Arsenal show fighting qualities in scrappy win against West Brom
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Following the back to back defeats at Everton and Manchester City, there wasn’t much festive cheer around the Emirates on Boxing Day against West Brom.
The two lifeless displays up north had left the Gunners trailing leaders Chelsea by nine points as more criticism heaped onto the shoulders of Arsene Wenger amid another faltering title bid.
In his programme notes, the Frenchman mentioned: “disappointments are part of a successful season.
“It’s how you respond to it that makes your destiny. We have a group which is ready for the fight.”
Thus far, his team have failed to emphasise such praise on the most important place of all – the pitch – which is why vast numbers of fans have grown increasingly disillusioned with the current set-up.
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Yet, against a dogged Baggies side – in contrast with seasons gone by –Wenger’s team did produce fighting qualities when it mattered, even though they took a while in coming.
The start of the game suggested that both sides were still feeling the effects of their mince pie excesses, as stray balls and a lack of energy gave Sunday league football more of an appeal.
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Hence, the first real chance didn’t come until 32 minutes into the game, when Alexis Sanchez charged at the West Brom defence from the halfway line before unleashing a fizzing shot at goalkeeper Ben Foster.
The home fans, in their Santa hats, grunted away and proceeded to march towards the concourse in search of a light ale to settle their nerves, with more dropped points on the horizon.
But Arsenal were having none of it, and returned for the second 45 with the fight Wenger had anticipated.
Alex Iwobi’s effort was saved and then, with the goal gaping, Sanchez hit the post – but the Chilean was at the heart of the Gunners’ resurgence as his side began to play with greater purpose.
However, their failure to convert that pressure meant Foster continued to waste time, to the annoyance of Wenger, whose deadly stare towards the fourth official became worthy of an audition for Scrooge at a West End theatre.
And the 67-year old might well have been uttering “Bah humbug” when Claudio Jacob skied a great chance to put the Baggies in front.
Nevertheless, the introduction of Lucas Perez late on gave the north Londoners a massive lift, with his movement allowing Mesut Ozil to come more into the game.
And Ozil provided the decisive cross for Oliver Giroud, who pinned the defender down to loop a header over Foster and give Arsenal a vital late victory.
A scrappy win, but it was one which the Gunners may not have dug out in previous years. Even so, if the team are to catch Chelsea, “it will need a special resilience,” Wenger explained.
Unfortunately for the Frenchman, the completion of that task, will settle the minds of many supporters on whether he can still be the ghost of Christmas future for Arsenal.
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