Mikel Arteta struck from the penalty spot in either half to lift some of the gloom over the Emirates with a 2-0 win for Arsenal over West Brom.
It turned out to be a comfortable, if far from spectacular, win for the Gunners, although the visitors will doubtless be aggrieved at the award of the first penalty and a free-kick not given their way in the lead up to the second.
In a fairly lackluster encounter, both sides struggled to provide an attacking threat, although Arsene Wenger is unlikely to be too concerned after Arsenal ended a run of just one victory in their last six Premier League outings.
Arsenal were able to control possession from the off, but, with the absence of Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott, the Gunners continued to lack a spark in the final third. Gervinho had the first real chance for the home side as he scuffed a volley wide after successive headers had kept a set-piece alive.
After voicing their disappointment following the late collapse to Swansea last week, Arsenal fans deserve credit for passionately getting behind their team from the off on Saturday.
And the supporters got their reward in the 26th minute. Santi Cazorla received a pass from Olivier Giroud in the area and turned back on Steven Reid, causing the defender to swipe out a leg in the direction of the Spaniard. The Arsenal midfielder went down in a desperate appeal to the officials and referee Mike Jones duly pointed to the spot, although replays showed that there had been no contact.
It’s the kind of fortune that a team under the pressure that Arsenal were craves and they took full advantage as Arteta confidently struck the ball home.
The goal did little to liven up the contest, however, as West Brom continued to struggle going forward. Arsenal fared little better, although Jack Wilshere tried to provide some impetus driving the game on from the midfield.
Wilshere came close to providing the second goal in the 37th minute as he strained to get on the end of Gervinho’s threatening ball across the box, but was unable to get his effort on target.
Gervinho was again involved three minutes before the break as he latched onto Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s scuffed shot, but couldn’t get enough power on his own effort from the edge of the area and Boaz Myhill blocked with an outstretched hand.
It was more of the same after the break as West Brom offered little, but Arsenal lacked the cutting edge to put the contest to bed.
Oxlade-Chamberlain almost doubled his side’s lead in spectacular circumstances as his hopeful volley back across goal from Wilshere’s deep cross just evaded the top corner. In contrast, Gervinho really should have found the net when he latched onto Giroud’s pass six yards out, but the pressure from West Brom defender Gareth McAuley contributed to the Ivorian completely missing his kick with the goal at his mercy.
In the 64th minute, the second goal did arrive and again there was plenty of contention involved. On this occasion there could be little qualm about the penalty decision itself, as Oxlade Chamberlain was felled by a diving challenge from Chris Brunt in the box. However, moments before the Arsenal midfielder had appeared to evade the challenge of Goran Popov by shoving the substitute to the ground. Arteta again proved not to be affected by the controversy and stepped forward to put the ball down the middle, with Myhill diving to his left, to double Arsenal’s lead.
After a blistering start to the season, West Brom were about to suffer their third straight defeat and while manager Steve Clarke can justifiably look toward the officiating, he will also be concerned about his side’s lack of belief.
A rare attempt on the Arsenal goal saw substitute Romelu Lukaku head wide from a free-kick when he should have at least found the target.
But the score line could have been more emphatic for Arsenal had their own substitute Lukas Podolski not somehow managed to loft the ball over the cross bar with the goal at his mercy six yards out.