The Baggies headed to north London knowing a point would mathematically secure their Premier League status. Pepe Mel, backed by a bumper Albion following dressed in his honour, handed recalls to the erratic Diego Lugano and the reliable, if not always effective, James Morrison.
Arsenal knew a victory would ensure another season where they would qualify for the Champions League. Saido Berahino, who netted the winner against West Ham last week, threatened first for Albion. Morrison robbed Sagna on the area, his through ball found Berahino but the young striker dallied on the ball and his effort was jumped on by Arsenal stopper Szczesny.
Mulumbu blocked a Santi Cazorla effort away for a corner. From the resulting set piece, Craig Dawson gave Olivier Giroud a yard and the French striker headed home. Replays showed that had Mulumbu been in the correct position, he’d have blocked the header at the near post.
The goal gave confidence to Albion. It looked like the Gunners would extend their advantage. However, it was Albion that had the next real chance. Graham Dorrans’ long-range effort was palmed out by Szczesny into the path of Berahino. But the youngster’s effort was ballooned over. Fortunately for him, he was flagged offside. Berahino flashed another effort over minutes later.
After the break
Much like the majority of the season, Albion were improved after the break. The Baggies moved the ball quicker and found Sessegnon in the ‘hole’ between Arsenal’s midfield and defence. But on too many occasions, Albion’s final ball was poor and we lost impetus.
Albion’s best effort of the game came in the 70th minute. Berahino did well to hold off his marker and fed the on-rushing Amalfitano. The winger rounded Szczesny but his effort was bundled behind for a corner. Dawson nodded the resulting corner just over the bar.
It looked like Arsenal would finally score a second as the game wore on. Olsson failed to clear a cross and passed the ball to Lukas Podolski. The German sliced his volley against the post and Foster was able to gather.
Pepe Mel sent on Victor Anichebe and Matej Vydra in an attempt to find an equaliser. I was surprised Mel waited until the final ten minutes to send on ‘Big Vic’. As it was, we looked more threatening after his arrival. On a couple of occasions, he spun his marker in the box. Unfortunately for him and Albion, his goalbound efforts were blocked.
It’s no embarrassment losing 1-0 to Arsenal. Better teams will go to the Emirates Stadium and lose by more. But it’s shame we didn’t really ‘go for it’. While I can understand Mel didn’t want to reduce Albion’s goal difference, we never really pushed for an equaliser which would’ve guaranteed our safety. Although Norwich’s failure to beat Chelsea means we’re 99% safe, it would’ve been nice to get the job done. As it is, Albion now go to Sunderland on Wednesday knowing another point will do and Pepe will have completed his mission of keeping Albion up.
COME ON YOU BAGGIES.
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