Welcome to Talking Heads.
Before and after every first-team fixture, our co-commentator and an Arsenal blogger will have their say on the game.
Arsenal took on West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Saturday and our Talking Heads for this were Arsenal Player co-commentator Adrian Clarke and blogger Goonerholic.
ADRIAN CLARKE, ARSENAL PLAYER CO-COMMENTATOR
Arsenal showed they have plenty of grit at The Hawthorns, and that’s why they were able to cling on for all three points. For the first hour or so I was impressed with the defensive positioning and organisation, with the players quelling any threat that West Brom had, but the sending off turned everything on its head.
From being in control, things suddenly got edgy. From that moment on, they couldn’t press the ball as they had done previously (because they were a man short) and the Baggies capitalised, pegging them back with four up front and lots of balls launched forward to test the Arsenal backline. Thankfully the players were up to the examination.
This isn’t a win that will be remembered for wonderful attacking play - it was earned by intelligence and sheer gutsAdrian Clarke
I was pleased to see Tomas Rosicky bag a couple of goals, and his performance in general oozed class, but this isn’t a win that will be remembered for wonderful attacking play - it was earned by intelligence and sheer guts.
The same again would do nicely at The Hawthorns! Arsenal have been outstanding in the last three matches, and if they can reproduce the same focus, discipline and quality once more, I don’t believe West Brom will be able to live with them.
I rate the front duo of Lukaku and Long, and in behind them the likes of Morrison will always be a creative threat, but hopefully it will be Arsenal who control this match rather than the home team.
With so much at stake for us, and relatively little at stake for the Baggies, I’m hoping that Steve Clarke’s men will already have one eye on the beach. To be honest, even if they’re on their game I’m still confident that our boys will have too much.
If the application is right, I can only see an away win. It doesn’t matter what score, the points are all that matter at this stage.
We claimed all three points from an afternoon that had two distinct phases. For over an hour we saw the Arsenal performance I think many expected. Tomas Rosicky highlighted his value to the side with a headed clearance off the line, and two very well-taken goals. It all looked very comfortable until Per Mertesacker was lured into a challenge from behind on Shane Long. Although Mr Webb did not have one of his better afternoons, there could be no complaint with either the penalty award or the red card.
The 20 minutes that followed were about as different to what had gone before as you could imagine. It would be interesting to hear if it was by accident or design that we replaced our normal passing game with a safety-first approach of getting the ball as far from the danger area as possible. One by one the creative players made way for those with more defensive qualities, and only wasteful finishing preserved our lead.
We can all think of occasions in the past when we have surrendered more than a one-goal advantage in less than 20 minutes, so perhaps the side deserves some credit for this rearguard action. A word too for Lukasz Fabianski. He was nervous early on, but survived a real test of character in those closing stages. The winning run continues, and that top-four berth is very much in our own hands.
Our last visit to The Hawthorns will remain in the memory for a while yet. Clinching third place in the Premier League on the final day of last season was one of the highlights of 2012, and this visit is almost as important. We need to build on back-to-back away wins in Munich and Swansea, and capitalise on the confidence that must have been gained from our performance against Reading.
With Nacho Monreal likely to be fit, and Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere still a week away, we could well field an unchanged starting XI. West Brom have faded after a bright start to the season but boast a decent midfield in which James Morrison and Chris Brunt provide a real threat from deep. If they go with two up top then Romelu Lukaku and Shane Long are a potent 'little and large' pairing.
This is an opportunity for us to apply some pressure on those currently occupying Champions League qualification places. A win will lift us to fourth place, a point behind Tottenham and a point ahead of Chelsea. I'm backing another masterclass from Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla to get us those all-important three points.
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