Arsenal rounded out their home campaign with a 1-0 victory over West Brom at the Emirates Stadium that was always far more comfortable than the scoreline suggested.
Olivier Giroud’s early header from Santi Cazorla’s corner proved the difference between the sides but Arsenal always had an element of control of a match that very much had an end-of-season feel. It was all too evident that Arsenal’s Champions League qualification had been secured thanks to Everton’s defeat 24 hours earlier, as well as that West Brom’s safety was close to being guaranteed due to the relegations of Fulham and Cardiff earlier in the weekend.
Indeed, such was the lack of intensity in the match, that a pre-season exhibition might be a more fitting description of what was witnessed as Arsenal bid farewell to the Emirates for another season. Ultimately, it’s a campaign that ends with a sense of the minimum job having being done and their highest points total for six years, yet coupled with a feeling of what might have been. A home record that finishes without a defeat since the opening day of the season and yet another victory to continue their superb results against the lower-ranked teams has been undone by their catastrophic defeats to the big guns on the road.
This, though, was Arsenal’s fourth victory a row and Arsene Wenger and his side can now look forward to the FA Cup final in good form and likely with the chance for a similarly undemanding outing at Norwich on the final day of the season next weekend.
West Brom lie four points clear of the side in the final relegation spot, Norwich, but the performance of Pepe Mel’s side suggests they don’t believe their rivals are capable of picking up the required points from their remaining games against Chelsea, later on Sunday, and then Arsenal. From the off they sat back, applying little or no pressure to the ball, and playing right into Arsenal’s hands.
With West Brom seemingly just waiting for the inevitable, Arsenal had an early opportunity when Lukas Podolski came close to continuing his fine recent goal-scoring run with a half-volley that just went wide of the post. Cazorla threatened too, with a shot that deflected off of Youssouf Mulumbu and over the bar.
From the resulting corner in the 14th minute, Arsenal got the goal that had long looked on the cards. West Brom’s lackadaisical approach was in full evidence as they went behind. From Cazorla’s delivery, Giroud easily got in front of defender Craig Dawson before his header from six yards out went in off the leg of Mulumbu who had inexcusably strayed away from his position on the post.
With Arsenal now having the lead, the malaise that had engulfed West Brom from the off began to permeate through the home side as well. Arsenal did still come close to extending their advantage before the interval when Cazorla’s effort from Podolski’s pull back was impressively turned behind by Ben Foster.
His opposite number, Wojciech Szczesny, had precious little to deal with in the first 45 minutes. West Brom gave an all too rare example of the threat they could pose when Saido Berahino got in behind but Laurent Koscielny got back to take all the power off the young striker’s finish.
There was a slight increase in the impetus from the visitors in the second half, but still they created precious little. Their best chance fell the way of Morgan Amalfitano, played through by Berahino, but Szczesny was able to come out and close down the effort.
Arsenal showed no great determination to get a second goal, yet they still manufactured the clearer openings. Ozil shot wide of the far post after a good flick on from the impressive Giroud, while Podolski struck the post with a volley he failed to strike cleanly following a poor clearance into his path before Arsenal bid farewell to their home fans with a “lap of appreciation.”