Arsenal avoided a third straight Premier League loss by beating a lacklustre West Brom at The Hawthorns. The Gunners started the fixture with their lowest points tally after 12 games in 32 years, but Danny Welbeck’s powerful header gave them victory. Welbeck – denied by a Ben Foster save in the first half – powered in Santi Cazorla’s cross after half-time. West Brom came closest when Saido Berahino headed onto the bar during a late rally but were deservedly beaten.
The Baggies have not scored a league goal for more than 300 minutes, and chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” when manager Alan Irvine substituted Stephane Sessegnon will do little for confidence. In Arsenal, the Baggies faced a side under intense scrutiny following their own poor start to the season, but Arsene Wenger’s side have now followed last weekend’s defeat by Manchester United with two wins, including Champions League progress in midweek.
They have reached the latter stages of that competition for 15 straight seasons, but that pattern contrasts with the inconsistency which hampers any title challenge, and banners calling for Wenger to leave his role were visible among the travelling support. His side are 11 points worse off than at this stage last season despite the additions of Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers and Welbeck – who was shifted out of the central striker’s berth for Olivier Giroud – but produced the game’s decisive moment.
His header – one of 17 Arsenal attempts at goal – arrived after a first half in which Foster was the only goalkeeper called into action, denying Welbeck from 12 yards. The West Brom keeper then presented Giroud – back in the starting XI for the first time since breaking his leg in August – with an open goal near the corner flag, but the angle proved too acute. Arsenal looked solid with Laurent Koscielny back at the heart of their defence, and with all of their wins this season coming against sides in the bottom half, the breakthrough inevitably arrived. Cazorla was impressive throughout – completing 93% of his passes in the opposition half – and he crafted space to dig out a neat cross which Welbeck headed home from eight yards.
Only Berahino had briefly threatened for the home side, and his header from six yards hit the woodwork. The closing five minutes was the Baggies’ best spell and Craig Gardner whistled a shot from range narrowly wide, but Arsenal held on for a fourth win in 12 league games. West Brom manager Alan Irvine on fans chanting after a substitution: “It’s not nice to hear it but people have their own opinions and it very nearly worked.
“We looked as if we might score when perhaps we didn’t look like scoring too many times prior to the changes. Had it worked, perhaps people would have had a different judgement. We came close to getting something.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on some fans demanding he leaves: “I don’t want to comment on that. I try to do my best for this club that I love. We are very united with the players and staff around the team, that’s all you can do.
“It’s easier to deal with the upwards than the downwards, but you cannot be a manager and have only one side.”
Arsenal (Welbeck 60′)
SUMMARY of TODAY’s GAME thus far:
West Brom 0-1 Arsenal
Burnley 1-1 Aston Villa
Liverpool 1-0 Stoke
Man Utd 3-0 Hull
QPR 3-2 Leicester
Swansea 1-1 Crystal Palace
West Ham 1-0 Newscastle