Arsenal 3-0 West Bromwich Albion: Return of the Routine Win
Team: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen,, Santos, Song, Arteta, Ramsey (Rosicky), Walcott (Arshavin), Gervinho (Benayoun), van Persie
The Short Report
Goals from Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta secured a straightforward win against a depleted WBA. The results around us mean we stay in seventh, but head into the international break looking in excellent shape, having won our last four league games.
The AL Report
If last week’s astonishing game at Stamford Bridge typified the white-knuckle ride we have been on this season, this comfortable victory was more akin to a gentle afternoon on the boating pond. We were never in any danger of coming away without the three points against limited opponents seemingly engaged in an exercise of damage limitation.
The euphoria of sticking five past Chelsea was only slightly checked by a goalless draw against Marseille in midweek. In his programme notes, Arsene Wenger said that we looked ‘mentally jaded’ as he faced inevitable criticism over his decision to rest Robin van Persie. He had not hesitation in restoring the free-scoring skipper to the starting line-up against WBA. His only other big decision was in defence, with the returning Thomas Vermaelen handing him a welcome selection headache. This time it was Per Mertesacker who was given a breather and Laurent Koscielny came back in at his expense.
We’ve heard plenty about van Persie’s ‘chocolate leg’, but the visitors managed to win 3-2 on their last visit here courtesy of Manuel Almunia’s chocolate wrists. With main forwards Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long missing, they never looked like repeating the feat on an afternoon which was all about our domination.
The only surprising thing was that it took us 22 minutes to score. We set up camp in their half during the opening exchanges but couldn’t come up with a clear opening. Carl Jenkinson and Theo Walcott were lively on the right wing, with the young full-back continuing to impress with his ability to whip dangerous balls into the box. Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey were linking up well in midfield and we had a decent chance from a free-kick that Andre Santos blazed over.
The first goal was made possible by an exquisite pass from Ramsey that took the Baggies’ defence out of the game and played Walcott in. Theo’s effort was saved by Ben Foster, but van Persie was there to mop up the rebound for his customary strike.
We continued to enjoy plenty of possession, but the rest of the half was fairly subdued. Arteta had a weak shout for a penalty and Koscielny made an excellent block on Simon Cox, which was as close as WBA came to threatening our goal.
We doubled our lead six minutes before half-time. Vermaelen and Gareth McAuley engaged in some head tennis around the box, with the ball eventually falling to Alex Song, some 30 yards from goal. He picked out van Persie on the right, whose first-time cut-back took a touch off Gervinho’s heel and fell to the Belgian to sweep home. It was a clinical finish from the Verminator who was clearly delighted to mark his return to league action with a goal.
The second half followed much the same pattern. West Brom finally put together a coherent move, but Graham Dorrans scuffed his shot wide from the edge of the box. Vermaelen leaped high to send a header just wide from a corner and Jenkinson continued to impress at the back and going forward.
Gervinho was involved in the best of our attacking play and is clearly growing in stature with every game. He set up two clear cut chances and saw a shot of his own saved by Foster. The first was on the left wing as he drifted into the box, feeding Ramsey whose shot fizzed past the post. Alex Song hit a powerful shot straight at the keeper after being picked out beautifully by the Ivorian. He then played a one-two with Arteta and squeezed an effort in from a tight angle. His quick feet appear to have a hypnotic effect on defenders and his ability to produce a sudden change of pace is proving to be a very potent weapon.
His afternoon’s work came to an end when he was replaced by Yossi Benayoun and Tomas Rosicky was sent on for the excellent Ramsey as the boss made a double substitution.
A couple of minutes later and we were three goals to the good thanks to a delightful, free-flowing attack. Vermaelen worked the ball out of defence with a slide rule pass to van Persie in midfield. RVP’s quick turn allowed him to drive forward taking a host of Baggies defenders with him as he cut to the right. He exchanged passes with Rosicky before laying it off to Arteta on the edge of the box. The Spaniard put the gloss on a sublime move by curling in a low shot past Foster for his first home goal. This was the Arsenal we all know and love – crisp passing, dynamic movement finished off with a devastating end product.
The remaining quarter of an hour was very comfortable. Andrey Arshavin came on for Walcott and Wojciech Szczesny was finally called into action a few minutes from time, keeping out Steven Reid from a corner. It summed the game up – we are unlikely to enjoy an easier win than this one, our 400th in the Premier League.
Next up: An international break precedes a visit to Carrow Road where we face newly promoted Norwich City.
Man of the Match
Carl Jenkinson wasn’t amongst the goals, but he really stood out for his determination, relentless stamina and consistently excellent crossing. He is a long way from being the finished article, but will continue to improve the more he plays. We are still feeling the absence of Bacary Sagna, but things would have been much worse had we still been relying on Emmanuel Eboue as back-up.
Mikel Arteta has refused to be phased by stepping into the boots of Cesc Fabregas and has impressed so far with his efficient and unfussy displays. Against West Brom, he worked well in tandem with Ramsey and rarely wasted a pass. He produced a lovely finish for the third goal, which was just reward for all the hard work he has put in since his arrival.
Moan of the Match
A very minor moan this one, but when we went three goals up with fifteen minutes left, it seemed an ideal moment to give Ju-Young Park some valuable playing time. He worked hard against Marseille, but will find it tough to build confidence and an understanding with his team-mates if he isn’t given more opportunties from the bench.
The Final Word
Although this victory contained the obligatory van Persie goal, there was enough in our display to counter the accusations that we are a one-man team.
Arteta, Gervinho and Jenkinson were outstanding, whilst Vermaelen slotted right back in after his long lay-off. At one point, I looked over to see our subs warming up and realised that not only were all three over 30, but also captains of their international teams – a clear illustration of the strength in depth and experience we now have.
It is great to see so much confidence flowing through the team and the swagger return to our game. The players are united and clearly enjoy playing with each other. Another bright spot is that for the first time this season, we have a positive goal difference.
Routine and tension free home wins have always been the staple of our most successful seasons and if we can start to add a few more of them, I have no doubt that this could be one of them.
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2011-12 | Match Reports