Arsenal suffer another setback
Arsenal’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League – by getting a top-four position in the Premiership – took another knock after they went down 3-1 at the hands of West Brom at The Hawthorns yesterday.
Arsène Wenger’s men headed into this encounter aiming to bounce back from a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at the start of the month, but all eyes inside The Hawthorns were glued to the sky before kick-off as a plane carrying the message “No Contract #Wenger Out” flew overhead.
The Frenchman’s future has become the subject of fevered speculation in the English press following the club’s humiliating 10-2 aggregate defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
It’s fair to say the matter has polarised the Gunners’ support, as evidenced by another plane that flew overhead a few minutes later, carrying the message: “In Arsène We Trust #RespectAW.”
And, despite a strong start from the Londoners, it was the hosts who claimed the lead against the run of play in the 12th minute, Craig Dawson rising above Laurent Koscielny to head home from Nacer Chadli’s near-post cross.
The goal sparked an almost immediate response from the Gunners, though, with the irrepressible Alexis Sánchez latching on to a pinpoint pass from Granit Xhaka before lashing the ball into the roof of the net from the edge of the six-yard box.
With parity restored, the match slipped into a predictable rhythm as Arsenal dominated possession, while the Baggies dropped deep and formed a tight defensive unit in a bid to frustrate the visitors.
Petr Čech was eventually called into action in the 35th minute to keep out Darren Fletcher’s stinging drive from the right-hand side of the box, but had to be substituted a few minutes later after pulling up with a suspected calf injury. David Ospina came on to replace the injured Čech, but had very little to do in the remaining minutes of the first half.
However, Arsenal’s defence – and Ospina in particular – would be put to the test again after the half-time break, and West Brom very nearly reclaimed the lead in the 51st minute when Salomón Rondón headed wide of the mark from Chris Brunt’s inviting cross.
They weren’t to be denied four minutes later, though, as Ospina failed to collect a first-time shot from the lively James McClean, and the ball fell for substitute Hal Robson-Kanu, who had the simple task of prodding the ball past Ospina and into an unguarded net.
Arsenal went agonisingly close to drawing level in the 65th minute, but Danny Welbeck saw his volleyed effort crash back off the crossbar before being cleared by the Baggies defence.
And they were made to rue that missed opportunity as West Brom went on to bag a third in the 74th minute from yet another set-piece, Dawson evading his marker before powering a headed effort home into the back post, effectively ending the match as a contest.
The result sees West Brom return to the winning trail following backto-back defeats, while the Gunners are still searching for their first league win this month.