By Richard Clarke at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal racked up their fifth straight Premier League win at Emirates Stadium with a comfortable 3-0 success over West Brom on Saturday.
As ever, Robin van Persie was at the hub of the action, scoring the first himself before setting up strikes for Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta.
West Brom offered very little and allowed Arsenal to stroll to possibly the easiest three points they will obtain this season.
Wenger’s men have now won their last four Premier League games and, at full time this afternoon, were level on points with Liverpool and Tottenham. The other north London side have a couple of games in hand but, like the rest of the top six, they should sense that a resurgent Arsenal side are now breathing down their neck.
A second successive clean-sheet also suggests the Emirates Stadium men are on the march.
Before kick-off, the ground fell silent as the Club honoured Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day. Captain Van Persie held a wreath that will be laid at Islington Town Hall in the coming days.
The Dutchman returned to the starting line-up having been rested against Marseille in midweek. The move was no surprise. Ahead of this game, the 28-year-old had picked up two Player of the Month awards and in the Arsenal.com poll he had taken a thumping 88 per cent of the vote.
It was the German who missed out.
Emirates Stadium had been very much the foundation of Arsenal’s recent rise up the table. And the building blocks appeared to be in place from the start this afternoon.
The first 15 minutes were all Arsenal, even if they could not conjure up a shot on goal. The visitors had arrived with all-too-typical tactics of keeping it tight at the back and grabbing what they could on the break.
But in truth, they would offer little in the opening 45 minutes.
Arsenal scored with their first shot on goal and never looked back. Aaron Ramsey’s vision sent Walcott sprinting down the right. His shot was half-saved by Ben Foster and Van Persie swept the ball home from close range. It was his 13th goal of the season and his eighth in the last seven games.
The strike merely confirmed what the game was clearly telling us – Arsenal were in control.
They continued to hold a firm but hardly vice-like grip on the game until they got their second six minutes before the break.
Van Persie cut the ball back form the byline and Vermaelen thumped home his first goal since the fateful day Aaron Ramsey broke his leg at Stoke in February 2010.
It also put Arsenal into positive goal difference for the first time this season.
The first half had been comfortable for an Arsenal side that had barely got out of third gear. The stats said they had enjoyed 71 per cent of possession and had three shots on target, scoring two goals. West Brom had not mustered a shot.
Vermaelen nearly killed off any comeback just before the hour when he slid a header wide from Van Persie’s corner.
Just after that Chris Brunt fly-kicked a shot high over the bar. A decent chance, poorly executed.
But for all Arsenal’s control they had much more left in them. On the hour, Gervinho darted in from the left and Ramsey hooked a shot across the face of goal.
Roy Hodgson brought on Somen Tchoyi for Zoltan Gera to strengthen his front line. They had had precious little joy this afternoon.
However, by now, Arsenal were stirring again. Foster was forced to make a couple of solid saves in quick succession. First from Gervinho’s low drive and then after Song tried to find the top corner from the edge of the box.
In the 70th minute, Walcott drove in from the right flank and Van Persie hoisted his effort over the bar.
Wenger then brought off Ramsey and Gervinho for Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun. It seemed he wanted this game closed off – and that is just what he got.
Sixteen minutes from time, Van Persie touched the ball back for Arteta to sweep home a third. Game, set and match.
Tchoyi escaped shortly afterwards but Vermaelen chased him down all too easily and blocked at the second attempt. It was West Brom’s best chance of the game and also a microcosm of the 90 minutes.
If anything, the visitors had the best period in the final 10 minutes when the game was up.
Steven Reid’s header and James Morrison’s drive were both held by Szczesny.
However, nothing would dent a super (and straightforward) afternoon for Arsenal.
- Vermaelen Goal!
- Andre Santos
- Ramsey 71
- Arteta Goal!
- van Persie Goal!
- Walcott 78
- Gervinho 72
- Arshavin 78
- Benayoun 72
- Rosicky 71
- Gera 63
- Dorrans 81
- Cox 71
- Thorne 81
- Mulumbu 71
- Tchoyi 63