Arsenal shared the points with West Brom today in a disappointing and rather infuriating 1-1 draw.
The match started chaotically, with both teams getting a few chances and earning a few corners, but Arsenal settled down (a little too much) after a few minutes and kept their attack more organized. Without Mesut Özil in the lineup, Arsenal relied on Alexis Sánchez to set up most of their play, and although they pressured West Brom, they couldn’t reliably pick their way through the Baggies’ defense—it was clear that they missed Özil. Alexandre Lacazette and Alex Iwobi had shots deflected by Ben Foster, and Granit Xhaka took a rather optimistic shot from outside the box straight at the West Brom keeper.
Sead Kolasinac was forced off the pitch in the 37th minute, after rolling an ankle under a cynical hip check from Gareth Barry. He was replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles. With that, Arsenal have four first team players out with injuries (five if Özil’s knee issue is anything serious) and a game against Chelsea coming up on January 3rd. Fun times. The Gunners might get Aaron Ramsey back before then—he was supposed to return from his hamstring injury in early January—but once again Arsenal are dealing with a spate of injuries in the middle of the congested winter schedule. Arsenal will need to be careful with their remaining players—it is easy to pull a hamstring from overuse like Ramsey and Olivier Giroud did, and Arsenal will be playing multiple matches per week for the entirety of January.
The second half went about as the first did. Lacazette had a few more good chances, both deflected on their way to the West Brom goal, and Alexis was just a few degrees off when he put one into the side netting. Through the whole game the Gunners would begin a good string of quick passes, but they could never quite get to the end of the sequence, they would always be just off enough for the West Brom defenders to step in and take the ball.
Per Mertesacker replaced Laurent Koscielny in the 72nd minute—a smart bit of rotation to keep Kos and his problematic Achilles tendon healthy, probably—and Danny Welbeck came on for Iwobi three minutes later. After holding off West Brom for a nervous few minutes, Alexis won a free kick just a few yards outside the West Brom box and hit a strong shot off a few Baggies and past Foster. It was eventually recorded as an own goal.
And then, just a few minutes later, referee Mike Dean awarded an awful penalty for a supposed Calum Chambers handball (Chambers was two yards from the ball when it was kicked and had no chance to get his hands out of the way), slotted home by Jay Rodriguez, and immediately followed it up by denying Welbeck the same on the other end of the pitch. Arsenal certainly didn’t seem to be at their best today, but they should have gone home with the three points after the own goal. File this one, and the non-handball in the Southampton-Manchester United game that was worse but wasn’t called, under “arguments in favor of VAR.” The game ended 1-1, and the Baggies took an undeserved point from the match.
As disappointing as the result was, there were a few positives for Arsenal from this game. Lacazette played all ninety minutes, his first full match in a while, and this was Arsene Wenger’s 811th league match in charge of Arsenal, a Premier League record.
Arsenal’s next match is against Chelsea on January 3rd.