Arsenal show resolve to record sixth win in seven league games despite Per Mertesacker's sending off late on, writes Richard Jolly.
Premier League: Tomas Rosicky the headline act in Arsenal's 2-1 win over West Brom
WEST BROMWICH // As a small, slight technical talent, Tomas Rosicky has many qualities. Aerial ability, however, is not often deemed one of them. Yet as Arsenal recorded a sixth win in seven Premier League games, it was Rosicky who had them heading in the right direction.
For once, he was both saviour and scorer with his head, clearing off the line and then putting Arsenal ahead at The Hawthorns. He then doubled his, and Arsenal's tally with the classy right foot that explains why, in his Borussia Dortmund days, he became the idol of a young Marco Reus, now the most brightest young star in the German Bundesliga.
Rosicky, in contrast, can appear Arsenal's third-choice playmaker behind Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere. Yet with the Englishman sidelined and the Spaniard starting on the left wing against West Bromwich Albion, the fringe player became fundamental in an invaluable victory. It meant they leapfrogged Chelsea to return to the top four, if only for 24 hours, and put pressure on third-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
However, there is no such thing as a simple procession to three points for Arsenal. After Rosicky put them two goals ahead, they were cruising, passing the ball around the midfield with composure and class. Rosicky, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey were controlling the game, Gervinho illuminating it in idiosyncratic fashion.
Then, however, the game turned as Per Mertesacker chopped down Shane Long. Exit the sent-off German as James Morrison halved the deficit from the penalty spot.
"I don't complain about the sending off," said Wenger.
"It was a professional foul."
A reinvigorated Albion mounted a late assault. Gareth McAuley, Romelu Lukaku and Long could all have levelled. In a fraught finale, Arsenal were grateful they did not. If there were hints of nerves, however, there was also resolve in abundance.
"We have shown fighting spirit and battling qualities that reflect well on the spirit in our side," added Wenger. "I am very pleased. It is three big points."
Until their late rearguard action, they had only really been troubled in the 12th minute when Claudio Yacob rose above Bacary Sagna to meet Chris Brunt's corner with a glancing header that beat Lukasz Fabianski. The Argentine was only denied a first Albion goal by Rosicky, heading the ball off the line but ending up in the net himself.
Eight minutes later and 100 yards further forward, the Czech used his head again when Gervinho chased Arteta's long pass, turned away from McAuley and crossed for Rosicky, breaking from midfield, to stoop and conquer.
That was his first league goal for 14 months. The wait for his second was rather shorter. Accepting Ramsey's pass, Rosicky thumped his first shot at Ben Foster and, when the goalkeeper parried, dispatched the rebound beyond the goalkeeper.
"Every year he gives us a push at the end of the season," Wenger added.
"I hope he finishes his career with us. I rate him that highly."
In between, others should have scored their second. After a lovely move involving Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, Ramsey skewed a shot wide with the goal gaping. Gervinho and Sagna, too, could have scored, the Ivorian creating the Frenchman's chance.
"When you have the ball and go forward, he looks dangerous," Wenger said.
After scoring in the wins against Swansea and Reading, the previously profligate Gervinho is starting to exert an impact in the run-in. It is just as well. Wenger expects both Wilshere and Theo Walcott to be fit for Saturday's game against Norwich City. Arsenal are gaining momentum and match winners alike.
Wenger added: "We have 22 points out of the last 27 but we know our target is to continue to do that until the end of the season."
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