Arsenal moved back to the top of the Premier League table, although their winning run was brought to an end at 10 after a stirring 1-1 draw with West Brom at the Hawthorns. That both sides came into the contest in fine form was shown with an engaging an enterprising 90 minutes from which either could have walked away with all three points.
While Arsenal were having the majority of possession, West Brom were posing a threat on the break and just before the break Claudio Yacob headed them in front. Steve Clarke’s side will rue that Nicolas Anelka missed a clear chance to double their lead at the start of the second half. And, with Arsenal increasing their attacking vigor, they got back on level terms just past the hour mark courtesy of a deflected Jack Wilshere strike. While West Brom always kept their opponents honest on the break, Arsenal looked the likelier side to get a winner late on but twice Olivier Giroud failed to make the most of presentable opportunities.
It was an intriguing contest with West Brom showing the dynamism on the break that proved so devastating for Manchester United at Old Trafford last week. Arsenal dealt much better with it than the champions, helped by the double midfield pivot of Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta. But that duo meant that Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere were pushed out of position into advanced wide roles with which neither looked comfortable. And with Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob superbly shielding West Brom’s back four, Arsenal struggled to find a way through.
Man of the moment Saido Berahino almost added another memorable goal to his account early on, but his deflected effort was brilliantly kept out by a one-handed save from Wojciech Szczesny. At the other end, Kieran Gibbs should have done better than blast over following Arsenal’s best move of the period.
The game was livening up as the half progressed with West Brom showing more impetus going forward. And as half-time approached came pivotal moments at either end of the pitch. First, Ramsey’s effort as a corner traveled all the way through to him on the edge of the box was kept out by Boaz Myhill before being cleared to prevent an Arsenal player pouncing on the rebound.
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And just over a minute later, West Brom went in front. While Berahino has gained the headlines in recent times, at least equally as impactful has been loan signing from Marseille, Morgan Amalfitano. And it was the Frenchman who played the key role in his side’s goal. After his initial corner had been cleared, the ball came back to him on the right and he took full advantage of the space he was afforded with a delightful ball to the near post that beat Gibbs and was headed down and past Szczesny by Yacob.
The goal increased West Brom’s already buoyant confidence further. Seizing on Arsenal’s increasing need to push men forward at the start of the second half, the home side could and probably should have doubled their lead. Former Arsenal striker Anelka had a wonderful chance to get his first goal for his new club against one of his many former ones. Arsenal’s defense was nowhere to be seen when a simple ball forward put the French forward into the clear down the left, but having cut inside he shot wide of the far post.
West Brom were soon made to pay for their profligacy. A fine break forward by Arsenal saw Giroud find substitute Tomas Rosickky, who laid it back to tee Wilshere up for a strike. It was a fine effort from the midfielder taking the ball on the rise but Myhill will feel he will have had it covered had it not been diverted inside the near post by the leg of Jonas Olsson.
The match continued to be an engaging spectacle, with both sides showing ambition to find a winner. And Giroud could well have provided it. In all kinds of space in the area having been played onside by a floored West Brom defender, the in-form striker snatched at a volley that went hopelessly wide. Giroud came close again as he ran onto a superb Wilshere pass but Myhill stood up well and refused to let his opponent go round him before blocking his shot at close range.
There were fierce calls for a penalty too, but replays confirmed what referee Lee Mason had done superbly to spot first-time around: Mulumbu had made a superb tackle to just get to the ball ahead of Wilshere.
Although West Brom eventually appeared content to settle for a point with their energy levels understandably tailing off late one, they too had a strong claim for a spot kick. Laurent Koscielny’s sheepish face told much about how relieved he will have been not to be penalized for jumping shoulder first into the back of Shane Long in the box. It would have been a harsh call, and a draw was ultimately a fair result.