Arsenal saw off a punchless West Brom team today without too much effort, the Baggies suffering from a lack of Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie, their attack (not Chris) Blunted (sorry) by the absences. Possession ended up 61-39% in favor of the Gunners, who at times let Albion come at them a little too easily, but for the most part never looked under too much threat. With the win, Arsenal moved to seventh place in the Premier League, even on points with Tottenham and Liverpool, but two behind on goal difference.
Arsenal would indeed start both Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny together, despite them both playing very aggressively in general. The match started pretty openly, Arsenal rather controlling possession and West Brom looking for out balls through their front man Simon Cox, filling in for Peter Odemwingie, who was hurt. Theo Walcott put in a good cross from the right that Gervinho couldn't quite get to ahead of Ben Foster, and two minutes later, Gervinho was fouled 25 yards out. Andre Santos, oddly, stepped up to take the kick, and the result wasn't pretty.
Arsenal's free kick thirteen minutes in looked innocuous enough, but Vermaelen's boot inadvertently caught Martin Olsson on the face, opening up a good deal of blood, necessitating treatment and a new kit. Arsenal were finding it hard to break Albion down; Walcott had a cross deflected to Foster's arms that could have been troublesome had it made it cleanly through, and WBA countered well, Szczesny claiming the low cross for Cox. Nearly 20 minutes gone, and not much action of note.
Arsenal looked short on ideas, but in the 22nd minute, the light bulb went on. Aaron Ramsey picked up the ball in the center circle, assessed his options, strode forward, and then lasered a through ball through the gap between Olsson and left back Billy Jones. Walcott ran onto it at pace, bore down on Foster, and shot through his legs. Foster was able to slow the ball, which ended up behind him for Robin van Persie (who else?) to tap home. 1-0 to the Arsenal.
Walcott and Gervinho looked to combine down the right a couple minutes later, but the Ivorian was just a hair offside on Walcott's pass. WBA came down to the other end and had a free cross in, but it was poor, and Song was able to clear. Koscielny deflected another WBA cross from Jones into the air, which Szczesny claimed, but WBA were finding a little room behind Jenkinson and Santos. The game was settling down a bit again, however, except for when Santos took exception to Cox leaving his foot in after the former had won a free kick deep in Arsenal's half.
36 minutes in, WBA intercepted a rather lax Ramsey pass and bore down, the cross coming all the way to Thomas on the left. He waited to shoot too long, though, and Koscielny bossed him off the ball and cleared. It was too loose from Arsenal, though, and the kind of chance that teams often take when Arsenal give them away.
And Arsenal would make them pay.
Walcott won a corner, which van Perise took from the right. The first was cleared, but Jenkinson put it back in; that was cleared, but Song put it back in. Van Persie popped up at the right post to volley back across the area. Vermaelen was arriving, and smashed home from 12. 2-0 to Arsenal, 39 minutes in.
WBA were not going away, though, winning a free kick from the right. Vermaelen cleared it rather imperiously, but it came back in behind where Santos was after he had charged out of his zone, the cutback from Brunt finding nobody home, luckily, and Arsenal escaped the danger. They would invite more, however, though, Jenkinson giving away a free kick, Szczesny booting a goal kick straight out, and then Vermaelen barging a WBA player over to give the Baggies a free kick from 25. Luckily, WBA went offside from the free kick in a total waste. In the dying moments of the half, Arteta cracked a shot a ways over the bar, and wasn't happy about it as the halftime whistle blew.
The second half started more or less as it ended. Arsenal controlled for the most part, but WBA had a small chance as Dorrans took a long-range shot on 50 minutes that went comfortably and slowly wide. Jenkinson flung in a really good cross that McCauley had to work to get away from Gervinho. Vermaelen headed just wide from the resulting corner. WBA worked to get around Arsenal's solid pressing, Dorrans dragging another shot wide from 20. 60 minutes in, Gervinho fed Ramsey inside, whose shot flashed wide of the far post.
Arsenal were putting real pressure on WBA again, but as always, Arsenal put themselves under pressure, Santos' header setting up Brunt to cross. Luckily, Koscielny was in front of Somen Tchoyi, and the move fizzled. Gervinho cut back a couple minutes later for Song, whose fierce shot was well-saved by Foster. 68 minutes in, and chances were coming suddenly much faster for both sides. Even Koscielny got in on the action, van Persie nearly releasing him through on goal all alone. van Persie skied a cutback over from Walcott.
Subs came a-flyin' in, Rosicky coming on for Ramsey, Benayoun on for Gervinho. Both left to much-deserved applause. Youssuf Mulumbu came on for Albion.
The subs would pay off for Arsenal, though. Two minutes after the entrances, van Persie spotted Rosicky on the right. The Czech gave it back to van Persie on the dot, and he in turn laid the ball off to Mikel Arteta, who made no mistake from 18, slotting the shot home into the low corner of the left. 3-0 to Arsenal, the points surely secure.
Andrei Arshavin entered for Theo Walcott in the 78th minute. West Brom created a very good chance in the 80th, Tchoyi played in over the top, but he waited too long to shoot, and Vermaelen was able to slide in to block very well. Arsenal were in the market for a fourth, Rosicky and van Persie looking to make something happen on the left. Santos was lucky not to get a yellow for a hard tackle. WBA won a corner in the 86th minute, their first of the match, Brunt swinging it in. Steven Reid got a free header, but Szczesny was equal to it. The game more or less faded to black at that point, Albion not making their final free kick count for anything, and the three points were in the bag.
THREE POINTS IN CRISIS