and with the help of a deflection off Olsson, the ball nestled into the bottom corner to square things up. West Brom 1-1 Arsenal.
It was really end to end stuff after the equaliser and the game was anyone’s to win. Wilshere was a different player in the second half and seemed determined to make up for his lacklustre performance in the early goings. He picked out a fantastic Giroud run with a beautiful long pass, Giroud’s touch was good and he took it past the West Brom keeper. Myhill recovered however, and made a superb save to keep out the Frenchman on his weak foot.
As the game drew to a close we had a good chance to win it, some good passing put the ball wide at the edge of the box for Wilshere, with a number of bodies in the box for him to aim for. He seemed to rush the cross on his right foot though, and the tame cross fell straight to Myhill. There was a Premier League cameo for the first time in years from the great Dane; Nicklas Bendtner. He wasn’t on the pitch long enough to make much of an impact though.
Arguably a good point from a team in good form that sees us back at the top of the table, but considering our own form you have to consider it two points dropped. I hate to be one of those fans who blame the ref every time we don’t get the win, and perhaps we weren’t good enough to get all three points today, but I really feel Lee Mason had a bad game. West Brom had a few grievances ignored too, so it wasn’t all one way traffic, but it felt like there was a lack of control in the game at times. There also seemed to be a hint of fatigue from the midweek Champions League fixture, hopefully that’s all it was and this isn’t the start of a dip in form for the Gunners. We can take solace in the fact that Spurs were thrashed three nil at home by West Ham, and just move on from this game determined to keep our spot at the top of the League.
on whether he was pleased with a point…
Pleased? No because I want to win but if you ask me if it was a fair point over the 90 minutes I would say yes. Why? Because we were 1-0 down just before half-time and straight after half-time Anelka misses a chance for 2-0 and that would have made it difficult. After that I have some regrets because when we came back to 1-1 in the last half an hour we had the chances to score a second goal but we have shown spirit to come back and we did give it our all until the end to try to win. But they did as well and they have many players who can provoke one against one on the break and run with the ball so they made it difficult for us and they defended very well. West Brom confirmed today why they won at Manchester United because they have good pace in every position and they have a huge squad. When you think today Anichebe was not there and they had Long and Morrsion on the bench. Dorrans was not in the squad so they have a massive squad of quality players.
on showing resilience after not scoring the first goal…
It did require special resilience because they didn’t give us any space, they were well organised and we needed find something special to score.
on Wilshere scoring his first league goal since November 2010…
At least that is done now but he had a difficult first half where he was fouled a lot but he has shown that he has character and kept going until the end. It’s good that he was rewarded.
on Wilshere being fouled a lot…
He was pushed over a lot. I don’t think there was any dirty fouls on him but he was pushed a lot and didn’t get the fouls. I think in the second half he gave some great balls to score where we had chances. Overall he he had a very good second half.
on speaking to Wilshere before the game..
No, he is an honest guy and when he is wrong he knows it. I think today the players don’t get away with anything. We got away with it a bit more but they know that’s the rules of the modern game. They have to deal with it and I think he learns very quickly. What is more interesting for him and for Arsenal is that he shows the right response on the pitch.
on Wilshere’s honesty about his goalscoring form…
I don’t think he will ever be a goalscorer but he is a player who can create chances for others. In our job it’s quite simple, you need players who score and players who give the ball to those who score. He is more in the second category than the first. But of course from the second category you want a few goals so it’s good that he knows he can score goals. Let’s not forget that we had the same problem with Ramsey a while ago and suddenly once they start to score it comes naturally.
on going into the international break top…
I feel it was important not to lose once we were down today and that is the most important thing. For the mental comfort it’s good to remain top after two away games.
on being light on the bench without Cazorla and Walcott…
We have lost games away from home with all of our players available so ideally you want everybody back and available. I can’t complain because today I had Rosicky, Gnabry who scored last week, Bendtner, Vermaelen and Monreal all on the bench so we have quality.
on having the mentality of champions…
A mentality of being champions is built up through the season and I believe that we continue to focus on the way we want to play. We have desire, we have the spirit but we are only in October, in March and April you can show that you have the mentality of champions but at the moment it’s early and it’s good to continue our run.
Jenkinson Koscielny Mertesacker Gibbs
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