Arsenal beat West Brom 2-0 at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon after Mikel Arteta scored twice from the penalty spot. There was no doubt at the final whistle that the Gunners deserved the 3 points, but both penalty decisions were controversial and left the West Brom players absolutely fuming.
The Gunners dominated possession and West Brom’s intentions were fairly clear from the start. Goalkeeper Boaz Myhill was warned about time wasting from goal kicks from about the 10th minute onwards, so the Baggies seemed as if they would have been delighted with a point, but if they could steal three points on the break that would be fantastic.
Gervinho’s shot went narrowly wide early on as Arsenal looked to take the lead. They played like a team lacking confidence in their own ability early on. Arsenal’s passing was slow, it made the job easy for West Brom to defend.
Chris Brunt came closest for the visitors with his shot going just wide in what was one of the few chances West Brom created.
Then came the moment that had West Brom fuming. Santi Cazorla went down in the box after Steven Reid appeared to have brought him down, but the replay suggested that Cazorla hadn’t been touched. The referee pointed to the spot. Mikel Arteta stepped up to take the spot kick. If you remember correctly, he missed from the spot with the final kick of the game in last month’s 3-3 draw with Fulham. The Spaniard went straight down the middle and found the back of the net. If Myhill had just stood still, he would have saved Arteta’s penalty.
A lunging Jack Wilshere nearly gave Arsenal a 2 goal cushion when his shot narrowly went wide after Gervinho’s pull-back.
It was at the other end that West Brom felt had done by once more. When an Albion cross went into the box, Per Mertesacker appeared to handle the ball, but the referee gave Arsenal a free-kick because he felt Mertesacker was being fouled in the process, in effect forcing the ball to hit his hand. Personally I felt that the referee got two out of the three controversial decisions wrong, but this was the one he got right. I think Mertesacker would have been hard done by had the referee pointed to the spot.
Gervinho had a couple of good chances and Oxlade-Chamberlain came close to a spectacular goal and then Oxlade-Chamberlain played a big part in the final controversy of this game. Chamberlain appeared to have fouled Goran Popov but nothing was given by the referee. He burst forward into the box before being brought down by Chris Brunt. The referee pointed to the spot for the second time in the game. I must admit, when Oxlade-Chamberlain won the ball, even I said out loud “that’s a foul, surely?!”, so I certainly have sympathy with the Baggies on that one. However, the award of the penalty for the foul was definitely correct having played on.
So here we were again. West Brom upset that Arsenal have a penalty and Mikel Arteta stepping up to the spot for the second time in the game. Arteta went down the middle again, same result. You can’t help but think that if Myhill had just stood still for both of the penalties, West Brom would have come away with a point and Arteta would have looked like an idiot. I certainly wasn’t complaining with the outcome though.
West Brom finally showed some attacking intent late on when they threw on two strikers, Lukaku and Rosenborg to join Long up front. It was too little too late from the Baggies and they couldn’t complain with the outcome, only the way it happened. It was rather amusing that Boaz Myhill decided to rush to take every goal kick and run for every ball when West Brom when they were losing 2-0, but when they were drawing 0-0 he was happy to waste as much time as possible!.
I was relieved at the final whistle just to have those three points in the bag. I didn’t care how we got them, just that we got them. Now the focus switches to Bradford away tomorrow night in the League Cup. I for one am certainly looking forward to it. I won’t be underestimating Bradford by any means and I just hope Wenger puts out a decent side. He doesn’t have to field his best team, he just needs to respect them. Bradford will be up for it and they will make it tough for us.