x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Arsenal's response at West Brom pleases Wenger

Arsene Wenger, the manager, is pleased by the way Arsenal bounced back to draw their Premier League game at West Bromwich Albion.

Andrey Arshavin, right, takes on Jerome Thomas, the West Bromwich Albion winger. Arsenal's Russian playmaker scored the first of Arsenal's goals yesterday to start the fightback. Simon Dawson / AP Photo
Andrey Arshavin, right, takes on Jerome Thomas, the West Bromwich Albion winger. Arsenal's Russian playmaker scored the first of Arsenal's goals yesterday to start the fightback. Simon Dawson / AP Photo

WEST BROMWICH // On goes Arsenal's ignominy. Final-minute failures at Wembley Stadium, carted out at Camp Nou, turfed out at Old Trafford, hurling away points at The Hawthorns. You wonder where these troubles will end; certainly not with a Premier League title.

Handicapped by injuries, harangued by personal demons, Arsenal have problems everywhere these days. Take the positive from this and there is credit in rescuing a point from a two-goal deficit.

Take the match as a whole and the suicide with which Manuel Almunia and co presented that lead to relegation imperilled West Bromwich Albion lingers longest in the memory.

Either way, Manchester United's lead now stretches to five points.

"I don't want to go too much into individual criticism," said Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager. "The players involved in that second goal know what it was about. I think what was good was the reaction the whole team has shown. Mathematically, we dropped two points. Psychologically, I think we won a point."

Roy Hodgson remains unbeaten as West Brom manager, his team two places above the drop zone.

"It's always a point gained if you're in a relegation battle and you're playing a serious contender for the title," he said. "I don't think I can fault my players. I don't think they can do anymore than they did today."

Wenger arrived in the Midlands fighting a familiarly long casualty list. With Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song amongst the afflicted, he reintroduced Aaron Ramsey to Premier League action after a year's absence.

The return of the 41-year-old Jens Lehmann as back-up keeper at least meant there was one man in the matchday squad who had collected a Premier League winner's medal.

What they were confronted with was classic Hodgson stratagem. Two banks of four were stacked tightly together, closing up the space for opponents to play in, their cause was aided by the ease with which Arsenal handed over the opener.

A short throw looped over Bacary Sagna that enabled Peter Odemwingie to win a corner. Chris Brunt launched that at the penalty spot where Steven Reid rose easily above Ramsey to head home. "No obvious leader," Wenger had conceded before the match. No obvious defending was the problem here.

Arsenal were imprecise in possession; their passes short and lateral. Their first, embarrassingly weak shot at Scott Carson did not arrive until midway through the first half.

By then West Brom were defending with 10 as James Morrison received five stitches in a deep head wound. In the eight minutes it took for the Scotland international required to return, Arsenal passed up a prime opportunity to equalise. Robin van Persie looped a header against the crossbar, the ball dropping to Ramsey. Though the midfielder's control was good and his shot quick, Carson spread himself to block.

Early out of the dressing room, Arsenal resumed with Marouane Chamakh at centre-forward. In midfield, Jack Wilshere's own frustration was captured in an unnecessary shove at the relentless Youssouf Mulumbu.

Wenger added Nicklas Bendtner to turn his forward line into a four, but before the Dane touched the ball the deficit had increased.

Mulumbu's long diagonal ball to Odemwingie was precise, yet unthreatening until Almunia charged 25 yards to attempt a clearance he came nowhere near completing. Instead he confused Sebastien Squillaci, leaving the Nigeria striker an empty net to pass into.

The response was mercurial. A smart one-two with Chamakh sent Andrey Arshavin into the box, where he stepped between two defenders and lashed a shot across Carson.

Arshavin turned architect for the equaliser. His cross from the left was tempting, but Bendtner could only direct it back away from the goal. Instead of clearing, Abdolaye Meite stumbled to the turf, allowing Van Persie to tickle a shot across the goalline.

It was enough to keep his team mathematically in the title race, dependent on winning their game in hand and a May Day meeting with United. Can Arsenal turn it around? "We will," declared Wenger with far more conviction than his team are defending.



Coleman and Saha give Everton manager Moyes the perfect present

Seamus Coleman and Louis Saha struck as David Moyes began his 10th year as Everton manager by beating Fulham. Coleman ignited a hitherto drab Premier League affair at Goodison Park with a well-placed header 10 minutes before the break.

Saha, the former Fulham striker, doubled the Toffees lead from a free-kick early in the second half but a Clint Dempsey strike prevented the home side easing to victory. Everton made the breakthrough after Leon Osman lifted a cross to the back post for Coleman to place a firm header back across goal and beyond Mark Schwarzer.

Everton doubled their lead when Leighton Baines rolled a free-kick to Saha and the Frenchman blasted a low effort through the wall for his 10th goal of the season.

Fulham’s goal came after good hold up play from substitute Bobby Zamora, who laid off a cross for Clint Dempsey to strike a powerful shot low into the bottom corner.

* Agencies