Arsenal win again as Robin van Persie’s goalscoring run goes on
Premier League: Arsenal 3 West Bromwich Albion 0
Arsenal cruised to a fourth successive league victory that confirms their re-emergence as top four challengers.
First-half goals from the prolific Robin van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen, and a third from Mikel Arteta completed a comfortable success against an outclassed West Brom side.
It may not have been as memorable or exciting as last weekend's 5-3 win at Chelsea, but it was every bit as important for Arsene Wenger’s side before the international break.
A hectic schedule of seven games in 26 days since the last international matches has now been successfully negotiated with six wins and the minor irritation of Tuesday's goalless draw with Marseille.
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In the Premier League four successive victories, including that Stamford Bridge goal-fest, have propelled the Gunners to the verge of the top four. A month ago Arsenal were 15th and people were writing them off for those coveted Champions League places.
That was always taking the negative a little bit too far, but it is a moot point how successful the last month would have been without the goals of Van Persie.
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His early strike was his 10th in six games, his 13th in total this season and his 29th in 28 league games in 2011. That is phenomenal stuff. How Arsenal will pray their captain returns unscathed from international duty. It was in the November games two years ago that his ankle was damaged in a friendly against Italy and he was not seen again until April.
That is not a scenario Arsenal fans will want to contemplate because again the Dutchman was pivotal here.
Arsenal had not really threatened Ben Foster's goal at all before taking the lead on 22 minutes with a goal that owed as much to Aaron Ramsey as it did to Van Persie.
The Welsh midfielder slipped a beautiful ball in behind Baggies full-back Billy Jones for Theo Walcott to race on to, and although Walcott's shot was blocked by Foster, Van Persie was on hand to knock home the loose ball to put the Gunners in front.
West Brom were struggling to create at the other end, badly missing the injured duo of Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie.
They did have a penalty shout when former Gunner Jerome Thomas fell under a challenge from Laurent Koscielny, but referee Michael Oliver waved away the appeals and on second viewing that seemed the correct call. The goal had relaxed Arsenal and they doubled the lead six minutes before the break. Alex Song's cross to the far post was turned back across goal by Van Persie, and although Gervinho failed to connect cleanly Vermaelen arrived in the box with perfect timing to slam the ball past Foster.
Arsenal were cruising, the midfield of Song, Ramsey and Arteta starting to really click and the ominous threat of Van Persie up front suggesting more goals would follow in the second half.
To their credit, West Brom held Arsenal at bay quite comfortably for the next 25 minutes. The Gunners went close with Vermaelen powering a header wide from a corner, but it was fairly unspectacular stuff as the visitors kept their shape and discipline despite the scoreline.
They couldn’t maintain it however, and after Wenger had replaced Ramsey and Gervinho with Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun with 20 minutes to go, a third goal soon arrived.
Rosicky started the move, cutting in from the right and finding Van Persie in the box, and the Dutchman laid the ball back into the path of Arteta who hit a controlled low finish past Foster.
That ended the game as a contest, if it ever had been one. But there was still time for Vermaelen to draw huge applause for a late sliding block to deny Albion sub Somen Tchoyi. The return of the Belgian vice-captain could be just as important to Arsenal as the form of their Dutch captain if they are to maintain this winning run into December and beyond as they know they must to contend for the title.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Santos, Song, Ramsey (Rosicky, 71), Arteta, Walcott (Arshavin, 78), Gervinho (Benayoun, 71), Van Persie.
Subs not used: Mertesacker, Park, Djourou, Fabianski.
West Brom: Foster, Jones, Olsson, McAuley, Reid, Dorrans (Thorne, 80), Morrison, Gera (Tchoyi, 63), Thomas, Brunt, Cox (Mulumbu, 71).
Subs not used: Fulop, Shorey, Dawson, Antoine-Fortune.
Referee: M Oliver.
See below for our interactive coverage of Arsenal's win over West Brom
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