Arsenal Vs West Brom: Highlights and analysis from hard-earned win

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 25: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium on September 25, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 25: Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium on September 25, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) /

Arsenal host West Bromwich Albion on Monday night as the Premier League returns. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis from the 2-0 win.

That was a vital win for Arsenal. After five of the other top six all won their games on Saturday, some of them in extremely impressive fashion, Arsene Wenger’s men sat nine points off the pace and desperate for a confidence-instilling win. While this wasn’t the best performance, and West Bromwich Albion certainly had their moments, especially in the first half, a win is a win, and that is exactly what Arsenal got.

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The first half started as expected. Arsenal pressed West Brom into submission, enjoyed much of the ball, and the attacking onus was on them to break down their visitors. However, other than an Alexis Sanchez free kick that flashed past the far post, the best chance of the early stages came to the Baggies.

After Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette lost the ball down the left flank, a clipped pass forwards, into the channel in behind Laurent Koscielny saw Shkodran Mustafi scamper after Jay Rodriguez. It was the former Southampton man who reached the ball first, dummying the shot and cutting inside the sliding tackle of Mustafi. Contact was made, Rodriguez stumbled, but, recovered his footing to shoot on goal, a shot that was well saved by Petr Cech, tipping the low drive onto the post. The rebound was then put wide by Jake Livermore, who poorly skewed the shot wide. But the main question centred on the penalty that most certainly should have been. An early warning sign for the Gunners.

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The first goal of the game, though, did come the way of the hosts, thanks to the alertness and readiness of the man they paid to be the sharpshooter that he is. After Jonny Evans nicked Mohamed Elneny on the edge of the area, gifting Arsenal a freekick in a dangerous area, Alexis Sanchez’ eyes lit up. His chance to score, he thought. But as his effort, clipped over the wall delicately and delightfully, was palmed away by a combination of Ben Foster and the crossbar, it was Alexandre Lacazette, not the Chilean, who benefitted from Evans’ hastiness. Lacazette was the sharpest man in the box, the only one anticipating a rebound. The ball duly fell to him and he simply nodded home.

But since the goal, it was West Brom, not Arsenal, who were the closest to rippling the net. Other than an Aaron Ramsey burst or Alexis Sanchez probe, the Gunners created very little whatsoever. West Brom, on the other hand, carved open their hosts on the break with great precision and pace. Jay Rodriguez was a constant thorn in the side, running the channels with great perseverance, Grzegorz Krychowiak began to grow into the game, spraying passes around the pitch with wonderful variety and range, and the control and dominance that Arsenal previously enjoyed quickly disappeared. And it was Krychowiak and Rodriguez that combined for West Brom’s best opportunity of the first half.

The former PSG midfielder, who is, rightly, considered somewhat of a coup for the Baggies, broke down the left channel with Laurent Koscielny attempting to cover his run. Stupidly, Shkodran Mustafi came across from his central position, leaving Nacho Monreal with two players to mark in the box and a worryingly exposed Arsenal defence. The cross from Krychowiak reached Rodriguez who headed past Cech and towards goal. It was seemingly destined for the net, if not for a contorted Monreal, who brilliantly retraced his way to goal and scooped the ball up and over the ball with a left-footed clearance.

But West Brom’s chances did not end there. As the half drew to a close, there was more confusion among the Arsenal back line that could have resulted in an equaliser. A series of freekicks and corners eventually led to a first-time volleyed cross flash across the Arsenal six-yard box. Hector Bellerin couldn’t steer his clearance behind, clearly aware of the danger of putting it in his own net, and Gareth Barry’s header was then bundled wide of the post by Petr Cech. While the one-goal lead was exactly what Arsenal wanted entering the break, they were not deserving of it, and if changes were not made, it was clear that West Brom would make them pay.

Thankfully Arsenal were far improved after the break. Alexis Sanchez continued to wiggle and worm his way past defenders, Sead Kolasinac began powering forwards from his wing-back position a little more, and opportunities were, slowly, opened up. Alexandre Lacazette saw a shot excellently blocked by Gareth Barry, Shkodran Mustafi flicked a clever corner towards the near post, that Foster was alive to, and, if not for better delivery, several set plays could have yielded greater returns.

But Arsenal were in control of the game, dominating possession in midfield and beginning to build pressure in that final third. That pressure eventually paid dividends. As Aaron Ramsey drifted into a wide left position, retrieving the ball as it bounded towards the sideline, he dropped his shoulder to the right, before spinning left, bursting round Allan Nyom, who, in tracking the Welshman down, proceeded to bundle him over, clumsily, in the box, conceding the penalty. Lacazette, as he has done for Lyon for many many years with great prolificacy, stepped up and planted his effort into the bottom right corner with the instep of his right foot. A lovely, confident, firm penalty.

With the second goal, the confidence began to flow through the Arsenal side. Lacazette should have scored, blazing over the bar after a sumptuous first touch killed the ball after Sanchez’s volleyed lobbed pass; Ramsey twirled in midfield with great control and creativity; and Sanchez, in his usually vivacious and violent style, burst and drove and powered his past and through defenders.

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Ultimately, Arsenal saw out the victory with relative ease, playing neat passes in midfield without ever looking to add to their lead. This was far from the perfect performance — Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny gave the ball away too often; Shkodran Mustafi was naive and exposed early on; if not for a fantastic Nacho Monreal clearance, it would have 1-1 at half-time –, but it was good enough to get the win, and sometimes you have to be happy with that. This is one of those occasions.