3 Goals. 3 Points. A Clean Sheet. Should make the upcoming fortnight very pleasant for Gooners around the world.
Arsene’s team selection was very much along the expected lines. Indeed, Le Boss mentioned that the reason for picking Koscielny and Vermaelen in the defence was to counter the anticipated pace threat of Odemwinge.
I expected [Peter] Odemwingie to play so I opted for two centre-backs who are quick. In the end he didn’t play but they worked very well together.
I must say it worked quite well. Can you recall the visitors getting any shot on goal in the opening 45? Either the Baggies were getting caught off-side or the centre-backs intercepted passes to the lone forward.
The opening 20 minutes or so were dull. The Gunners had all the possession but the visitors looked fairly safe at the back. Most of the balls into the box were coming from the wide areas and there wasn’t enough cohesion in the attack to make those count.
It all changed in the 22nd minute after a quick free-kick taken just inside the West Brom half. Ramsey received the pass and threaded an early through-ball for Walcott to run onto. Theo looked for support but even his teammates were left behind by his blazing run. From a narrow angle the England international hit the target and went for the gap between Foster’s legs. The West Brom Keeper was able to keep the ball out but was helpless as Van Persie bundled in the loose ball from close range. Ramsey deserves credit for quick thinking and execution; Walcott for his run, control, and strike; and RvP for his poacher’s instincts.
That took the pressure off and the players lost any edginess they might have been feeling. The game returned to similar patters from the initial minutes but now the onus was on the visitors and they didn’t provide any real tests.
Vermaelen provided the second goal cushion in the 39th minute. It came from a corner situation. Finally! While the initial delivery was cleared, Arsenal sustained pressure around the box. Song got on the ball on the left side and played it out to the back post towards Van Persie. The Dutchman squared it for Gervinho but it seemed a little behind the Ivorian who flicked it away from the defender. The ball went across the face of the goal when the Belgian pounced and placed is just away from the Keeper. Once again a number of Gunners were involved in the goal.
West Brom came out with greater desire in the second half and actually had ten attempts on goal but got only two on target which drew routine saves from Szczesny.
Arsenal looked like they’d shifted to second gear but the midfield worked hard in front of the defence. The Gunners were occasionally creating some chances and looked more likely to increase their lead than to concede one. Vermaelen, Ramsey, and Van Persie missed the target from decent chances while Song forced a save from Foster.
The third goal was scored by Arteta as he arrived on the edge of the box at just the right moment. Rosicky, who’d just come on for Ramsey, played a vital role in creating the goal as did RvP who got the assist. I was impressed by the way Arteta caressed the ball into the corner. Once again at least three players showed their quality in the build-up an finish.
After that it was just a matter of seeing the game out. West Brom saw a lot of the ball and got up to the Arsenal penalty area but didn’t create any clear cut chances.
Szczesny: Didn’t have much to do.
Jenkinson: Put in some excellent crosses, went up and down the flank tirelessly, positioning was quite good in the defensive areas.
Koscielny: Was always in control. I enjoyed his confidence and one particular run that took him right up to the opposition box after starting from the defensive third.
Vermaelen: Took his goal well. Went really close with another header. Dominated his area of the pitch.
Santos: I liked his physical strength in defensive areas. Made very good runs but didn’t quite get the right pass. Still there are times when he gets caught out of position on the left and is slow to recover.
The back five were largely untroubled. The visitors were caught off-side regularly. The attacks were also snuffed out with Arsenal consistently outnumbering the forward players. When the ball did get to the final third the central defenders marshalled the area in front of goal and prevented any open chances. There were some half-chances from set-pieces and on another day it might have been a different story but that will take time.
Song: Typical Song performance.
Ramsey: I thought he was struggling with his passing but then he produced the defence splitting pass that led to the first goal. I would love to know his distance covered stats. Seems like he gets everywhere.
Arteta: Good to see him on the score sheet again. The Spaniard can contribute a few more goals from that area of the pitch as his shooting technique is top class. Spread the ball well and did his defensive duties.
Wenger has tweaked some of the midfield roles and this trio is getting better and better with every game. Ramsey played a key pass for the first goal, Song for the second, Arteta got the third. While bulk of their work was non-glamorous and workmanlike, all three are influencing games in their own way.
Walcott: Wasn’t very impressive in the opening 20 minutes but as Arsene has observed, he can be a very efficient player when the right pass arrives. I did feel he could have done better by hugging the touchline rather than cutting inwards against a fullback who preferred staying narrow.
RvP: Another goal with an assist to boot. The goal looked easy but his instincts were sharp. Many strikers would not have reached that ball. Also led from the front on the composure and work rate fronts.
Gervinho: Made a number of runs down the middle without really getting or creating excellent chances but kept going and his resilience must be appreciated. Got a vital touch and should get the assist for the second goal.
The front three weren’t as threatening against a packed defence but found different ways to contribute. Can’t really ask for more game after game.
Subs: Rosicky looked lively in the attacking areas. Benayoun and Arshavin didn’t have much to do but the Israeli captain put in a decent defensive shift.
Wenger: Seems like a straightforward win once it is achieved but would have been criticized for not rotating enough if the team failed to get a win.