x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Arsenal 2 West Bromwich Albion 0

The victory over West Bromwich Albion ended a run of four games without success but there was little to suggest Arsenal's troubles are behind them.

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla is awarded a penalty following a challenge by West Bromwich Albion's Steven Reid. Dylan Martinez / Reuters
Arsenal's Santi Cazorla is awarded a penalty following a challenge by West Bromwich Albion's Steven Reid. Dylan Martinez / Reuters

London // These days a win for Arsenal, any kind of win, is not to be disdained.

Their oddly tetchy victory over West Bromwich Albion ended a run of four games without success but there was little to suggest Arsenal's troubles are behind them.

This was a scratchy, unconvincing performance against opponents who have now lost three in a row as their early season form withers, and the game was won only thanks to two highly contentious penalties.

"I'm proud of the victory," said the Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, who had clearly been stung by the criticism of the team after last week's home defeat to Swansea City.

"It's important that when your back's to the wall the team responds.

"Our spirit has been questioned because of the defeat last week but we came back. The negative of the day is that we didn't convert our chances.

"But we created chances and in the last game we didn't create a lot. If we are a bit more serene we will convert the chances a bit better."

There is not much serenity around the club, though.

The Emirates is not a stadium to erupt in howls of fury but much of yesterday was played out to a low-level grumble of discontent.

The sprinkling of empty seats hinted at the dissatisfaction: Arsenal announced an attendance of 60,083; it certainly did not seem that many.

In the short term, it is not a major issue for Arsenal as many of those seats will already have been paid for; if the gaps hint that season-ticket holders are considering not renewing, however, that becomes a much bigger issue.

"They tried to stop us from playing," Wenger said of West Brom.

"They are physically strong and we were a bit nervous. Somewhere in a sportsman, when you have to win, you win."

Santi Cazorla, perhaps, took that instruction a little too literally.

An angry half-raise of the arms as Gervinho misplaced yet another cross had suggested his frustration shortly before he tumbled over a Steven Reid swipe.

It is possible Reid's studs clipped the Spaniard's shin but the angry protestations of the West Brom players, particularly Reid, seemed to suggest he took a theatrical tumble. Wenger said Cazorla had claimed he was fouled but promised to speak to the player if he decided he had simulated.

"There was zero contact," said the West Brom manager Steve Clarke. "Not even close. It was a bad decision for us. It could have been a nervous afternoon; at 0-0 they hadn't created much."

There was little doubt that Chris Brunt had tripped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the second penalty, but it appeared that the Arsenal winger had fouled Goran Popov in the build-up.

A furious Clarke described the referee Mike Jones as "the poorest of a really good group".

Mikel Arteta clipped both penalties down the middle to cap an excellent afternoon for the Spaniard alongside Jack Wilshere at the back of midfield.

"Wilshere is getting closer to the player we know he is," Wenger said. "Today he made a big step. You could see in training he has gained a little zip in the first three to four yards."

Gervinho, meanwhile, had another game to forget.

The Ivorian's decision-making has never been the best but his confidence is clearly shot. Time and again he got in good positions only to fluff his cross or shot.

He may not be the only one playing without self-belief: Lukas Podolski, on as a late substitute, somehow skied a shot from seven yards in injury time.

That, in a sense, is the positive for Arsenal - they won 2-0 despite individual wastefulness.

It is a start, but there is a long way to go before anybody can declare the recovery has begun.

 

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