Arsenal (2) 3 West Bromwich Albion (0) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 9th May 2021. Kick-off time: 7.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Bukayo Saka; Mohamed Elneny, Dani Ceballos; Nicolas Pépé, Emile Smith-Rowe, Willian Borges da Silva; Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney, Alexandre Lacazette, Martin Ødegaard, Alex Rúnarsson, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Cédric Soares, Eddie Nketiah.
Scorers: Emile Smith-Rowe (29 mins), Nicolas Pépé (35 mins), Willian (88 mins)
Yellow Cards: Dani Ceballos
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 66%
Referee: Peter Bankes
Assistant Referees: Neil Davies, James Mainwaring
Fourth Official: David Coote
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Mike Dean; AVAR Dan Robathan
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
After last Thursday’s debacle, it is now imperative for us to get maximum points from the remaining four matches left to play this season, starting tonight with the Baggies. Let’s go!
Although the visitors put us under a bit of pressure in the early stages of the game, we managed to contain them, and as early as the sixth minute, our first chance of the match appeared when Bukayo Saka passed the ball to Nicolas Pépé, who hit it on the half-volley over the bar. West Bromwich Albion took the game to us with a couple of good chances, courtesy of Matheus Pereira, in the first quarter of an hour of the match. We had a penalty appeal turned down shortly afterwards, when Darnell Furlong brought down Bukayo Saka with a sliding tackle, but the appeal was denied. After twenty-two minutes, we had our first shot on target, when a Mohamed Elneny shot was easily retrieved by goalkeeper Sam Johnston, and just before the half hour, a low cross from the left, from Bukayo Saka, found Emile Smith-Rowe who was running in; he made no mistake in opening the scoring from close range. Just six minutes later, we were two goals ahead, when Nicolas Pépé cut in from the right flank, and hit an unstoppable left-footed shot past the outstretched Sam Johnstone, and into the the net. With two goals ahead, we started to play the ball around a bit, and as we were in control now, our chances to score more goals started to arrive thick and fast. Calum Chambers, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pépé were all unlucky in not scoring a third goal, but it made no difference anyway, as we went into the break deservedly in the lead.
And so the second half started in earnest, with confident play; within five minutes of the restart, Nicolas Pépé and Emile Smith-Rowe should have scored with excellent efforts, but in both instances, the Baggies’ goalkeeper pulled off two good saves to stop Arsenal getting their third goal of the night. After a couple of failed attempts by the visitors, we broke out quickly from deep, Bukayo Saka received the ball and took it to the byline, and his subsequent low cross only just evaded the trusty right foot of Emile Smith-Rowe. On the hour, Gabriel Martinelli was replaced by Alexandre Lacazette, and a couple of minutes later, Emile Smith-Rowe was substituted by Kieran Tierney. Unbelievably, a few minutes after our substitutions came onto the pitch, Matheus Pereira received the ball in his own half, ran the whole length of the pitch, and with a low shot taken from just outside of our penalty area, went past the outstretched arm of Bernd Leno and into the back of the net. Obviously the goal woke the visitors up, and the game became a contest again, and because of this, Thomas Partey replaced Dani Ceballos with just fifteen minutes of the game remaining. Albion started to push us back into our own half looking for the equalising goal, which made the last ten minutes of the game an interesting one, to say the least. Literally, as the clock showed ninety minutes, Willian finally scored our third of the night with his trusty left foot, with a well-taken free-kick from just outside the penalty area to seal proceedings; although there was five minutes injury time, the match drifted away, and we ended up three-one winners here tonight.
The headlines from this match will be mainly based around the fact that West Bromwich Albion are relegated, and our victory over them was the final act, which gets us off the hook somewhat. Our defence was shaky at times to say the least, and as for the embarrassing sight of Matheus Pereira literally cantering through the midfield and defence to score was truly embarrassing to see happening at a club like Arsenal. Likewise, the strikers missing chance after chance in front of the Baggies’ goal was just ridiculous and needs to be addressed too. Three points is always great, but a bigger test will be the Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. Will we turn up?
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, 12th May at 8.15pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.