Arsenal 3-0 West Brom: As Comfortable As You Can Get.By: Perry | November 5th, 2011
A nice, routine win. Haven’t seen those in a while.
Coming into this game, there was a feeling of dread among many of the fans, particularly on Twitter. As I mentioned on the preview, the stage was set for Arsenal to have another meltdown and erase all of their good work leading up to today by losing this one. However, today Arsenal were focused, engaging, and on form as they romped to an easy 3-0 victory over an anemic West Brom. The Baggies looked lost, uninspiring, and deficient on the pitch today, especially in midfield, but it was overall an excellent Arsenal display that led to this good win, and that keeps the pressure on Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs on the battle for 4th.
The match started in a pretty normal fashion, with both sides getting the ball and getting into their opponent’s half. Early on, Koscielny proved Wenger that he was right to bench ‘Sack with some timely interventions and some great pieces of defending. The first real chance of the game was in the 10th minute, where we won a FK in a pretty promising position in West Brom’s half. It was RvP territory there, but instead Santos blazed the ball over. Soon afterwards, we took complete control of the match, but it wasn’t like we were slicing West Brom like a knife through hot butter- West Brom sat very deep, allowing space and possession but defending well when we got near the box. In the 15th minute, play stopped due to Olsson getting a nasty cut on his cheek, resulting in blood. The reason? He contested the ball with Vermaelen.
We were playing well and West Brom were pretty much nonexistent, that we eventually had to get a goal. And we did. In the 22nd minute, a fantastic Ramsey pass cut through the West Brom defense. Walcott got on the end of it, and rushed into the box, where he shot straight at Foster. However, Foster couldn’t get a hold of it, and the rebound fell onto a onrushing van Persie, who tapped it home from 5 yards. 1-0 to the Arsenal, and it was no less than we deserved.
After that, we immediately kept going and looking for second, wary of letting West Brom back in the game like we let Blackburn, Sunderland, and Stoke do. A good passing move led to Gervinho going on goal but it was narrowly called off for offside. We kept up the passing, and Arteta and Song were brilliant in maintaining our tempo and dominance. The few times West Brom did get through, however, our defense were excellent in snuffing out any chances. West Brom’s biggest chance of the first half came in the 35th minute, where an uncontested cross found Thomas, all alone at the edge of our box. Just when he was about to pull the trigger, Koscielny rushed to cleanly tackle and win the ball from him. Truly impressive defending. Then, soon after, we got the second goal we were looking for. 5 minutes before half time, a cleared Arsenal corner found Song, who chipped a delicious ball to van Persie at the byline. van Persie did a cut back that missed Gervinho but found Vermaelen, who first-timed into the back of the net. At HT it was 2-0 Arsenal, and it looked like only a truly spectacular meltdown would deny us the win.
Once the second half started, however, it was clear that West Brom had more intent and ambition in their mind. To that extent, we were on the back foot for the opening 5-15 minutes, with West Brom finding space and even getting a few shots in, although they all went wide. Gradually, though, we found our rhythm and started searching for another goal as well. Vermaelen narrowly headed wide from a corner, a few fantastic Jenkinson crosses were cleared, and Ramsey lashed wide after some great work by Gervinho. Song had the ball by himself after another great pass by Gervinho, but his first time effort was saved by Foster. And van Persie proved he’s not superhuman by missing a good chance when he skied the ball with his chocolate leg.
The game was drawing on, and even though West Brom had improved after the break, it was clear the 3 points would be ours. And the 3rd goal eventually came. A few minutes after Rosicky and Benayoun came on, we started on a promising move, led by van Persie. His pass found Rosicky, who returned it to our captain, now in the box. van Persie turned around and quickly gave the ball to Arteta, who took a good first touch and then smashed it home, past a helpless Foster. 3-0 to the Arsenal, and that’s how it would end.
Possession: Arsenal 59%-41% West Brom
Shots (On Target): 12(7)-9(4)
On to the ratings:
Szczesny: 7 A comfortable day at the office for SZCZ. Commanding in his area and when dealing with crosses and set pieces. Made a very good save from Steven Reid from a corner at the end. No dangerous tricks, either. His distribution seems to be slowly improving as well- instead of hoofing it out of play, he immediately rolls out to the nearest free teammate. Good stuff.
