The snow at the Hawthorns came slightly too late for Christmas but it reminded West Bromwich Albion that they are in the firm grip of an icy relegation battle, whereas their guests enjoyed something of a winter wonderland. The Gunners came into the West Brom v Arsenal game with their tails up with two consecutive victories under their belt and a sense that the players were starting to join the dots game by game.
Chelsea and Brighton must be cursing their luck that they failed to profit against a dysfunctional Arsenal side that were slowly recovering from the worst hangover known to man. The next stop was WBA with Sam Allardyce looking to perform his usual miracle but after a prolonged absence, perhaps, miracles are out of fashion. Arsenal had minimal tweaks to the formation and set about their business as if they realised that they were supposed to be feasting at the top end of the Premier League table instead of foraging for scraps at the bottom.
The West Brom v Arsenal game was exciting for three reasons – Tierney, Saka, and Smith Rowe, who added fizz to the proceedings and it was ESR who is emerging as the player that, in the company of the other two and possibly with the addition of Martinelli, could be at the heart of Arteta’s red and white revolution.
Arsenal’s goals against West Brom (0-4):
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) January 2, 2021
The goals, when they came, especially Tierney’s and Saka’s, could slot in between any showreel containing Pires, Henry, and Bergkamp, they were Arsenal goals. Tierney’s impressive goal said everything about the young Scot as a player.
His desire was epic and his finish sublime, he’s been a leading light for Arsenal since his return from injury, but there’s so much more to discover. 23 minutes in and the defender sprinted down the left, knocked the ball past Darnell Furlong, ran around, collected it, cut into his right past the same bemused player, and unleashed a scorcher that flew past Sam Johnson.
The West Brom keeper’s goal had been living a charmed life after early pressure from Hector Bellerin and the menacing Saka, who grows in stature by the game. The right side had seemed to provide all the threats up until this point but that was merely luring WBA into a false sense of security because Tierney was about to re-address the balance. The Scot, who by his admission, doesn’t score many drew smiles from his colleagues and his manager as he held his arms aloft, and if a goal was deserved for previous effort and work rate then, this was it.
The second goal, just five minutes or so later, was a beautifully constructed team goal that involved Saka, Smith Rowe, and Lacazette as they cut through a bewildered defence. Smith Rowe passed to Saka and turned on a sixpence to get upfield. Saka passed to Lacazette who put a wicked diagonal pass into the path of the advancing Smith Rowe and he squared it for Saka to slot home.
That’s the Arsenal we all know. What a sequence of play for Saka’s goal and their second versus West Brom ?pic.twitter.com/tzrPkdAmNa
— CrossAndNod (@crossandnod) January 2, 2021
How long have Arsenal fans waited for goals of this quality, then all of a sudden they arrive back to back, full of intent, oozing class, and style. Lacazette, normally in the shadow of Aubameyang, is looking far superior in front of goal at present and it’s not just about his ability to find the net. His work rate, instinct, and ability to link up with other players is a joy to behold and suddenly, this Arsenal side seems capable of picking itself with Lacazette playing a key role in Arsenal’s season.
He got another two goals in the snow, the first (60) was a peach, Saka was involved again and his cross from the right found Ayaji who crashed the ball onto the post. Smith Rowe followed up only to be denied, but Lacazette decisively pulled the trigger.
The fourth (64) was a bread and butter finish for a striker, the excellent Tierney crossing from the left to find the elevated leg of the Frenchman to kill off the West Brom v Arsenal game completely. This was a game that saw Arsenal emerge from the shadow of the last few uncomfortable weeks to re-establish themselves in the Premier League.
Let’s not get carried away, there’s more to do as the games come thick and fast, but finally, the heads of Arsenal fans can lift. They can feel good and wear a smile because the team is starting to resemble something familiar, something important and exciting and this is down to Arsenal’s youngsters who have re-energised a flagging side.
How the likes of Willian and Pepe expect to regain their places after the recent turn around is a mystery because their replacements have been far better valued for money. Willian, it appears, wasn’t needed in the first place and Pepe remains an inconsistent luxury.
Arsenal now have a week to recover from the cold before they take on Newcastle in the Arsenal Cup or FA Cup as others prefer to call it and let’s hope that the time is used wisely to build on the result from the West Brom v Arsenal game. Things seem even better when you consider that Thomas Partey will be fit and ready to go for that one.