Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Arsenal 1 West Brom 0

Everything went according to the scenario that we, Gooners, hoped and Arsenal secured a top-four finish without even playing a day earlier, when Everton were beaten by Manchester City 3-2. After their devastating 3-0 defeat at Goodison Park, Arsenal's fate was in the Merseyside club's hands at one time. Since then, the tables have been turned, largely helped by Everton's slip-ups against Crystal Palace and Southampton. As a result, we have secured yet another season of Champions League football (provided that we safely navigate through play-offs in August). In fact, Arsenal are set to enjoy their 18th successive season in Champions League, a feat that only Real Madrid can better.

Arsene Wenger made only one change from the side that started in a comprehensive 3-0 win over Newcastle on Monday night. Mathieu Flamini came in for Aaron Ramsey, who was widely regarded as "rested" due to what was described as "minor" thigh strain. The Welshman was not even on the bench. Perhaps, if the top-four finish had still been at stake, Wenger might have been tempted to take a gamble, but it was not worth taking a risk with an FA Cup final looming in the fortnight's time. Bacary Sagna was a major doubt prior to the game, suffering a knee problem, but he was fit enough to feature in what could be his last ever home game as his contract expires at the end of the season. He had a good game. On the lap of appreciation, a tradition after the end of the last home game of the season, the French right-back was received by the home fans with a song "We want you to stay". Another piece of big news was that Abu Diaby made his comeback to the squad for the first time in more than 13 months. After the long rehabilitation from a cruciate knee ligament injury, he was rewarded with a place on the bench (fortunately he managed not to get injured).

Knowing that Arsenal's place in the next season's Champions League had already been booked, it was a comfortable afternoon for us. The relaxed mood was shared by the fans and players. Arsenal started the game with freedom, but the pace of the game was slow  most of the time, especially once Arsenal had taken a lead. We thought that the quality of Aaron Ramsey was missed in the final third, but the mental factor might have played a big role in the lack of intensity. It wasn't a classic Arsenal display, and we were disappointed that the Gunners did not win this game emphatically after scoring 3 goals in each of the last 3 games. In fact, the north London club has been playing some fantastic football since the return of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil. So it was a somewhat disappointing game, but considering that there was nothing riding on this game, we could only say that the job was accomplished in a professional manner, with no risky tackle that could have led to injury or suspension. Despite the narrow scoreline, it was a fairly comfortable win. There is little for us to complain about after coming away with three points without even getting out of first gear.

Arsenal's efficient performance this day will probably not stay in fans' memory for very long, but the three points were definitely a step forward from last season, which saw Arsenal finish fourth on 73 points. One more win this season will make 79 points, in which there is no shame at all. In another year, that could have won the title. As a matter of fact, the north London club won the title in the 1997/98 season with 78 points. A top-four finish has been our target for a while since we fell out of the title race, but we are now closer to the title leaders than fifth-placed Everton.

Talking about records, with another clean sheet, Wojciech Szczesny can claim the Premier League Golden Glove Award. He is currently neck and neck with Chealsea's Petr Cech on 16 clean sheets. With the Czech keeper already ruled out for the rest of the season through a shoulder injury, the young Pole has a good chance of winning the award this season. Hopefully, this will give him and his team-mates an incentive to win the next game. The Norwich game seemingly offers the Gunners nothing to play for, but it is important that the team will go into the FA Cup final with some momentum behind them. It is interesting to see what kind of team Wenger is going to field in the final game of the season.

Players ratings

Szczesny: 6
With West Brom registering only 1 shot on target, he had little to do.

Sagna: 8
Whoscored.com's Man of the Match. Solid defensive display with an important tackle. Offensively, made 2 key passes.

Mertesacker: 8
Put in a couple of  match-saving blocks. Made 3 interceptions and a whopping 13 clearances. Made 61 passes with a 92% accuracy.

Koscielny: 7
Solid. Made 5 interceptions and 9 clearances. Made 51 passes with an impressive 100% passing success rate.

Monreal: 7
Had a consistent game. Replaced by Vermaelen in the 80th minute.

Arteta: 7
Made 62 passes with a 97% passing accuracy, including 15 long balls, all accurate. Made 3 tackles and 3 interceptions. Replaced by Källström in the 63rd minute.

Flamini: 7
Covered a longer distance (12.6 km) than any other player on the pitch, making forward runs as often as he could in the absence of Ramsey.

Cazorla: 7
Had 4 shots in total, one of which drew a fine save from Ben Foster. He wasted a glorious chance in the first half, but he looked lively. We didn't understand why he was taken off in the second half. Set up the winning goal through his perfectly-placed corner kick.

Özil: 7
Had 2 shots, one of which was on target. He created a great chance for himself through brilliant dribbling into the box, but his uncharacteristically poor finish let him down. 

Podolski: 7
Had a couple of good chances, but failed to convert them (Unlucky to hit the woodwork on one occasion). Made 3 tackles, which highlights his improved performance defensively.

Giroud: 8
Barclays' Man of the Match. For the only goal of the game, he used his physical strength to get on the right side of his marker, who was pushing and pulling all over him, and directed Santi's corner kick to the near post with a powerful header. Created 3 chances for his team-mates.


Källström: 6
Replaced Arteta in the 63rd minute.

Rosicky: 6
Came on for Cazorl in the 70th minute. We hoped that he would inject some pace and dynamism, but unfortunately he made little impact.

Vermaelen: 6
Replaced Monreal in the 80th minute. Delivered a perfectly-weighed long pass on the left flank for Poldi.

No comments:

Post a Comment