MATCH REPORT: WBA 0 – 6 Arsenal

West Bromwich Albion (0) 0 Arsenal (3) 6

Carabao Cup (EFL Cup) Second Round

The Hawthorns, 9 Birmingham Road, West Bromwich B71 4LF

Wednesday, 25th August 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Sead Kolašinac, Nuno Tavares; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Nicolas Pépé, Martin Ødegaard, Bukayo Saka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Pablo Marí, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Emile Smith-Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli, Alexandre Lacazette.

Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (17 mins, 45 mins, 62 mins), Nicolas Pépé (45 +1), Bukayo Saka (50 mins), Alexandre Lacazette (69 mins)

Yellow Cards: Rob Holding, Sead Kolašinac

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 75%

Referee: David Webb

Assistant Referees: Andrew Fox and Mark Pottage

Fourth Official: Sam Allison

Attendance: 26,850

After our dreadful start to this season, tonight’s match against West Bromwich Albion is truly a “must win” for the club. Leaving the competition at the second round stage is almost unthinkable for a club of our stature, but as we have seen over the past few weeks, nothing is a given for Arsenal anymore. All we can hope for tonight is an exemplary performance from the boys which leads to a much-needed victory. Fingers (and everything) crossed. By the way, please remember that there is no VAR in this competition until the semi-final stage.

The match started in a frenetic manner, with both sides making their intentions clear to end tonight’s game as the victors here at The Hawthorns. Our debutant keeper Aaron Ramsdale was called into action twice within a few minutes when Kenneth Zohore pressurised him, but thankfully, he was able to clear the danger fairly easily. As expected, the match became physical with some fairly heavy tackling from the home side’s defenders which started to take their toll on some of our players; after some clumsy defensive play on the edge of the box, Bukayo Saka lost his marker, and his accurate strong shot was pushed into the path of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang by goalie Alex Palmer, who made no mistake in opening the scoring for us. Of course, there’s nothing like a goal to inject some confidence into the team, and a few minutes after the goal, Martin Ødegaard was unlucky not to score when his sterling effort hit the outside of the post from a difficult angle after Bukayo Saka’s shot was deflected into his path. Rob Holding was booked for a clumsy tackle on Kenneth Zohore after twenty-six minutes, and as the match went into the last quarter of an hour of the first half, Arsenal looked in control. The match was held up for a while when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, goalkeeper Alex Palmer and defender Cedric Kipre collided, with the latter needing on-field treatment. Sead Kolašinac was booked for a heavy tackle on Ethan Ingram seven minutes from half-time, and the resulting free-kick was cleared confidently by the defence. Just before half-time, a superb shot by Nicolas Pépé hit the post, and our man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on hand to place the ball into the net; just a mere minute later, our third goal of the night was chalked up when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ran in from the halfway line, and had a shot saved by Alex Palmer; he then acrobatically volleyed the rebound but instead of hitting the back of the net, it landed at the feet of Nicolas Pépé, who simply slotted it home. Three up at half time!

Five minutes after the restart, we grabbed our fourth of the night when Bukayo Saka ran down the left-hand channel and found Martin Ødegaard, who simply backheeled the ball into the path of Bukayo Saka, who coolly cracked the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the penalty area. The home side came back at us after the restart, and Aaron Ramsdale made two fantastic saves, but unfortunately he injured himself landing awkwardly, but after some attention by our medical staff, was able to continue. On the hour, Martin Ødegaard was replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles and a couple of minutes later, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got his hat-trick when he received a ball from Nicolas Pépé, cut inside the WBA defender, and scored a truly fabulous right-footed shot from just inside the penalty area which curled around Alex Palmer and into the net. Superb. Now, our confidence was there for all to see, and as Granit Xhaka was being replaced by Alexandre Lacazette with twenty-five minutes of the match remaining, the Arsenal supporters in the stadium sensed that even more goals could be scored tonight. Indeed, just after Nicolas Pépé’s twenty-yard chipped shot bounced off the crossbar with only Alex Palmer to beat, Alexandre Lacazette nabbed our sixth of the night when he scored with a firm shot after receiving a pinpoint pass from Nicolas Pépé. We had a penalty appeal denied when Nuno Tavares was tripped in the box, and with fifteen minutes of the match remaining, Gabriel Martinelli replaced our hat-trick hero of the night, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with an eye on the Manchester City match on Saturday lunchtime, no doubt. Bukayo Saka was the recipient of a heavy tackle in the eighty-fifth minute, and although he went off for a while after treatment, he returned and thankfully looked okay. The rest of the match was a mere formality, and going back to London with such a large winning margin, certainly put a smile on everyone’s faces at last.

A great result, and congratulations to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a well-deserved hat-trick in a match that we were the dominant side almost from start to finish, and of course, it’s fantastic to chalk up our first win of the season, even if it is in the Carabao Cup. A true reflection of our status will come on Saturday lunchtime of course, when we meet the current Premiership champions; although tonight’s result was important, Saturday’s will be more so, of course. By the way, we meet AFC Wimbledon in the third round at the Emirates on Wednesday, 22nd September.

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: Manchester City at the Etihad on Saturday, 28th August at 12.30pm(Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

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.

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