Arsenal played most of the half via Vieira. Our centre backs also saw a lot of the ball because they were the only red and white shirts allowed any space. Vieira could always find space and a couple of markers soon after the ball arrived at his feet, our back four were only pressed when in possession. The square ball across the back line being our favourite but an ineffective move during the opening half. The Bromwich back line had a solid midfield in front of the defence and there was no way through for a stuttering Arsenal passing machine against a variable 3-6-1 going on 5-4-1. The Baggies played like an away side but were challenging for every millimetre of turf. For the best part of the half we relied on a low hard long ball that rarely came off. We were off our game for most of the opening 45 minutes but in fairness West Brom didn’t allow us to play.
Patience being a virtue we did eventually get on top after we waited over half an hour to create our first chance, which fell to Pat to shoot over from outside their box. This was in a ten-minute spell where Arsenal at last showed their class without really looking like causing any serious damage. Albion fans were pretty noisy in an attempt to lift their boys, but although Gera had a flash overhead scissors attempt, Wallwork had a shot blocked and Richardson went fairly close with a free kick there was little or nothing to worry Lehmann in goal. This was a tedious half where neither side created much in the way of threats on goal nor did either side cause any problems for Neil Barry who was in charge for the night. Arsenal finished the half on top but the Baggies edged it.
WBA were out early for the second half to the tune of the ‘Great Escape’ but their keeness was met by a cool Arsenal. Fabregas who had a quiet game made an early mistake but nothing fatal. Richardson had a shot blocked by Lauren in a good opening spell for West Brom that saw them win successive corners, but that mid-season panic at corners has long since disappeared. That said, Clement saw his header deflected by Gilberto from one of their corners to earn another. For the most part West Brom looked solid but we began to edge the game and we certainly didn’t look like losing it. Van Persie hit a low drive into their wall from a free kick after Robinson, who had a good game for Albion, axed Pat.
Edu and Dennis replaced Cesc and Robin before Jens came out well to clear from Robinson. Clement did well enough on a charge down their left to burst into our box but with no end result. A great swerving shot from Robinson, the on loan Manc, required Jens to parry. Jose to Rob to Dennis to Jose who nearly squirmed through. As Albion waited to make three substitutions Arsenal put together a 43 pass move to keep them off the pitch. Eventually Kanu, Horsfield and Earnshaw replaced Gera, Campbell and Albrechtsen. West Brom attacked but with two little too late and they at last looked vulnerable without their solid midfield cover.
Reyes beat the defence only for Moore (?) to make a great last ditch saving tackle. Pires had clearly paced himself as he at last got into the game, clearing at one end and passing well at the other. Edu went for a chip. Vieira was still looking strong as assorted Baggies bounced off his tall frame. Three minutes added time and they wasted one attack with a foul throw. There still hadn’t been a single booking when Gilberto won the ball on halfway, he found Dennis in acres of space, who in turn found Edu in the left-hand channel. Edu took it on and chipped the keeper. 0-2 Arsenal and although I hope the Baggies can turn over the Mancs next game their inferior goal difference suggests we won’t be going to the Hawthorns next season.
Sad to relate I missed the Premiership’s weekend football. The only footie I caught was a bit of Roma’s draw with Brescia on my way back to the airport. Anything interesting happen?