Arsenal headed to the Hawthorns knowing just this… 3 points was the only acceptable outcome. The game was a strong test, but due to the nature of our season, it was time to let class shine through and start winning the games we’re supposed to be winning.
The sun was shining for the first time in 6 months and Arsene Wenger made very few changes to his side. It was mainly an experience thing. Monreal started the game… Gibbs was relegated to the bench.
The opening phase of the game was a touch shaky, WBA had the slick passing and they were the team who looked hungry for the 3 points. Our keeper flapped at a few high balls in the box which was unnerving. Rosicky came to the rescue when he cleared a high glanced header off the line. We really were under siege.
Rosicky was involved in the action but for the wrong reasons when he fouled on the edge of our box. Fabianski looked like he’d left and acre of space open for the strike, the shot was fired through the wall, thankfully he got down to it and held well.
We started to find our stride after about ten minutes. Gervinho was the man causing the problems with his unpredictable runs. His first challenge of purpose came on the left, he weaved into the box, cut himself some space and chipped the ball to the back post… Rosicky powered his run and nipped in to nod home. I’m convinced that was a shot that was stolen as a cross from the Czech. One up though.
Gervinho continued to cause problems firing a hard low shot at Foster which he saved, Rambo also tried from distance. The Welshman was involved in arguably the slickest move of the match when he found himself on the end of a delicious interchange between Giroud and Cazorla… he somehow conspired to shank it wide of the post.
There were feint shouts for a WBA penalty when Laurent made a challenge on the edge of the area. It didn’t stand out as much of a shout to me and no one seemed too fussed after the game.
The second half was a little spicier. Rosicky kicked it off with a goal that demonstrated everything I love about his attitude. He picked up a Ramsey pass from out wide, teed it up, smashed his shot at Foster, it was parried, he followed in and buried the second. Two up was exactly where we needed to be.
West Brom were trying to make he most of our dislike for high balls over the top, the diagonal nature of them seemed to cause our defence a few problems. Mertesacker found himself in trouble on 70 mins when he lost Shane Long to a high ball, he controlled the ball, Mertesacker chopped across him and conceded a penalty and a two match ban with a straight red. Morrison scored the penalty, firing it straight down he middle, squeezing it just under Lukas.
From there on in it was backs against the wall for us. Lukaku missed an absolute sitter… and there were more from plenty of WBA players queuing up to have a pop. We held strong though. We played through 6mins 30 of injury time to take the all important glorious 3 points… and it’s onwards and upwards.
We’ve finally found our stride this season and the momentum is with us. This is all the more impressive because we lost to Spurs. The boys and the manager have clearly dug deep and things are looking more solid than they have all year. The defence, bar the Mertesacker error looked relatively solid yesterday. From the snippets we’ve heard in the press of late, it sounds like extra focus is being give to the practice of defending as a unit, but more importantly as a team.
The really interesting change for me has been the midfield. We’re Jackless, just like we were at the start of the year, and guess what, we’re a lot more solid like we were at the start of the year. Ramsey, Rosicky and Arteta have all clicked. The football might not always be as scintillating as it could be, but the passing is efficient and the defensive duties are not shirked.
I’m not saying Jack is an issue, but I’m sure it’s not coincidence that our two super consistent patches have been without him in midfield. I think Jack suffers from not really knowing his favoured position. Arsenal suffer because he’s a great player and we have to work that our in real time.
A word for Rosicky. I complained he wasn’t being played earlier in the year, I think we can now see why. I think he’s an excellent team player, his quick passing and general speed of thought really helps the team flow. He’s once again helping us during the crunch of the season, maybe Wenger rests him first half of the year for a reason?
I also think a special mention needs to made about Aaron Ramsey. He’s playing his favoured position and he’s thriving, he has a long way to go to convince people he’s the one to take us to the next level… but for me, he’s working hard, improving and adding some real value to our midfield.
We have to put things in perspective… we’re taking points from teams we should be taking points from. That’s great news and progress from where we’ve been. The major test will come from United at home. Oh how I dream of 3 points from that game.
Anyway, keep them crossed for Di Canio and Moyes today!