Arsenal emerged victorious in the Monday Night fixture this evening against a West Brom side who will travel back up the M40 feeling they could have taken something from the game.
The game was surprisingly open with a number of counter attacks from both sides, however it was Arsenal who showed their class and took their chances.
The Gunners started brightly, earning an early corner and attacking the Baggies defence with some conviction. Arsenal were looking to play the ball to the feet of Lacazette and flick second balls into the advancing Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez. Albion tried to counter this by confronting the Frenchman before he could get a pass away to a teammate which was invariably ending up with him on the ground and Arsenal restarting with a Free kick in the final third.
Foster seemed to have his angles spot on from one of these free kicks, as summer wantaway Alexis Sanchez curled the ball beyond the wall and the far post. A good early sighter and a reminder if one was needed of how dangerous the Chile international can be.
The Baggies changed their tactics to match Arsenal’s shape, trying to adopt a fluid back 5 which lacked any real attacking threat through the wing backs and looked cluttered through the middle. This change did allow the front two of Rodriguez and Robson-Kanu (particularly the former) to cause the Arsenal defence a few problems.
The biggest talking point of the opening exchanges came just before the ninth minute. Mustafi brought down Rodriguez in the box; the replays showed he was nowhere near the ball and brought the striker to the floor.
Referee Bobby Madley (who had his view obscured at the time) didn’t point to the spot and did not play advantage as Sky pundit Alan Smith suggested. Instead Rodriguez got to his feet and forced a stunning save from Petr Cech. Jake Livermore did well to miss the rebound which seemed easier to score than miss. A huge let off for the Gunners – had Rodriguez not been so honest and got his shot away the penalty may have been awarded.
The breakthrough came for Arsenal in the 20th minute. Another free kick on the edge of the box, this time Sanchez hit the target and Ben Foster did well to tip the ball onto the bar, but Lacazette was the quickest to react and nodded the ball home for his third goal of the season. A good poachers goal which the Baggies keeper was furious to concede; he clearly felt his defenders were caught flat-footed.
West Brom continued to counter attack after the goal but lacked the quality in the final third that is needed at this level. Robson-Kanu was always willing to receive the ball but frequently mis-controlled it into the nearest man in red. The attacking play was leaving their defence exposed and Aaron Ramsey continued to breach the back line with some excellent cutting runs into the box which were being quelled by Foster.
Grzegorz Krychowiak looked the brightest spark on the pitch for the visitor’s, playing some pinpoint cross field passes to the men on the flanks who were struggling to get good balls into the ball. The PSG loanee took matters into his own hands, cutting out the wingers and playing a fabulous deep cross in to Rodriguez which forced an even better goal line clearance from Nacho Monreal; a piece of defending which truly was as good as a goal. On another day Rodriguez would have taken home the matchball, he cut a frustrated figure as he left the pitch at half time, clearly feeling unlucky to have not bagged at least two goals. Half time: 1-0 to the hosts.
The Baggies started the second half well but still lacked the cutting edge to breach the Arsenal defence. Gareth Barry seemed desperate to mark his record breaking appearance with a goal and was playing as an inside forward for large periods of the game.
In the 65th minute a clumsy challenge from Nyom on Ramsey in the box was spotted by the referee, who pointed to the spot. Foster went the right way but Lacazette had placed the ball in the bottom right corner with such power that he had no chance. Lacazette claimed his second of the night and his fourth for the season; it is early days but he seems good value for his transfer fee.
The Baggies continued to press well but to no avail, the game was slowly drawing to a conclusion as the men from the Black Country tired and Arsenal seemed happy to see the game out. West Brom will feel justifiably miffed but can take positives from the game; some of their build up play was direct and effective but the ball just wasn’t falling for them in the final third.
For Arsenal, an efficient and clinical performance which will no doubt please the fans, particularly with their marquee signing bagging a brace in the process. They got lucky with some of the refereeing decisions for sure but don’t let that take away from their victory; they moved the ball around well and took their opportunities when they cropped up.
Man of the match: Alexander Lacazette
Written by George Bates.