It won’t be an exaggeration to say that this result was the shock of the season so far, at least in the Premier League. That is if you consider the reputation of the teams and their respective home and away form. But if you see the performance on the pitch on the day it is very difficult to say this was a shock. I don’t say this often, but West Brom completely deserved their win.
I think all the good work so far this season was undone by this game. The old problems returned to the fore and our plucky opponents were well prepared and alert enough to their chance.
I was really surprised by the starting line-up and within five minutes it was clear that this game won’t be as easy as it should have been. To me the three players who lost us this match were Eboue, Song, and Diaby. Almunia made a horrible mistake and the full backs were not convincing but the real villains were those three.
The first problem was the tempo of the game. Our midfielders, especially Diaby and Song were guilty of moving the ball slowly, not offering themselves often enough to receive a pass, and not reading the game defensively. That made it easy for West Brom to maintain their organization and gave them a threat on the counter attack.
The second big problem was that too many players were making the same runs. Eboue and Diaby got in the way of the creative and attacking players on a regular basis. We didn’t have any width for the first hour and it was overcrowded in the middle.
The biggest problem however, was that too many players switched off and were caught ball watching, making the job of defenders and the goalkeeper really difficult.
We had 15 shots in the first half but rarely any on target. Most of them were taken in desperation, a clear sign that the game was not flowing. In contrast, West Brom only had 35 percent possession but they looked far more threatening. Our full backs were exposed far too often and the midfield just wasn’t working hard enough.
The only real chance of the first half came when Almunia conceded penalty. I think the problem started when Clichy and Song went to ground in the West Brom half but didn’t win the ball. That left a huge vacant space on the back and Odemwinge was able to get in behind. Almunia came but didn’t get the ball. Clear penalty and a yellow card to Almunia was the right decision as Koscielny had already cleared the ball. The Keeper redeemed himself with a good penalty save, something he does well.
The warning signs were there but we didn’t learn. I don’t know what Arsene said at half time but it didn’t have any impact.
The first goal came when everyone went to sleep. A clearance was cushioned into the path of Thomas by Shorey. All Arsenal players were just ball-watching. Sagna was beaten by a simple dummy and Thomas played a harmless cross. It went past 4 or 5 statuesque Arsenal players and Odemwinge converted his tap-in.
Within a couple of minutes it was 0-2. The ball was in a harmless position on the left wing. I think it was Odemwinge who was facing his own goal with Clichy right behind him. The full back Jara made a run past him, and the striker found him with a nice back heel. It was the most obvious pass but Clichy didn’t read it while Song was standing and admiring the run of the defender.
Koscielny was a little late in closing him down but the Right Back’s shot was straight at Almunia. Quite how he botched it is beyond me. The goal resulted from extremely poor defending by Clichy, Song, and Almunia but the Keeper would have to take the bulk of the blame for this one.
Arsenal woke up from the slumber after conceding two goals. After that the tempo was at a level one would have expected at the start. A couple of substitutions, Wilshere and Rosicky replacing the lazy Diaby and awful Eboue, made a big difference.
In the final half-hour Arsenal looked threatening but there was always the risk of conceding one more on the break. Once Koscielny was replaced by Vela, a seemingly positive but risky change, it was even more imperative that those at the back don’t lose their concentration.
Just the opposite happened in the 73rd minute. Clichy was caught square and Brunt was able to get past him with a simple touch. This forced Almunia to come out but he couldn’t get the ball on time. nonetheless, he did well to narrow down the options for Brunt who played a slow, hopeful ball across the penalty box. Once again the defenders, especially Song and Clichy, were sleeping as Thomas was allowed to attack the ball unchallenged.
To their credit, the players fought well in the final 15 minutes. Nasri and Arshavin in particular were quite impressive and looked like they could create something. The Frenchman scored two wonderful goals; one with brilliant composure and the second from a delightful pass by Arshavin. It was too little too late.
Almunia: Good work with the penalty and a couple of other saves. Horrible mistake for the second goal. I won’t blame him for the first or the third.
Sagna: Got caught out for the first goal. Overall he worked hard and struggled with lack of support from midfield and Eboue.
Squillaci: Can’t blame him much. Might have done better for the first goal but difficult to say.
Koscielny: Was fairly solid and won many balls that came into the box, but should have done better in closing down Jara.
Clichy: Another difficult game for the Frenchman. He looks uncertain and shaky. Did really well in the first half to make an interception but then was indecisive when he had a good scoring chance. Bad mistake for the second and third goals.
Song: He seems confused. Isn’t doing the simple things right and is trying too hard to go forward. Should have been much closer to the defence and should have done much better for the second and third goals.
Diaby: This is the kind of performance that makes many people doubt him. Didn’t work hard enough, didn’t help the defenders, got in the way of Nasri and Arshavin. With his size and skills he should have dominated the midfield but he put in a lazy, disappointing performance.
Nasri: Struggled in the first hour as the two midfielders behind him didn’t do their jobs. Looked a completely different player in the final 30 minutes. Two high quality finishes and our most threatening player.
Chamakh: Was marked out of the game. Should have dropped deep more often. Should also be more alert to the loose ball in the box. These are the games where you miss RvP.
Eboue: Complete disaster. Very poor work rate, hardly any tracking back, made the wrong runs, and generally careless attitude.
Arshavin: like Nasri, he looked much better in the final half-hour. Worked much harder than the likes of Diaby and Eboue. Put in some good balls from set-pieces and crosses.
Subs: Rosicky, Wilshere, and Vela tried hard. I would have preferred Gibbs over Vela as the Englishman would have provided us with better penetration, physical presence, and crosses. Sorry, Gibbs was injured I completely forgot that in the moment. Thanks Gunner Young for pointing it out.
It was a hugely disappointing result that will allow many to question our title ambitions. We’ve blown away five points in two weeks due to some abysmal football. The expression on the face of Fabregas said it all.
I thought this game would have been perfect for someone like Denilson who would have kept the game ticking without getting in the way of others. We can’t do much about it now; the focus must immediately shift to the midweek Champions League trip. With Chelsea losing at City, we haven’t lost much ground but next week’s six pointer will now be a big, big game.