Mikel Arteta guided Arsenal to a much-needed victory over West Bromwich Albion this afternoon with the help of two penalties at the Emirates.
Both teams were on a bit of a rough patch before this game, but it was Arsenal that were in the spotlight as they sat in tenth position and were in need of a win. After losing at home to Swansea last weekend, pressure built up on Arsene Wenger and his side, but today, they put pressure aside and eased to a 2-0 victory over Steve Clarke’s side.
West Brom suffered a set-back after just five minutes when centre back, Liam Ridgewell was forced off injured after a collision with Gervinho and this was the start of quite a heated encounter between the two sides.
Five free-kicks were given in the first twenty minutes as both teams were under pressure to get back to winning ways and it was the home side that struck first, albeit it with a slice of luck.
In the 25th minute, Santi Cazorla had the ball just inside the box and cut back past Steven Reid, who then stuck out a leg and brought down the Spaniard and without hesitation referee, Mike Jones pointed to the penalty spot. As soon as the penalty was given, the West Brom players surrounded the referee and were demonstrating that Cazorla had taken the dive and to be fair to the away side, they had a point. Replays showed there was no contact at all between the defender and Cazorla, but unfortunately for referee’s, they do not have video replays to help them out.
After all the players had been ushered away by the ref, Mikel Arteta stepped up and thumped the ball home to give Arsenal a deserved lead, despite it being in controversial fashion.
Arsenal were then fully in control of the game and never looked like losing it. The passing seemed to have bee found by the players and at times they looked like the Arsena of old, much to the delight of the home fans who were a lot more welcoming in today’s game. In particular, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla looked like they had been playing together for years, yet alone weeks. Both passing West Brom off the pitch at times.
As the half-time whistle went, West Brom players then again decided to gather around the ref and start protesting again as they clearly felt that Cazorla had taken a dive in winning the penalty, and they had a point to be mad.
The second half was very similar to the first. Fouls galore and Arsenal passing the ball around West Brom quite comfortably. Several bookings were dished out by match referee, Mike Jones and that was expected as plenty of fouls were being made by both teams as pressure was rising on both teams to try and get the points.
Chance after chance fell for the home side but on numerous times they failed to make the chances count. Gervinho, Cazorla and Wilshere all had chances but all failed to convert them. The Ivorian winger (Gervinho) saw a lot of the ball in the second half and always looked dangerous when sprinting down the line, but as usual for him, he then seemed to make the wrong decision at the end.
The game was all-but over in the 60th minute when a second penalty was awarded to Arsenal and this time, it was 100% a penalty. After muscling off a defender, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then sprinted into the box and got mauled down by Chris Brunt and once again, Jones pointed to the spot. It was a terrible challenge from Brunt and he could have no complaints about that penalty being given.
Mikel Arteta once again took the ball and thumped it straight down the middle for the second time as Arsenal doubled their lead and saw off the game.
After the second goal it was cruise control for Arsenal as they saw out the game with ease. It could and should have been three to the homeside when substitute, Lukas Podolski was found unmarked six-yards out, but he could only blast it over.
Late on, Shane Long had a long range shot well saved by Szczesny, but that was all West Brom had to offer in a game where the referee was the real talking point.
A much needed victory for Arsenal and a sigh of relief for a lot of the fans and the players alike. Stand out performer, Jack Wilshere was superb for Arsenal and had the game all under his control for the 90 minutes. After being out for 17 months, Wilshere is a massive boost for the Gunners and if he plays like he did today every week, Arsenal will create chances galore.
The home victory sees Arsenal jump to sixth in the table as West Brom stay fifth.
Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, was happy with the result and said he spoke to Cazorla about the penalty incident.
“Overall, we played well, created chances and kept a clean sheet. There was no room for dropping any points and I feel it is a positive day. It would have relaxed me (if we had taken our chances). We were a bit nervous when we had chances because our backs were to the wall.”
Asked if his side were fortunate being awarded the first penalty, Wenger adds: “A little bit yes. I spoke to (Santi) Cazorla and he said he (Steven Reid) tapped him.”
As for Steve Clarke, he was visibly annoyed at the penalty that gave Arsenal the lead.
“I think we were hard done by. There was clear daylight between Steven Reid and Santi Cazorla for the first penalty. There was a penalty for us for a Per Mertesacker handball but he gave a free-kick the other way. It was the easy way out when you come to a big stadium and the crowd are on your back. I’ve got no complaints with the second penalty but there was a foul in the build-up. Up until the (first) penalty I thought we had good control defensively but we didn’t do enough offensively.”
Alex William Batt