Arsenal expected to beat West Brom on Saturday, but instead West Bromwich Albion pulled off a shock, deservedly winning 3-2.
Both teams lined up in a similar 4-2-3-1, with WBA playing with a more compact midfield with the pace of Jerome Thomas on the left and Peter Odimwingie upfront always being a counter attacking threat.
West Brom started well and forced a lot of errant passes from Arsenal. This was because of West Brom’s pressing, which Roberto Di Matteo revealed later, was there gameplan. They front players didn’t give the defenders or defensive midfielders time to pick a pass to one of the attacking players, meaning that Arsenal moves broke down early, or ended up in loss of possession. West Brom’s pressing did, however, leave space behind their defence that Arsenal were unable to exploit because of the lack of time to play a killer pass.
Arsenal Defensive Frailties
Arsenal’s defence did not have a good game on Saturday. In the first half the defence played a high line, leaving them susceptible to through balls, like the one from Chris Brunt that found Peter Odimwingie and forced a penalty. In the second half, Arsenal were again undone by pace, as Jerome Thomas skinned Bacary Sagna, and crossed for Odimwingie to poke home. It was a good cross and good wing play, but no Arsenal defender tracked the run of Odimwingie. 2 minutes later, Brunt backheeled past Clichy, Koscielny didn’t close down Jara and Almunia palmed it into his own net. That was the highlighted error, but just as bad was Koscielny’s failure to close down Jara and force him out wide, and also Song’s positioning was awful. Wilshere and Rosicky came on for the ineffectual Eboue and Diaby and Vela came on for Koscielny. WBA then scored again, Brunt evading Song’s challenge and beating Almunia to the ball before crossing for Thomas to tap in. It was again poor goalkeeping by Almunia, but again not one defender tracked the run of Thomas and Song’s defending was again poor.
Nasri immiedietly responded for Arsenal, who started to look more dangerous. Arshavin came into the center, Nasri had a drifting role, with Vela trying to cross from the left. Wilshere came on for Diaby and played a lot better than the Frenchman had, though WBA did allow more space as they sat back. Nasri would score again, but Arsenal were unable to score a third.
Arsenal were undone by pace and pressing today. West Brom pressedm rather like Sunderland did last week. Both teams didn’t allow Arsenal time on the ball, which meant that Arsenal didn’t really start to dominate until later in the match when the opposition tired. Arsenal will have to find some way to relieve the pressure. One way to relieve pressure is pace, and it would’ve been interesting to see if the pace of Walcott could’ve exploited the space behind West Brom’s back line.
Arsenal’s high defensive line meant they were susceptible to the pace of Thomas and Odemwingie, and it was those two, along with Chris Brunt, that caused the most damage for Arsenal. The fullbacks were paticularly bad, with Thomas and Brunt regularly getting the better of Sagna and Clichy. Whatever may happen in the following months for West Brom, this was a match they thoroughly deserved to win.