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Giroud gave Arsenal a much needed confidence boost

arsenal vs west brom match report premier league 2016

Match Review: Arsenal 1 West Brom 0 - Premier League 26.12.16

First of all, Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you’ve had enough alcohol and food to see you through the recent Arsenal related turbulence. Things have somewhat gone to pot over the last couple of weeks. Two consecutive defeats have put a potentially fatal dent in our title hopes and with Bayern Munich awaiting in the Champions League, that competition looks incredibly difficult to win. This campaign hangs in the balance, which is why scraping this win was so important.

Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both missed out with injury, meaning a vicarious return for Olivier Giroud through Alexis shifting to the wing. The only change elsewhere was Kieran Gibbs getting the nod over Monreal. The Spaniard has been a rock in the Arsenal defence for the past year or more, but recently has been struggling to deal with pacey wingers running at him. Indeed, Sterling’s winner at the Etihad came directly from Monreal being unable to contain him and allowing the shot. It seems Wenger finally decided that Gibbs deserved a chance to make the position his again.

What you could tell instantly from the way the team came out was that this was not going to be a nice easy win to calm the nerves and soothe the crisis talk. We continue to look leggy and bereft of idea when we come up against anti-football sides like West Brom. I make no apologies for saying that; Tony Pulis coaches his teams to play awful football and the visitors came without even the slightest notion of trying to win the game. However, they are well within their rights to do that and it’s up to us to find ways through these teams.

The first half was turgid and frustrating, as we crabbed from side to side moving the ball slowly back and forth, in and around the West Brom area. I can only remember Foster making one save of note, getting down to stop Alexis’ low shot from finding the bottom corner. That chance came after the Chilean had found a little bit of room and burst forwards through it to nearly give us the lead. It did look like we were missing what Alexis brought us from the central areas and both he and Iwobi drifted in constantly, leaving us with very little width.

We eventually seemed to wake up in the second half and chances started coming with more regularity and Alexis in particular had three or four openings that stayed out one way or another. Foster, for all his time wasting antics, had a very good game and produced a number of good saves to keep the score level. Somehow Alexis also missed an absolute sitter when the ball rebounded to him after a corner, but he managed to hit the post with the goal gaping.

We kept plugging away, but it seemed we were destined to drop more points. Giroud came close twice and Bellerin had a chance with a header, but couldn't get clean contact on it. Just when hope was beginning to fade, the most un-Arsenal like goal rescued us with just three minutes to go. A simple floated into the box from Mesut Özil and a bit of strength from Olivier Giroud and the ball looped into the back of the net. After all the pressing and the probing, the goal came out of nothing. Not that anyone cared, the relief was palpable around the ground and amongst the players.

It was a horrible, torturous game played by a team that looked low on confidence and unsure of themselves. The potential lift that this last gasp win could give the team is immeasurable. City, Chelsea and Liverpool all secured wins too, so the three points were absolutely vital. We’re a long way behind Chelsea at the moment, so if they’d got any further in front, our slim hopes would have evaporated all together. Above all else though, the team needs to rediscover some energy and some confidence in their game. Too often we’re flat or fade as the game goes on and it’s been hurting us. We need to find that form that saw us go unbeaten for months and top the table, otherwise I fear we could see another battle for the top four, instead of the title challenge we’ve been craving.

Teams

Arsenal (4-2-3-1)

Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Gibbs (Y) (Monreal 71’), Xhaka, Coquelin (Ramsey 74’ (Y)), Iwobi (Perez 71’), Özil, Alexis, Giroud (Y)
Subs
Ospina, Monreal, Holding, Elneny, Reine-Adelaide, Ramsey, Perez

West Brom (4-5-1)

Foster (Y), Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Nyom, Jacob, Fletcher, Brunt, Chadli (McClean 62’), Phillips, Rondon (Robson-Kanu 80’)
Subs
Myhill, Olsson, Gardener, McClean, Galloway, Morrison, Robson-Kanu

Player Ratings

Cech - 7/10 - Only had to make a couple of saves, did so without fuss
Bellerin - 7/10 - More of a threat in the second half, caused West Brom some problems
Koscielny - 8/10 - Simply a rock at the back
Gabriel - 7/10 - Did well given shaky performances in the two recent defeats
Gibbs - 7/10 - Thought he was doing a great job until he got injured, big shame for him
Xhaka - 7/10 - Continues to look assured as the deep lying midfielder
Coquelin - 6/10 - Not sure we really needed his skill set in this game
Iwobi - 7/10 - Just needs to find that end product, he has all the tricks and skills already
Özil - 7/10 - Understated, but effective; strangely secured his first assist of the season
Alexis - 6/10 - Looked a bit out of place back on the wing, missed some very good chances too
Giroud - 7/10 - Kept at it, didn’t achieve much for most of the game, but came good when it mattered
Subs
Monreal - 7/10 - Didn’t have a lot to do when he came on, but was solid
Perez - 7/10 - Surely deserves an extended run at some point, busy and created openings
Ramsey - 6/10 - Missed the sitter of sitters at the end, should have secured the game

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