Jenkinson: 7 Another promising performance from Jenks. By far our best crosser, he seems to be hitting the square button (or circle, if you’re a PES fan) all the time. Defensively, he was alright, although Thomas didn’t threaten him much. Will get a much sterner test against Dortmund in midweek.
Koscielny: 8 Excellent, as always. Seems to have an awesome knack of being in the right place at the right time, and continued that habit by getting numerous interceptions today. His partnership with Vermaelen has blossomed, and that was on evidence today. Easily our first-choice pairing at the moment.
Vermaelen: 8.5 VERMINATOR’S BACKKKKKK…. an excellent goal in the first half capped off a great display from our vice-captain. A calm, assured display, one that oozed confidence, which spread to the rest of the team today. Has a great understanding with Koscielny, and did well to deny Tchoyi a goal by blocking from the ground… he’s better than Terry even in that regard!
Andre Santos: 7 A decent performance… didn’t go up front as much as he did in previous games, but defensively he coped well and didn’t have any hair-raising moments, past one deep in the second half that was well handled. Gets a bonus .5 point for the following tweet, immediately after the match:
Song: 7.5 Yet another good display from Song. Has improved in his passing, and had a very clean game by his standards (his only foul came at the very end). Almost got a goal, similar to the one he got against Bolton, but it was too placed and Foster dealt with it.
Ramsey: 8 Has really grown into his own ever since his nightmare performance at White Hart Lane. His delicious pass set up the first goal, and was ever-present in our attacks. Nearly scored in the second half after some good work from Gervinho, but his shot flashed wide. Although he is physically not fully there yet, as evidenced by his substitution and his tired display against Marseille, his technical and attacking play is getting better and better and nearing his pre-injury status. I can’t wait to see how he’ll interact with Jack once he comes back.
Arteta: 9 Co-Man of the Match There were numerous candidates for the MOTM today. Vermaelen, van Persie, Koscielny, and Ramsey all excelled. But I think it’s due to recognize the hugely positive effect Arteta has had on this team since he was bought in August. West Brom sucked today, mostly because they were virtually nonexistent in midfield- and a big part of that is because of Arteta’s efforts in bossing his area and exerting pressure on the opposition. He really isn’t the flashy, Cesc type player (that’s Ramsey’s job!), but his role instead is to act like the sturdy floor that this team stands upon. He maintains possession, pressures the opposition into losing the ball, and makes the occasional good pass. His presence allows Ramsey, Song, the full backs, and the strikers to go up and attack, greatly increasing our options and our creativity. van Persie may be getting the goals, assists, and accolades, but Arteta’s excellent midfield work is making all of this possible.
Gervinho: 7 Lively throughout the match. Had a good chance in the first half that was erroneously called off for offside. Improved a bit in the second half, and had numerous chances to either get a goal or get an assist. Seems to be growing into a consistent player.
Walcott: 6.5 I’ll be honest- I’m not Walcott’s biggest fan, and for that reason I think Walcott was the weaker of our front three today. He really should have scored in the play that led to the first goal, and there was periods of play that he seemed to disappear from the action. By no means was his performance a stinker, but not as good as our other players.
van Persie: 9 Co-Man of the Match A poacher’s goal, and two exquisite assists. What more can you ask for? Easily the best striker in the EPL right now, and giving David Silva a good run of his money for the title of best player overall. You can’t help but feel the contract situation is starting to get better as well…
Rosicky: 7 Came on for Ramsey midway through the second half. Had a hand in the third goal.
Benayoun: 6.5 Came on for Gervinho. Solid passing, some energetic runs here or there.
Arshavin: N/A Came on for Walcott at the end. Didn’t do anything of note.
A very good display, and although we still sit in 7th, we are now level on points with Liverpool and Spurs (who do have 2 games in hand), and 3 points off Chelsea and the magical 4th spot. Crazy, isn’t it? West Brom were really poor and unimaginative today, but that shouldn’t take away the luster from what was a very efficient and effective Arsenal display.
We enter the dreaded international break this week. While previous Interlulls this season were welcomed to “clear the mind” of our players after crushing defeats, this particular break seems to come at the worst time- we’re on a great run of form, RVP is on fire, our squad is finally near full health, etc. Hopefully nothing serious happens to our players when they play for their NT’s, and they all come back focused and ready to continue the W’s. Have a good Saturday!