Arsenal 1 West Bromwich Albion 0
Giroud 86

Arsenal produced a late late Olivier Giroud winner to deny a strong defensive West Bromwich Albion side to win for the first time in their last three games. With time running out and Albion looking set for a point, Giroud, angled his header from Mesut Özil’s cross to loop over Ben Foster’s dive for the winner and relieve the evident Emirates stadium tension. The Gunners were worthy of the win and with over seventy percent possession, the Albion game plan to sit back with just Salomon Rondon as isolated and lone striker, almost worked for the visitors. Foster had been in fine form and almost single handedly denied the late Gunners onslaught, with one save at the feet of substitute Aaron Ramsey in particular preventing Arsenal from adding to the scoreline.

Under pressure following back to back away day losses, Arsenal were grateful to be back in N5 among a home festive crowd who were in no mood to see anything other than a home win. That of course is never an easy Premier League ask, but the Gunners knew that Albion would sit back and then try to hit back on the break.

Theo Walcott was absent with a calf injury and that enabled Arsene Wenger to select Giroud in an attack which also consisted of Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alex Iwobi. Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka cemented the holding midfield roles with Kieran Gibbs coming in for Nacho Monreal who dropped to the bench. Laurent Koscielny continued to partner Gabriel.

Xhaka had a first strike on the Albion goal, but his effort flew wide after some neat build up play. Early Gunners joy seemed to be emanating from the left, and when Coquelin put in Gibbs, Özil couldn’t find a connection or a clean strike.

With one of the passes of the half, Özil raked an excellent pass which although Alexis missed, Gibbs collected to play in Giroud. The France striker shot high and he hadn’t seen Özil had continued his run and was better placed to his right.

Albion had men behind the ball, lots of striped shirts in what was at times a back six and they were holding firm. Alexis saw his run and snap shot just wide of target.

After seventeen minutes, Alexis sprayed a cross which Özil reached, and smartly back heeled. It was genius in thought, but it didn’t get the better of Allan Nyom, who deflected the ball for a corner.

Xhaka has yet to score at home, and although that wouldn’t change here, he did wind up to strike from wide from 35 yards. With little to do for much of the half, Cech was called to punch out from Matt Phillips corner, and then hold from Nacer Chadli’s header after 32 minutes.

Busy and strong as is his way, Alexis struck a power drive of a shot which stung the hands of Foster, however no red shirted player was there for the follow up. More Arsenal pressure and this time Iwobi danced his way past the Baggies’ defence to fashion a shot which was always rising over bar. Five minutes before the break and a good shout for a penalty. Giroud was knocked over by Jonny Evans, but no penalty said referee Neil Swarbrick.

Goalless at the break and Arsenal should have taken the lead soon after the restart? Again it was that man Alexis whose turn and shot hit Foster’s post. From the follow up sequence of play, Gibbs’ cross, was headed back by Giroud for Iwobi to shoot. Foster saved, with Alexis follow up hit narrowly past post. With 56 minutes on the clock, Alexis thundered over the bar as Albion desperately hung on.

On the hour mark, Iwobi, fed Özil to set up Giroud. The Gunners’ number 12 rolled tha ball on the surface before shooting, but Foster saved with an outstretched boot.

Albion were still not out of it and with 70 minutes on the clock, a succession of corners, the third of which saw Petr Cech fumble but Claudio Yacob struck over the bar.

Yacob and Gibbs clattered into each other with Gibbs coming off the worse, and now replaced by Monreal. Iwobi also now made way for Lucas Perez and Aaron Ramsey came on for Coquelin, as Arsenal stepped up their urgency to score.

More Arsenal pressure an Alexis faint to put in Perez for a perfect cross to worry Foster, but agonisingly missed by Giroud. Another Xhaka pile driver missed the target and more frustration as Bellerin headed wide after a neat build up.

With time running out, Giroud was strong in the air to angle his header beyond Foster from Özil’s perfectly weighted cross as finally, the Gunners had taken the lead. Relief in N5!

Arsenal now charged forward as Albion came out of their defensive shell in search of a leveller. A minute before time and Foster’s legs denied Ramsey from Bellerin’s cross and Alexis back header.

Bellerin’s late run and shot, was again saved by Foster and Alexis tried a scoop volley which Foster also held.

A vital three points Wenger would later agree as the Gunners noon go about repairing the damage from those consecutive away day losses. This win proves that the repair job is well under way, with more of the same expected when Crystal Palace arrive at the Emirates stadium on New Year’s Day.