SWEET AND SOUR: West Brom celebrate while Arsenal are in disarray on Saturday afternoon
WHEN PUSH came to shove, Arsenal were easily pushed over, bullied, calculatingly ripped to shreds by a ruthless West Bromwich Albion, who believe it or not only had twenty three percent possession. How was that ? Put it another way, the Gunners had seventy seven percent possession but couldn't do anything with it.
Arsene Wenger looked on in gloom, and when things looked up - briefly, Alexis Sanchez levelled Craig Dawson's opener. The same player added a third for the hosts and in the same manner, as the Arsenal defence appeared to down tools from corners.
Substitute Hal Robson-Kanu struck within two minutes of coming on, and had Wenger looked up to the leaden West Midlands' skies, he would have spotted rival messages draped from two separate aeroplanes over the Hawthorns, one from the Wenger Out camp, and one loyalist still insisting " In Arsene we trust. " Following a fourth Premier League defeat in five games, Wenger admitted that this was the worst run of his 21 years at Arsenal, and responding to a post match inquisitor, announced that we will know of his future " very soon."
Whatever Wenger does, the manner in which his players - the same players he has stood by loyally, capitulated against the Baggies, does not leave them in good light. Bar Sanchez, no one was up for the fight. Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will want to know what else they could have done when defending corners, and Hector Bellerin will need to urgently understand how a right back can defend on the goal line and cannot be effective five yards away from it.
Bellerin had the best seat in the house, when Dawson brushed off a feeble block from Oxlade-Chamberlain to tower in his side's third goal. There were no less than three striped shirts including Dawson who went in for the ball, with the Arsenal defence seeming to say, 'welcome chaps, fancy another goal, because we ain't up for this!'
Arsenal's record goal scorer Thierry Henry said in commentary that he had seen many things in his long and successful career in football, but to see three opponents coming in unchallenged for a header was the first time he had seen that. The Gunners suffered as Albion sat back and picked them off.
When you don't learn how to defend the corner and then get hit twice in the same manners, suggests that these Arsenal players don't want to play for the manager. Whatever the truth in that may or may not be, Wenger did not deserve to be let down with such a public humiliation. The man himself may now see this to be the right time for a change at the Emirates stadium, yet despite them going awol, he still remained loyal to his players post match.
"It was a difficult game, because it a was a typical Premier League game that you see a lot - with a team that has a lot of the ball and a team that defends deep and well, waiting for the counter-attack and set-pieces. West Brom did very well on that. We had 77 per cent of possession but we didn’t create enough chances. I think that’s firstly down to the quality of their defending and their hard work physically.
"Our record on defending set-pieces is quite good since the start of the season, but I must say their delivery is absolutely great and we were a bit naive on their movement. I think on the first goal they blocked the keeper as well, and the third. It’s not easy for the keeper to intervene in that kind of situation.
"I think you don’t see any obvious signs of lack of attitude. That’s what people always criticise when you lose a game. I think we took the responsibility to take the game to them, and it didn’t work today. We are certainly a bit short of confidence as well, but I don’t think it’s an attitude problem," said Wenger.
Albion were worthy winners and wanted the win more that their visitors. A typical and expected display from a Tony Pulis side undid the Gunners, the result of which means that Arsenal will find it very difficult to finish in the top four. Wenger remarked on that fact, but did he have any thoughts on the aeroplane banners?
"I watch the game, I do not watch the stands during the game. I believe that you have to live with that. You focus on your job, no matter what people think," and on supporters terrace protests and his Arsenal future, the Frenchman said
"I don’t know. Don’t worry, I know what I will do in my future. You will soon know. Very soon.
"You will see. I don’t think today I necessarily worry about that. We are in a unique bad patch that we’ve never had in 20 years. We lose game after game at the moment, and that is for me much more important than my future."
Can the Gunners get into the top four? Wenger was matter of fact. It will be a big fight, I agree with you. It will be very difficult now. Anyway, there’s no other way than by fighting and doing it until the last game of the season. Then, if it’s not good enough, we have to take the consequences. And then maybe one day if we don’t do it, people will enjoy it again to be in there.
"In our job it’s like when you have a problem with your engine - you can always find many problems, but it’s important to find the most important one. I think the most important one today was that we had 77 per cent of possession and didn’t create many chances.
"We have to focus on that. Fans are a bit disappointed, which I can completely understand. (But that doesn’t)explain why we have not created goal chances. Pushed on whether anyone else knew of his future intentions, Wenger said " no, no one. "
Perhaps he had already decided to call it a day and would have preferred to have made that announcement at the end of the season when the Gunners could yet win silverware with the FA Cup.
Any more of this kind of performance, and ( if he hasn't done so already, ) Wenger may need to read the riot act to his under-performing millionaire misfits who continue to shirk responsibility, leadership and accountability when they are tested and need an onfield response.