Two goals from Alexandre Lacazette secured victory for Arsenal over West Brom on Monday night – but there was a controversial referee call, too. Here we round up the talking points from the encounter.
The Gunners had gone into the game way down in 12th spot in the Premier League after an inconsistent start but this 2-0 win put them up to seventh, in touch of the top clubs and backed up the point they earned impressively at Chelsea last time out.
It could have been different, though, had West Brom taken their first-half chances or had a referee penalty call gone their way…
WBA denied penalty, Arsenal awarded one
“It’s a stonewall penalty. Everybody has seen it. The player could have been sent off as well.” Tony Pulis was less than impressed after the final whistle and West Brom can count themselves unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty prior to Lacazette’s opener.
Shkodran Mustafi brought down Jay Rodriguez but referee Robert Madley didn’t blow his whistle. The striker quickly got to his feet and fired a shot at goal, which Petr Cech tipped onto the post, before Jake Livermore spurned his follow-up chance.
Jamie Carragher believes that reaction from Rodriguez actually counted against him, with Madley not even signalling for advantage to be played after the collision. “I’ve said for years players don’t help referees, diving, going down – but what’s happened here is a referee hasn’t helped a player,” said Carragher.
The fact he gets up makes the decision for the referee. If he stayed down he’d probably give the penalty.
“That’s a penalty. The player has been too honest, if you like. The fact he gets up makes the decision for the referee. If he stayed down he’d probably give the penalty.”
There was no debate about Arsenal’s second-half penalty, though, when Allan Nyom was punished for sending Aaron Ramsey tumbling by the touchline. “There’s no question he’s barged into Ramsey – and he’s not made it look subtle either,” said Sky Sports’ Alan Smith.
Lacazette’s happy hunting ground
Lacazette dispatched that spot-kick impressively, tucking it low into the corner, to add to his first-half header, when he reacted quickest to Ben Foster’s parried save from Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick.
Those goals mean Arsenal’s record signing has now scored in each of his three home Premier League games for the club – the first time a player has done that for the Gunners since Brian Marwood in 1988.
Lacazette, who is yet to score an away goal for Arsenal, actually had the fewest touches of any outfield starter for the home side but his clinical finishing earned him a standing ovation when he was subbed off on 82 minutes for Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman now has the sixth best minutes per goal rate in the top European leagues since August 2016.
Best mins per goal rates in Europe’s top leagues since Aug 2016
“I had no doubt that he was going to be ok today. The question mark at the minute for him is, he has to understand how it is away from home at times,” said Thierry Henry. “He’s learning with the team. But at home, I had no doubt he was going to be a goal scorer tonight.”
Arsenal back on track?
Arsenal suffered several first-half scares aside from Rodriguez’s penalty shout, strike against the post and Livermore’s follow-up miss; Nacho Monreal was forced to acrobatically clear a Rodriguez header off the line, while Cech somehow turned a close-range effort from the striker around the post for a corner just before the break.
However, a commanding second-half display – in which they had 70.2 per cent possession and fired off 11 shots – secured victory and means the Gunners are back on course after their consecutive defeats in August to Stoke and Liverpool.
A morale-boosting cruise past Bournemouth after the international break helped heal the wounds from their 4-0 thrashing at Anfield, while the hard-fought draw at Chelsea last weekend earned them credit for their spirit and fight.
Now, after victory on Monday, fixtures against Brighton, Watford, below-par Everton and Swansea in the league give Arsenal the opportunity to build up a head of steam before their back-to-back battles with Manchester City and Tottenham in November.
“You’d still want to see a bit more from them over the next 10 games but if they show the kind of attitude they did at Chelsea last week, who can say [what they can do in the league this season],” said Smith. “I don’t see them on the level of the two Manchester clubs, though, that’s for certain.”
Barry breaks record
While he will be disappointed in defeat, Gareth Barry walks away from the Emirates Stadium having now made more Premier League appearances than any other player, after racking up his 633rd outing in the competition on Monday night. Barry’s start against Arsenal takes him past Ryan Giggs’ total of 632 at the top of the standings.
The 36-year-old West Brom midfielder made his Premier League debut for Aston Villa aged 17 in May 1998 and went on to win the title with Manchester City in 2011/12. Barry – who has also played for Everton – told Sky Sports it was a special moment for him to take the record.
However, he still has some way to go to break the record for appearances in the top flight (not just the Premier League). Peter Shilton holds that record with 849!
Pulis suffers at the Emirates again
West Brom have now lost on each of their last seven trips to Arsenal – but their manager Pulis has an even worse record, having lost all 10 of his matches at the Emirates Stadium.
The Welshman, who brought up his 100th game in charge of West Brom on Monday, has a combined scoreline of 22-3 in his 10 games at the venue in charge of the Baggies and Stoke.
Unhappy away days
West Brom have lost more away Premier League games versus Arsenal (10) than against any other side.
Pulis isn’t alone in struggling at the Emirates Stadium though – Arsenal are now on a run of eight successive Premier League wins at the ground, their second-best winning streak at the stadium since a nine-game spell between December 2014 and April 2015. Ramsey hopes that home form can propel the Gunners into title contention.
“We want to make the Emirates a fortress,” said the Arsenal midfielder. “Hopefully we can build on that. We know how important that is going to be in the title run.”