Alan Irvine made two changes to the starting eleven that lost to Chelsea with Pocognoli returning from injury and Youssouf Mulumbu coming in for the suspended Yacob.
Albion line up; Foster, Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Pocognoli, Mulumbu, Gardner, Dorrans, Sessegnon, Brunt, Berahino. Subs; Myhill, Baird Ideye, Anichebe, Gamboa, McAuley, Samaras.
The atmosphere was a little subdued. There seems a fair bit of tension and apprehension around The Hawthorns at the minute. The hope was that the players could wrestle the initiative early on and make amends for two very lacklustre performances against Chelsea and Newcastle. Arsenal had their own problems with mounting pressure on Wenger to quit after a relatively average start to the season from them.
The game started at a tame pace with both teams content to feel each other out. A couple of attempts by Arsenal saved by Foster. Albion won the first corner on 7 minutes which came to nothing. Arsenal are eased themselves into the game with no real pressure from the home side. There was no urgency or desire to stop them playing and to get at them. Come on you Baggies!
Arsenal continued to probe and another couple of half attempts are missed by Sanchez and Welbeck. On the half hour mark, Berahino attempts to latch on Foster’s through ball but is caught offside. Another couple of Arsenal attempts before Brunt caught offside from a Berahino through ball. Half time is greeted with a muted response and a few disgruntled groans. 0-0 and not a great deal to be cheerful about.
After the break
The second half began and Albion start marginally the quicker. Gardner attempts a through ball only for Berahino to be caught offside. That looked tight – replays later showed he was onside. Arsenal counter and produce a series of attempts thwarted by some desperate defending. Berahino goes close after a good move ends up with him bearing down on goal but screwing a near post attempt just wide. It may have been more profitable to square it, where two on-rushing players were there for a tap in. Lescott attempted a header from a corner which wasn’t far away. The game has livened up a little.
Goal. Cazorla does well with trickery on the edge of the box and provides a pinpoint cross for Welbeck to head home. Foster gets his hands on it but can only push it into the roof of the net. I feel he could have done better there. 1-0 Arsenal.
Sessegnon attempts to wrestle Albion back into the game. His persistence and skill on the ball caused a few problems for Arsenal. He provides a chance for Brunt who smashes a shot wide. First Albion sub. Anichebe comes on for Mulumbu. Maybe some powerful forward momentum will break the monotony. Pocognoli injured again. Subbed – Gamboa on to replace. Still no threat from Albion who look like tamely conceding another home match, without causing a problem for the opposition. Samaras gets the nod from Irvine to replace Sessegnon, which is met with a chorus of boos around the ground. This is followed by chants of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ an indication of the unease around The Hawthorns at the minute. I must say that it was a questionable decision at best. Sessegnon looked one of the only ones capable of unlocking a tight Arsenal defence. Taking a forward player off with those qualities and replacing him with someone who has not yet justified his place in the squad is a bold or idiotic move. It is one that didn’t sit well with a large proportion of the paying crowd.
Gardner has an attempt saved on 76 minutes as Albion appeared to have awoken from their slumber by the disgruntled home crowd. Then a couple of attempts blocked from Brunt and Gardner as the home side at last press. Gamboa finds himself free on the right, his cross is met by Berahino...but his header hits the bar! Unlucky. It was the best sequence of play in the match by far from Albion who didn’t mustered much.
An attempt by Gardner took deflection and just goes wide for corner. That was a powerful effort from Gardner which looked to be on target. The resulting corner saw Gardner misses a header nearing the full time mark. Yet Albion did not really lay siege to the Arsenal goal. They at least upped the tempo, but it was too little too late again.
A chorus of boos came from around the ground at the final whistle from the fans who were still present. A very lacklustre display again from Albion as the pressure increases on Irvine. The next four games are crucial to our season. Does Irvine and his coaching staff have the right formula to get us 8 points we need from them? On this evidence you would have to say no.
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