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Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Gibbs, Alexis, Ozil, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Debuchy, Arteta, Flamini, Campbell, Gabriel, The Jeff
Arsenal were masters of their own downfall, defending poorly, scoring an own goal, and missing a penalty which could have saved a point, as they lost 2-1 to West Brom at the Hawthorns today. The Gunners welcomed back Hector Bellerin to the starting line-up with Kieran Gibbs selected on the left hand side, with Alexis moving over to the right.
There was plenty of possession for us in the opening stages but West Brom sat off and sat deep to deny us space in the final third. The game was just 11 minutes old when Arsenal’s injury problems got worse. Francis Coquelin jarred his knee in a 50-50 with Claudio Jacob, and was unable to continue. He was replaced by Mikel Arteta.
Alexis Sanchez was the first man to test the West Brom keeper, curling a nice free kick over the wall but Boaz Myhill made a solid save to deny the Chilean. The home side got offside a lot, Arsenal probed and pressed but found it hard to make the right pass in the final third.
However, in the 28th minute the deadlock was broken from a set-piece. Alexis was fouled 30 yards from goal, on the right hand side of the West Brom box from an attacking point of view, set up perfectly for the left foot of Mesut Ozil.
The German curled in the free kick, Giroud timed his run really well and flicked a header past the keeper from close range. 1-0. Another goal for the Frenchman, and yet another assist for Ozil. That was followed by Kieran Gibbs curling a shot over the bar, and Sessegnon hitting the Arsenal wall from a free kick in a dangerous position.
The Baggies were level in the 36th minute after being awarded a very soft free kick in midfield. It was curled into our box, towards the back post, James Morrisson got the wrong side of Bellerin and dinked a lovely finish over Cech into the net. 1-1. The defending was poor, true of both goals.
It got better for Tony Pulis’ side a few minutes later. After Ozil was robbed in the West Brom half, they broke down the left, McClean fizzed a cross in, Cech missed it, it hit off Arteta’s hand then his knee, and into the net. 1-2.
The score remained the same at the break, leaving the Gunners with a lot to do in the second period.
They started brightly with Alexis winning a free kick, and Ozil hitting the post with the keeper well beaten. However, there was more injury woe when Mikel Arteta, having come on for Coquelin in the first half, had to go off with a calf problem and was replaced by Mathieu Flamini.
Olivier Giroud wanted a penalty for this (but didn’t get one), and splendid work in the box from Alexis set up Gibbs who saw his shot blocked. At the other end Rondon fired over from a good position when he could have punished Arsenal further, while Petr Cech had to make a good save to deny McClean who had beaten the Arsenal offside trap.
A beautifully disguised Ozil pass almost put Flamini through on goal but Johnny Evans got back to deny the Frenchman a shot, before Arsene Wenger made his final change bringing on Joel Campbell for Gibbs in the 63rd minute.
The Costa Rican had a glorious chance to equalise just moments later but fluffed his lines in a big way. Cazorla found him at the back post, his run was excellent but he mis-kicked it and it dribbled to safety from West Brom’s point of view.
A Chris Brunt corner caused all kinds of problems in the Arsenal area, the ball headed onto the bar and down, but the referee awarded an Arsenal free kick for offside. At the business end, Arsenal pressed and looked to create openings, an Ozil cross was headed away, and the ball almost fell for Alexis in the box but his touch let him down allowing Myhill to take the ball.
The home side worked like terriers to deny Arsenal any time or space, but there was a lifeline when Alexis was hauled down in the box with just 6 minutes to go. Santi Cazorla stepped up to take the penalty, but slipped just as he kicked it and sent the ball over the bar.
It was hard not to think that was the chance Arsenal needed to get something out of the game. Giroud saw an attempt blocked at the near post, Koscielny had a late volley routinely saved, and that was that.
A poor performance coupled with costly mistakes saw us lose for the first time since the Chelsea game, and with more injuries, it was a day that couldn’t have been much worse.