Arsenal won 1-0 at The Hawthorns today, beating West Brom on a majestic Danny Welbeck header that came midway through the second half. While beating West Brom should never be a massive cause of celebration, it sure comes as a relief for Arsenal, who hadn’t won a Premier League game since the first day of the month.
In many ways, this was the typical Arsenal game of the current campaign. Arsenal dominated the first half, but hardly managed to get the ball anywhere near Ben Foster in net. The goal came, but soon after, Wenger’s men sat back unable to get a second, and nervily watched as the opponent took siege on the goal. The only difference this time was that Saido Berahino hit the bar, whereas most opponents have been scoring the tying goals.
But why am I complaining? Arsenal are back to their winning ways and have now won a couple in a row. A win against in-form Southampton on Wednesday would give the Gunners a wonderful boost of momentum heading into the holidays. It doesn’t seem far fetched for this team to be comfortably back on firm ground in a few weeks.
Today’s offensive stars were Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck, who combined wonderfully for the lone goal. The two had combined well on a few occasions in the first half, with Welbeck enjoying a little more freedom in his role on the left today. Saying he played on the left would be a misnomer though, as he was operating all across the front. Instead of pouting about Olivier Giroud starting up top, Welbeck put in a terrific shift and showed his quality.
Cazorla has been struggling this year, especially in front of goal. You can see that every time he hits a shot straight at the keeper, or when a defender dives in the way of his shots, his head falls in resignation. For a typically fun-loving little player, he looks noticeably downcast this year. Before his assist, he’d had three or four of those moments when it seemed like he couldn’t buy a goal. But to his credit, he did all the other work in midfield, and he was rewarded with an assist through a driving run down the left and a beautiful little chip. Hopefully that will get him going.
Defensively, Per Mertesacker had his best game of the season. A lot of that had to do with Laurent Koscielny returning to the lineup beside him, as Mertesacker appeared more confident. With Koscielny to cover him, he can take more risks on reading passes, which is his strength as a defender.
I’m still not sold on Calum Chambers. People talk about how he has fit into the side seamlessly, but he routinely gets beat, both on the flank and in the air. He doesn’t venture forward that often, yet at least once or twice a game, he gets caught way too far up field. I miss Bacary Sagna because I could trust him completely. Chambers on the other hand is a constant source of worry.
My other dose of criticism for today is for Aaron Ramsey. The bush has already been beaten about how he is nowhere near the player he was a year ago, that he is trying too hard for goals. But what annoys me is the selfishness of his game right now. For every touch he takes in the box, he has to have a shot, regardless of what’s happening around him. Some of them are good shots, like the one he pulled just wide. But some of them are awful. Think about the volley he tried to hit from a lofted pass over his head, or about the shot he took on the rebound with a bunch of bodies around him when he had a teammate in space to his right. He needs to stop wanting to score so much, and just play. The goals will come when he focuses on being in the right spots and making the right decisions.
I hope Tomas Rosicky gets a chance to start in midweek, if only to provide a bit of squad rotation while the fixture list ramps up. Arsene Wenger will have to be more proactive about resting players if he wants to avoid muscle injuries in the next month. He can’t stop the contact injuries like Jack Wilshere’s, but he can prevent others with squad rotation.
This afternoon, I’m getting a chance to see Thierry Henry play in what could be the final game of his illustrious career. While I’ll be rooting for my hometown Revolution in the MLS Eastern Conference Finals, I will relish this opportunity to see Henry play. I don’t know what to expect from the King today on the artificial turf, but I’m eager to pay my respects to the ultimate Gooner. With the Revs up 2-1 on aggregate, I predict another 2-1 win, with the goals coming as the Red Bulls push forward for the second away goal. Go Revs!