Arsenal 3-1 West Bromwich Albion: Premier League – 09/05/2021

With their European fate all but sealed, Arsenal entered Sunday’s match with Wes Brom with an air of failure ripe in the air.

Crashed out of the FA Cup fairly early on, a humiliating exit to Manchester City in the League Cup and a humbling defeat from former-manager Unai Emery, it’s no real surprise that Arsenal fans want this season over and done with.

This would seem to be the ideal time for Mikel Arteta to start shaking things up a little bit, try some youngsters out and stop giving game time to those on loan. However, while the absence of Folarian Balogun and Miguel Azeez were offset against the continued selection of both Dani Ceballos and Willian, there were still some bright choices in the selection. Bukayo Saka was returned to left-back, Emile Smith Rowe was given an unencumbered look at a central creative role and Gabriel Martinelli was started as the lone-forward.

Emile Smith Rowe celebrates his first-ever Premier League goal.

Arsenal started off fairly slowly. West Brom had the majority of possession and continued to create chances as they continued their fight for Premier League survival.

It therefore came as a hammer blow to the Baggies as Arsenal took the lead throigh a stunning goal from Emile Smith Rowe. A brilliant ball down the line from Willian was met by Bukayo Saka, who’s quick cross into the box was volleyed home in superb fashion by Smith Rowe for his first-ever Premier League goal.

West Brom seemed to accept their fate from there as Nicolas Pépé sprung forth barely six minutes later, cut onto his left-foot in Arjen Robben-like fashion and curled an unstoppable effort into the far corner to double the home-side’s advantage.

Half-time seemed to give West Brom new life however, with Sam Allardyce clearly reminding the players that relegation met anything other than a win that night. A brilliant and mazy run from Matheus Pereira gave West Brom a lifeline and led to some nervy moments from Arsenal, with former-Gunner Kyle Bartley reportedly shouting to his teammates “Come on boys, one goal and they’ll shit themselves!”

Nicolas Pépé and Willian, Arsenal’s two other goalscorers.

Thankfully, Arsenal did no such thing and despite some nervy moments, Arsenal kept control of the game well. West Brom’s fate was sealed when Willian stepped up to curl home his first-ever Arsenal goal from a free-kick in his 37th apperance for the club(!).

It was a decent win for Arsenal all things considered and was probably a good sign for Arsenal’s continued (albeit unlikely) push for a Europa League place next season.

The questions were still there though, why was this performance not replicated a few days ago against Villarreal? Why was it that Dani Ceballos was only able to provide this kind of performance against relegation fodder and why has it taken Willian so long to score a goal?

Questions that will likely never have a definitive answer to them any time soon and questions that most likely stay long dormant into next season as a summer of upheaval beckons.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
21.) Calum Chambers
16.) Rob Holding
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
  7.) Bukayo Saka
25.) Mohamed Elneny
  8.) Dani Ceballos (Partey 76’)
12.) Willian
32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Tierney 63’)
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli (Lacazette 60’)

Arsenal subs:
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
  2.) Héctor Bellerín
17.) Cédric Soares
  3.) Kieran Tierney
18.) Thomas Partey
11.) Martin Ødegaard
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
30.) Eddie Nketiah
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette

West Bromwich Albion team:
  1.) Sam Johnstone
  2.) Darnell Furlong
  6.) Semi Ajayi
  5.) Kyle Bartley
14.) Conor Townsend
  7.) Callum Robinson (Diangana 68’)
35.) Okay Yokuşlu
10.) Matt Phillips
12.) Matheus Pereira
18.) Conor Gallagher
17.) Mbaye Diagne (Robson-Kanu 56’)

West Bromwich Albion subs:
25.) David Button
45.) Taylor Gardner-Hickman
22.) Lee Peltier
49.) Caleb Taylor
27.) Dara O’Shea
  8.) Jake Livermore
11.) Grady Diangana
29.) Karlan Grant
  4.) Hal Robson-Kanu

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