West Bromwich Albion 2 Arsenal 1
( Morrison 35, Arteta og 40, Giroud 28)

Arsenal travelled up the M40 to the West Midlands in the hope of continuing their six game unbeaten Premier League run, but then departed the Hawthorns with nothing to show for their endeavours but an Olivier Giroud goal against a West Bromwich Albion side who scored themselves through James Morrison and a Mikel Arteta own goal. The goals gave Albion a first half lead they were not to relinquish, as Santi Cazorla horribly missed a late penalty denying the Gunners a point. Arteta had come on after 14 minutes after Francis Coquelin suffered a knee injury in a first half clash with Claudio Yacob. Arteta himself had to then come off after 49 minutes having suffered a calf injury which put the Gunners’ luck in context. It was bad luck, and bad defending which meant that Petr Cech will now have to wait to equal David James 169 clean sheets record.

After an international break the trip to the Hawthorns should have been welcomed given Arsene Wenger’s recent record against the Baggies. But being asked to win and claim the top spot in the Premier League has been squandered for the second consecutive time of asking, with Wenger’s injury crisis continuing to mount.

” It was a bad day, we were really unlucky today I believe we didn’t deserve to lose this game and I believe we gave everything to win it but maybe if I could say one part where the focus was not one hundred per cent was between minute 35 and minute 45. When you’re 1-0 up, it became a bit too easy to keep the focus, especially on the set piece. We knew exactly what’s happening and didn’t need to head the ball, so defensible I believe we were not at our usual level. Offensively we were unlucky because we missed many chances ” said Wenger.

Wenger was kind on Cazorla’s penalty miss, “Unfortunately we couldn’t score,” is how he put it, and substitute Joel Campbell will only know himself how he managed to miss from three yards out with the scores at 2-1.

Kieran Gibbs started at left midfield ahead of Nacho Monreal who was at left back, with Hector Bellerin returning after his recent injury enforced absence. Bellerin was getting the run around from James McLean and his runs would prove to be a thorn in the Gunners defence all afternoon.

Alexis Sanchez is in need of some rest admits Wenger, but he looked sharp and inventive. Mesut Özil showed some good touches, and his free kick after Sanchez was fouled saw Arsenal take the lead. Özil’s flighted free kick eluded everyone except Giroud who kept his eye on the ball to nod past Boaz Myhill.

Losing Coquelin could be a huge blow in the grand scheme of things. Arsenal fans have long been muttering their concerns and especially given that there appears to be no one else in the Gunners’ squad who can protect his defence as well as the young France midfielder. Arteta’s latest injury enforces that belief and Wenger may only have Mathieu Flamini to use in that position.

Arteta seemed to have won the ball fare and square from Solomon Rondon, but referee Mike Clattenberg awarded a free kick. Chris Brunt lifted the ball towards Morrison and as Bellerin switched off, Morrison hit past Cech for the leveller, seven minutes after Arsenal had taken the lead.

It got worse for the Gunners. McLean was the tormentor in chief as he slipped past the Arsenal right side. The retreating Arteta and Cech couldn’t combine to keep the ball out at it hit of Arteta’s hand and into the net as Albion took the lead.

Arsenal had over 70 per cent possession but on the long grass of the Hawthorns pitch couldn’t find a way through, despite Ozil coming close, hitting Myhill’s upright from Alexis touch and after Giroud appeared to be held in the box by Olson. Ozil’s clever pass to find Flamini was danger to the Albion defence, but Jonny Evans managed to clear the danger in front of Myhill.

Alexis and Cazorla worked an opening which saw Campbell take a half volley from three yards out, but with Brunt’s slip meaning he had just Myhill to beat. The Costa Rica striker hit horribly wide however with Wenger and the travelling Arsenal fans looking in in disbelief at the miss.

Olson headed into the bar with the rebounded ball not crossing the line. With the clock ticking down, Brunt wrestled Alexis to the ground from a Cazorla cross, a penalty was awarded and and up stepped Cazorla to take the spot kick. A point was the least Wenger’s men deserved, but Albion used delaying tactics with Craig Gardner having to be forcefully ushered away from Cazorla by Giroud.

Whatever affect it had on the Arsenal midfielder only he will know, but Cazorla slipped on his run up and hit skywards without Myhill being troubled. It was a big miss and Wenger and the Arsenal fans were stunned into silence. Cazorla’s two month wait for a goal goes on.

” It was a bad day and it was bad luck ( with the injuries ) but you want to see your players in this kind of situation because you know that sometimes that happens. There was still room for us to come back,” noted Wenger.

” Arteta looks to be a muscle problem, Coquelin a knee problem, but it’s too early to say how severe the damage is. I think we are of course in a very disappointed dressing room tonight, now we cannot change it anyway. We have to bounce back and learn the lesson from what happened to us today.”

The Gunners will look to respond in a positive way when Dynamo Zagreb come to the Emirates in the Group F crunch match on Tuesday in Arsenal’s stuttering Champions League campaign.