WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1
English football correspondent
LONDON // A goal to the good, with their remodelled side excelling and fresh from their historic triumph over Manchester United at Old Trafford, the West Bromwich Albion supporters set their sights on claiming another notable victim.
Arsenal were trailing, and conscious that defeat to West Brom was a cause of the dismissals of Paolo Di Canio, Mick McCarthy, Roberto Di Matteo and Andre Villas-Boas, a light-hearted chant began, directed at Arsene Wenger.
“We’ll sack who we want,” they jokingly affirmed.
After the second half, Wenger had neither his 18th win in 22 games nor a club-record 13th consecutive away victory, but his side had displayed their resolve. He brings up the rear in the sack race, while his team have reclaimed the lead in the Premier League.
They had Jack Wilshere to thank for that. While Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey have tended to be the subjects of superlatives in Arsenal’s terrific start to the season, Wilshere had not hit the same heights. By his own admission, he struggled in the first half at The Hawthorns. If his drilled leveller was not proof of form, it was evidence of his determination.
“He has shown character,” Wenger said. “It was good he was rewarded.”
After a week in the news, with Wenger condemning him after he was pictured with a cigarette outside a nightclub, Wilshere ensured his name was in the headlines for the right reasons.
“He is an honest guy and when he is wrong he knows it,” Wenger said. “Today, players don’t get away with anything. They know that is the rules of the game and of modern society.”
As many have noted, Wilshere has not been as prolific as Ramsey. Nevertheless, a first league goal since November 2010 was timely. Wilshere’s drive took a slight touch off Jonas Olsson, enabling it to nestle in the corner of the net.
It pegged Albion back and set up a finale when either side could have won; Arsenal came closer, with Wilshere picking out Olivier Giroud with a wonderful ball, only for goalkeeper Boaz Myhill to deny the striker.
“I feel it was important not to lose,” Wenger said. “For the mental comfort it is good to remain top.”
From the start, they were in danger of sitting behind Liverpool in the table.
Albion are a club engendered at The Hawthorns by the presence of three new fan favourites. Saido Berahino’s emergence was allied with the deadline-day arrivals of Stephane Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano and the Frenchman was pivotal when they took the lead. Arsenal cleared a corner, but failed to stop Albion’s subsequent attack. Amalfitano, the set-piece taker, had a second attempt to deliver from the flank and he picked out Claudio Yacob, who headed in his first Albion goal.
There should have been a second. Striker Nicolas Anelka spurned a simple opportunity with a poor touch.
“They could have made it 2-0,” Wenger said. “That would’ve made it difficult.”