Welcome back. Two first-half strikes by Alexis Sanchez were enough to see off West Brom at Emirates stadium earlier this evening as Arsenal got back to winning ways following two consecutive draws.
The win sees us leapfrog Manchester City into third place in the table with what was our 500th Premier League win – a milestone only bettered by Manchester United who have 584. And while were talking statistics, here’s a couple more: We’ve scored in all 20 of our Premier League games against West Brom – the best 100% record in the division.
More revealing though, is the fact Arsenal scored as many goals from outside the box tonight, as we have in our 33 previous Premier League games this season (two), which obviously adds weight to the argument that we don’t try our luck from distance nearly enough and have a tendency to overplay at times.
On the other hand, I’m sure I read somewhere that there’s a very good reason for this – a high percentage of shots from range are unsuccessful. Yet I can’t help but feel that in games when we’re facing a massed defence, we really ought to get shots in whenever possible rather than switching the play constantly and over-probing.
But back to the game tonight and Arsene Wenger made three changes to his starting line-up from last weekend’s disappointing draw with Crystal Palace; Per Mertesacker replaced Gabriel in defence, Aaron Ramsey came in for Francis Coquelin in midfield and Olivier Giroud replaced Danny Welbeck up front.
I have to admit I was kind of distracted in the second half so thankfully all the meaningful action arrived in the opening period. With just 6 minutes played we took the lead when Sanchez turned his marker brilliantly and let fly low into the corner from about 25 yards. We were passing the ball with zip and purpose and although I felt Mesut Ozil was a bit sluggish in his play by his standards, he still managed to dummy the entire stadium on a couple of occasions with typically visionary passes.
We doubled our lead on 38 minutes, when Sanchez guided his free-kick through the West Brom wall, wrong-footing their keeper in the process and reminding everyone that even if we’ve fallen short in the title race again this season, we still have some top quality talent in our ranks.
As I said, I can’t tell you much about the second half other than Theo Walcott, Joel Campbell and Coquelin all made late substitute appearances as we saw out the game. Afterwards, Arsene said:
We did the job in a serious way. We played well technically and the only regret is we should have scored more goals. The early goal helped us not be be anxious about the consequence of the result. We are in a position where it depends on us to finish in the top three but we want more and we have to fight to do that and if possible do more.
At this stage of the season most fans would now happily take third but although it’s admittedly the most peripheral of outside chances, we could still maintain our proud record of finishing above Tottenham every season since Arsene’s been in charge if we can win all our remaining games. So as well as securing third, the prospect of slipping past Sp*rs into second should be just as much of an incentive, if not more, for the remainder of the campaign.
Up next then, it’s Sunderland away on Sunday and with our hosts battling for Premier League survival, it will no doubt be another testing game, particularly as we’ll have less time to recover having played tonight. The boss holds his press conference a little later than usual tomorrow I think, so I’ll be back with thoughts on that tomorrow evening.
See you then.