Monday, November 7, 2011

Arsenal 3 West Brom 0

The pre-match focus was on who was going to be paired with Vermaelen, and the answer was Koscielny. After the match, Arsene Wenger revealed that he chose two quick centre backs in the anticipation of Peter Odemwengie to play up front.

Odemwengie, who sustained an injury during the training in the week, did not feature in Saturday's game, but it proved to be a good decision to play two aggressive centre-backs because they tried to defend West Brom attack high on the pitch and contained it very compactly.

Three goals came from three different scorers. Although RVP was involved in all the goals, either as a scorer or a provider, it was a good evidence that Arsenal are not a one-man team. In fact, all the three goals were produced as the result of very good team performance.

It was a typical Arsenal game in which they dominated in possession, with one-touch passing and little clever one-twos. Good old Arsenal football is back. After scoring two goals in the first half and with West Brom not looking too threatening, Arsenal slipped into the old habit of taking the foot off the gas in the second half. Watching this game at Las Mimosas bar, we began to fear the all too familiar scenario, in which just one sloppy pass would award patient West Brom a chance to score and at 2-1, Arsenal defence would start to panic. Call us pessimists, but we have watched far too many Arsenal matches (especially last season) to sit back and relax even when we are cruising with a two-goal lead. Then, Arsene Wenger made three substitutions to inject some urgency into the game through Rosicky, Benayoun, and Arshavin, who all wanted playing time and needed to prove their worth. The double substitutions turned out to be a timely decision as Rosicky and Benayoun livened up the game and forced a much-needed third goal to put the game into bed.

Overall, it was a comfortable and convincing win, with a welcome clean sheet and another three points in the bag. Furthermore, Arsenal's goal deference has turned positive for the first time this season.

It is again difficult not to choose RVP for the Man of the Match with scoring a goal and assisting two, but we would like to choose Vermaelen instead because his return has made such a big difference to the team and he epitomised Arsenal's solid performance both defensively and offensively.

Player Ratings:

Szczeny: 7
He didn't have much to do as West Brom registered only two shots on target. His goal-kick to Jenkinson ended up with a West Brom throw-in from a dangerous area. As a goalkeeper, he has to be focused for full 90 minutes.

Jenkinson: 8
He coped with pacey Jerome Thomas very well. He looked less nervous than in the mid-week game against Marseille and got more involved in going forward, which drew out his strength, i.e., good crossing.

Koscielny: 8
Together with Vermaelen, he formed a solid defence.

Vermaelen: 9
He provided reassuring presence for Arsenal defence. He closed down West Brom attack high on the pitch, although he gave away several fouls, but not serious enough to get yellow cards. He scored a good goal, dashing into the box like a centre forward.

Santos: 7
Arsene Wenger said that he is a better defender than people think. He tries to get the ball in the opponents' half. When it is successful, it gives Arsenal a huge attacking edge, but when it fails, it exposes Arsenal defence. In this game, his risk-taking style worked well and he was always a threat to West Brom defence down the left-hand side.

Ramsey: 7
Great pass to Walcott, which led to the first goal. He had a chance to score himself, but the shot went wide.

Arteta: 8
Arsenal defenders contained West Brom attack very compactly, which allowed Arteta to exploit his attacking prowess. It is not fair to compare him with Fabregas as he has been playing Jack Wilshere role. However, in this game, he was given scope to show what he was capable of as an attacking midfielder. This is good for Arsenal because it shows the midfield can adjust their attack-defence balance game by game, a further evidence for the newly rebuilt team gelling together. At the end of a very good build-up involving Rosicky and RVP, Arteta scored his second goal of the season with clinical finish.

Song: 7
He broke down West Brom attack very well and nearly scored.

Walcott: 8
He used his pace well and tested Ben Foster with sharp shooting a couple times, one of which led to the first goal.

Gervinho: 8
In the first half, he was not given much space to manoeuvre as two West Brom players tightly marked him, but he gradually found space by swapping sides with Walcott occasionally and got involved in every attacking move in the second half.

Van Persie: 9
He scored a poacher's goal and provided assists for the other two goals.


Rosicky: 8
Brought the tempo back in to the game and his neat one-two with RVP was a part of beautiful build-up to the third goal.

Benayoun: 7
Did not make an eye-catching move, but together with Rosicky, he brought urgency into Arsenal attack.
Arshavin: 6
Made little impact.

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