Starting XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Chambers, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, , Alexis, Iwobi, Lacazette
Subs: Ospina, Mertesacker, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Elneny, Walcott, Welbeck
A late Jay Rodriguez penalty cancelled out Alexis Sanchez’s deflected free-kick as Arsenal ended 2017 with a frustrating 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion.
The 87th minute equaliser, netted just three minutes after the Gunners had taken the lead, was the result of a ridiculously harsh decision by Mike Dean who adjudged Calum Chambers to have handled.
The result takes Arsenal above Sp*rs into fifth on 38 points but the gap on Liverpool in fourth is now three points.
The first half was a forgettable affair. Feel free to skip to the second half if you like.
The Baggies, bottom of the table at the start of play, looked like a side who were bottom of the table. Arsenal, dodgy on the road and shorn of their best player – Ozil – were similarly poor.
Chances? There were a few a few. Iwobi bent over with his right foot after a nice pass by Sanchez. The Nigeria international also tested Foster into a fumbled save with a second effort from the edge of the box. Lacazette, who often looked isolated, also had a shot deflected just wide. Again Sanchez was involved in the build-up.
At the other end, Rodriguez had an early header saved by Cech and Brunt fired a free-kick over. For the most part, Pardew’s men just fired aimless balls towards the box and hoped for the best.
The most interesting thing to happen before the break, aside from the Gunners wearing red shorts with their home shirt for the first time since 1978, was Kolasinac picking up an ankle injury and being replaced by Maitland-Niles. The Bosnian had collided with Barry a few minutes earlier.
On an afternoon of little quality, Lacazette was at the centre of all Arsenal’s best work. On 60 minutes he combined with Wilshere and Iwobi to work space in the Baggies box before firing low on the angle at Foster.
Two minutes later the France striker met a Sanchez pass with a darting run at the near post. The ball rolled just wide. Another lay-off for Sanchez was lovely but the Chilean’s first time attempt was shut down at close quarters.
Laurent Koscielny, presumably nursing his long-term Achilles problem, made way for Per Mertesacker, and not long after Welbeck replaced Iwobi.
Rodriguez saw a path to goal open up for him before shooting from 20 yards. It was straight at Cech who parried. Bellerin blocked McClean’s effort on the rebound.
It was hard to see where a goal was coming from as the game dripped into the final ten minutes. That was until Sanchez, stepping inside two West Brom players on 84 minutes, was taken out on the edge of the box. He’d had an earlier effort from similar range blocked, but this time he dusted himself down and, courtesy of a big deflection of McClean, found the bottom corner. He was mobbed by his teammates in front of the travelling support. The strike was adjudged an own goal. (1-0)
That should have been that. But it wasn’t. Because Mike Dean took matters into his own hands and awarded the home side a penalty with three minutes remaining. Kieran Gibbs in the box flicked the ball against Calum Chambers from a yard, the ball hit the Arsenal man’s hand. Penalty. It shouldn’t have been. But it was given. Cech danced on the line, Rodriguez put the ball straight down the middle. (1-1)
Chambers was furious. Wenger on the touchline, apoplectic. Wilshere got booked. And so did Cech, who’d been eyeing a 200th Premier League clean sheet, after the final whistle had gone. That pretty much tells you how bad a decision it was.
We didn’t lose. But the dropped points feel costly on a weekend when Liverpool and Chelsea picked up maximum points. We face the Blues next on Wednesday, our first game of 2018.