West Bromwich Albion 2 v Arsenal 2

Whatever title hopes Arsenal had seem to have diminished even further after this drab 0-0 against Blackburn Rovers at the Emirates. Mathematically, the Gunners’ remain very much in the title race, but after a third consecutive Premiership draw, Arsene Wenger knows that his last hopes of silverware are vanishing into the distance, and it would seem to the north-west of England.
Andrey Arshavin and Robin Van Persie netted in a dramatic game at the Hawthorns as Arsenal came back from a two goal deficit to gain a valuable point against Albion.Steven Reid and Peter Odemwinge had given the home side a two goal lead,and both the goals will heap further pressure on Manuel Almunia and his decision making.

Exposed

With Jens Lehman back in the Gunners fray, the fragile character that is Almunia will look to his poor judgement for Albion’s first goal and even worse judgement for their second and be bitterly disappointed with his display. This game was cruel on Almunia, but once again exposed the lack of qualities of the flawed genius that is Arsenal’s current number one ‘keeper.

Clock

Arsenal arrived in the Midlands on the back of exiting from the Champions League, the FA Cup and losing the Carling Cup final at Wembley. The prize for the Gunners now lies solely in the Premiership, but after only three minutes on a sun drenched Hawthorns, Albion took the lead. The clock showed three minutes, and after Reid rose to head in James Morrison’s corner, the scoreboard showed 1-0.

Devoid

That was then to lead to long periods of total domination of possession from an Arsenal side who in the absence of Cesc Fabregas could not make their moves count.After almost a year out, it was good to see Aaron Ramsey make his first Arsenal start in almost a year, but alongside the ineffective Denilson, the heart of the midfield was devoid of ideas. Samir Nasri on the right and Arshavin on the left were being kept at bay by a resolute Albion rerguard.

Spread

Arsenal almost levelled on 25 minutes. Gael Clichy and Arshavin exchanged passes, Clichy crossed and Van Persie’s strained his neck muscles for a powerful header that came back off the crossbar. The rebound fell to Ramsey who shot first time, but Scott Carson did well to spread himself for the save.

Deep

Former Gunner Jerome Thomas netted in Albion’s win at the Emirates in September, with his robust tackling on Bacary Sagna in particular suggesting that he was once again out to make a point against his old club. Albion were reduced to defending deep and in numbers to protect their lead, as the Gunners struggled to land the telling blow.

Strikers

Arsene Wenger brought on Marouane Chamakh for Denislon and the beginning of the second half, a move greeted with loud cheers from the huge contingent of travelling Arsenal fans. Chamakh was lively and in the thick of things, but still Albion held firm. On came Nicklas Bendtner for Ramsey, the Gunners now with four out and out strikers.

Charging

Pushing up in numbers, Arsenal were always susceptible to the counter attack, and Chris Brunt almost punished Arsenal after a swift move. With their next move Albion doubled their lead. Youssouf Mulumbu’s clearance fell for Odemwinge. Almunia for reasons better known to himself came charging out of his area, pushing the last Arsenal defender Sebastien Squillaci in the process, and leaving the Nigeria forward to stroke the ball into the empty net. Almunia looked isolated and helpless. Lehman just looked on from the bench.

Aeroplane

But there was to be a response from Arsenal and one reflecting the spirit in the team that their manager always talks of. Nasri, now operating from deep, fed Arshavin. The Russian exchanged passes with Chamakh before rifling in with a left foot drive to reduce the score to 2-1. The clock showed 20 minutes still remained. More passing moves and possession followed with Albion now parking the bus, the car and the aeroplane, but Arsenal remained patient. Once again, they were rewarded from the left. Arshavin’s deep cross fell to Bendtner who did well to put it back into the danger zone. Abdoulaye Meite dithered and Van Persie nipped in to touch the ball, the momentum of which trickled over the line.

Pressure

Squillaci was alert late on as Albion substitute Marc Antoine Fortune muscled his way into the area, but the Gunners continued to search for a winner.Van Persie, Jack Wilshere and deep into stoppage time, with the best chance Clichy’s left footed shot all went in search of a third goal, but despite late Arsenal pressure it would just would not arrive.