Arsenal were not at their best today at the Hawthorns, a scrappy West Brom side making life difficult by pressing and pressing. Despite the lack of total fluency at times from Arsenal, they had moments, and Tomas Rosicky scored twice, sandwiching what should have been an Aaron Ramsey goal. A late West Brom penalty was not enough to overcome the deficit, although it was nerve-wracking for the last twenty minutes.
West Brom started the action on the front foot, but Arsenal settled down eventually. The first really good chance fell to the Baggies, though, from a corner, as Claudio Yacob's header was goalbound until Tomas Rosicky headed it off the line. Yacob had a second bite, but he put his shot over. Shane Long put a shot wide a couple of minutes later, and then it was Arsenal's turn.
Mikel Arteta sprang Gervinho loose up the left, and the Ivorian cut Billy Jones in half and left him spinning before curling a shot toward the far corner. It didn't make it there, though, because Rosicky popped up in its path to redirect it home with his head. It was Rosicky's first Premier League goal this year, and the Gunners were up after 20 minutes.
From then forward, both teams had good chances, West Brom finding space on their left flank for Jerome Thomas, West Brom winning free kicks in dangerous areas (DFK4WBA!), Arsenal perhaps getting away with a penalty when Laurent Koscielny brought Yacob down without getting the ball on 34 minutes. Arsenal were up to clearing all of the crosses West Brom were trying to get to Shane Long, and they really should have gone up after 43 minutes when a lovely interchange between Giroud and Ramse ended with the Welshman alone in on Foster, poking the ball wide from six yards, somehow, some way. It remained to be seen if that miss would hurt the Gunners in the long run as halftime arrived.
It didn't take long after the half for Arsenal to increase their lead. Bacary Sagna had a chance on 48 minutes, and then two minutes later, a wonderful counter saw five Arsenal players break forward. The ball came to Ramsey on the right, and he passed inside for Rosicky. The Czech's first touch was extremely deft, cushioning the ball for a screeching half-volley which Foster could only knock down, and Rosicky followed up his own effort to blast the rebound home from close range.
No goals in the league for a long time, then two in one game, and a goalline clearance. 'Twas shaping up to be a good day for Little Mozart.
After the second goal, Arsenal perhaps "put on the handbrake" a little. West Brom certainly were not giving up, and Romelu Lukaku came into the game and into my soul, scarring it forever with The Horror. Arsenal's defense started to get a little lax, Per Mertesacker hanging Laurent Koscielny out to dry with a lazy square pass, the Frenchman resorting to a yellow card to keep Long from bearing down on goal. It was an early indication of what was about to happen on 71 minutes; West Brom were increasingly pumping long balls towards the forwards and looking for knockdowns, but this time, the long ball simply found Shane Long behind Mert, Kos playing him onside, and Mertesacker had no choice but to hack him down in desperation. It was a clear penalty and straight red for the German, and as he sullenly left the pitch, James Morrison lined up the penalty, scoring it under Lukasz Fabianski, who really could have saved it.
It was going to be tense; 1 - 2 with 18 minutes plus stoppage to go and a man advantage for the home side. From then on, it was Baggie Bombardment, Arsenal getting very lucky as Lukaku put a shot wide from 12 yards, aerial balls raining in from all angles on the embattled Arsenal defense. They held strong, though, Fabianski keeping his cool and collecting when he could. Kieran Gibbs replaced Tomas Rosicky, and as five minutes of injury time ticked along, Giroud tried to shoot when he should've just made straight for the corner flag. The resulting goal kick saw Foster dribble all the way to the final third, but Arsenal cleared, and that was it.
The Gunners had held on under trying circumstances once again, as at Sunderland, and the crucial three points were theirs. Thomas Vermaelen will have to fill in for Mertesacker next week against Norwich, but for now, the win is what matters.