Arsenal Vs West Brom: Highlights and analysis from controversial draw

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 31: Jack Wilshere of Arsenal wins a header during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns on December 31, 2017 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 31: Jack Wilshere of Arsenal wins a header during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns on December 31, 2017 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images) /

Arsenal travelled to the Hawthorns on Sunday to face West Bromwich Albion. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis from the 1-1 draw.

The question of how important Mesut Ozil is to Arsenal’s attacking fluency and creativity was answered on Sunday. And in emphatic fashion. The Gunners laboured to a 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion, lacking any semblance of ingenuity or unpredictability in the attacking third. Arsene Wenger played his strongest possible side, even with Chelsea coming to the Emirates in just three day’s time. But it did not look like it. His team were very, very poor, even if Mike Dean had a rather significant hand in the result.

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The game started in a bitty, but somewhat lively, manner. Both sides enjoyed chances at either end — Alexandre Lacazette and Alex Iwobi fired wide and over in quick succession; Jay Rodriguez looked sharp enjoying space on the left flank, while Petr Cech struggled to deal with a lofted cross that seemingly injured his hand.

But there was a severe lack of quality in regards to the final pass or shot. Arsenal regularly attempted to slide cute passes into the edge of the area, but found themselves sounded out, while West Brom’s intentions were clear: slide their more mobile, athletic attackers into the wide channels down the side of the back three.

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For the remainder of the half, there was not that much goalmouth action to speak of. Alex Iwobi had another strike at goal that nearly caught out Ben Foster who seemingly over-dived to make the save, recovering his position by thrusting his hands back to where had dived from. West Brom did not, however, shrink to the challenge. They pressed Arsenal when they had the opportunity to, probed the wide channels on the break, and tried to exploit the defensive vulnerabilities of their visitors.

Clear-cut chances, though, were far from aplenty. Arsenal lacked that quality that they have been known to possess. Perhaps that has something to do with the unanticipated absence of Mesut Ozil. At half-time, his missing was painfully absent. Creativity and ingenuity were low; lethargy and purposelessness reigned. A spark was needed. Desperately.

The game continued to meander its way through mediocrity. Misplaced passes, loose first touches, positional ill-discipline. There was a lack of control, quality and creativity from both sides, and it was criminally poor to watch. Alexis Sanchez did have a dangerously-positioned freekick that was hit straight at the wall, while West Brom threatened through a series of corners and wide freekicks. But, 15 minutes into the second half, and the game was still waiting for that moment of genuine ability.

Arsenal did, though, slowly, begin to create a few opportunities: Alexandre Lacazette wonderfully linked up with Alex Iwobi to fire a left-footed shot straight at Ben Foster; the Frenchman then tried to steer Alexis Sanchez’s clever pass into the box towards goal with an angled, first-time flick; Sanchez struck a shot into the near side-netting after Arsenal broke on West Brom through a spinning Jack Wilshere and string-pulling Granit Xhaka.

The best chance of the first 70 minutes came to Alexis Sanchez, though it certainly wasn’t his fault that it was squandered. Granit Xhaka fired a pass into Alexandre Lacazette. A brilliant flick from the Frenchman teed up Sanchez beautifully, but the door was slammed shut by a sliding West Brom block. Wenger introduced Danny Welbeck for Alex Iwobi, who was woefully poor once again, raising questions over how he is seen as a better option than the man who replaced, or even Theo Walcott who was stuck to the substitute’s bench. But the goal was difficult to find. Very difficult.

Thankfully, it came: Alexis Sanchez, who had just been bundled over on the edge of the area, stepped up to take a freekick from a very similar position as to a previous aforementioned effort. This time, he exploited a splinter in the wall, fired a low shot towards the right post through the gap, benefitting from a rather fortunate deflection. It was not pretty; it was not deserved. It was invaluable.

But then, madness ensued. Mike Dean, as only Mike Dean could, awarded a penalty for West Brom thanks to an apparent handball from Calum Chambers. Kieran Gibbs tries to loop a touch inside Chambers. The ball strikes Chambers hand. Chambers, though, is stood less than a metre away from Gibbs and has his hands in front of his body. It was not deliberate. It was not an awkward positioning of the hand or arm. It was just a terrible, terrible decision. Predictably, Jay Rodriguez converted the spot kick, resigning Arsenal to a disappointing point.

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Arsenal are justified to be angry with Mike Dean. It was a shocking decision. But they did not play well. They did not deserve anything more. The win would have been fortunate; the draw was the result.