Post-Match Report

Arsenal 1-0 West Bromwich Albion - Report

West Bromwich Albion -

Emirates Stadium
Barclays Premier League
Barclays Premier League
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  West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion

By Richard Clarke

New season, new hero, same old result.

Samir Nasri took just three minutes 44 seconds to introduce himself to the Emirates Stadium faithful on Saturday. His well-crafted goal was enough to beat West Brom and put Arsenal top of the nascent Premier League table but Arsène Wenger knows his side must perform much better than this if they are going to be in the same position come May.

The home side thundered forward in the opening stages and Nasri’s goal appeared to be the first of many. However Arsenal lost their way after the break and West Brom had a couple of decent chances to equalise. Most notably when Johan Djourou cleared James Morrison’s shot off the line.

However, an opening day win is an important win, no matter how it comes. Arsenal will play better than this and draw during the coming campaign. 

And there is a long, long way to go.

It may have been the first game of the Premier League campaign but Wenger’s men had already played nine pre-season fixtures this summer plus Wednesday’s Champions League qualifier. That, and Euro 2008, had taken a toll.

Nine players missed the game at Twente in midweek and just Nasri (thigh/knee) returned to the starting line-up this afternoon. Kolo Toure had only half-recovered from his hip injury and was left on the bench. He was joined there by Robin van Persie, who was rested, so Nicklas Bendtner was paired with Emmanuel Adebayor up front. 

Emmanuel Eboue was employed as an emergency central midfielder alongside Denilson so Aaron Ramsey also dropped down. After an impressive game in midweek, Djourou retained his place alongside William Gallas. 

As ever, Emirates Stadium was a picture on opening day. This lunchtime kick-off was the first game of the entire Premier League campaign. It added a little something extra to a game already jam-packed with anticipation.  

Twente had gone for Arsenal’s throats in midweek and, to be honest, it rattled the Gunners. Wenger's men would try the same trick this afternoon and it had the same effect.

Within four minutes, the hosts had the lead. Nasri collected the ball in the left-hand channel and he nudged it to Bendtner who in turn found Gael Clichy on the left-hand byline. The Frenchman spotted Denilson racing towards the byline. The Brazilian reached the ball and cut back for Nasri to steer home a low shot from the corner of the six-yard box.

Arsenal were already looking rampant. Adebayor set up Walcott to nod a header towards the far post. It was blocked by a West Brom body but not, according to referee Howard Webb, a hand. 

Soon afterwards, Gallas cracked a venomous long-range drive just wide from fully 30 yards. It was one of those piercing shots that retain its pace and flat trajectory throughout their journey. 

Sagna tried his luck from the right flank minutes later but the deflection off Abdoulaye Meite saw the ball balloon just beyond the far post. 

Midway through the half, Bendtner sent a steepling header wide. Although Do-Heon Kim did force Manuel Almunia to pull off a fine one-handed save just after the half-hour and then Djourou foiled Ismail Miller 12 yards out, Arsenal were still in control. 

Before half-time, Nasri, Adebayor and Denilson all had long-range efforts to add to the lead. 

The home side went into the interval cruising. The only issue was an old one – had they scored the goals they deserved?

And would it come back to haunt them.

The answer, as we found out four minutes in, was ‘nearly’. Miller escaped on the left and shot at Almunia’s legs from a tight angle. The ball rebounded to James Morrison who fired into the heart of a frantic area. Almunia got a touch on the shot but Djourou’s presence on the line was the main reason the ball was scrambled wide. 

Adebayor might have settled the nerves a couple of minutes later when he burst clear only to sidefoot his shot wide. 

However, you sensed Arsenal had started to lose their way. The muscular Miller was causing problems for the defence, and attacks from the home side were now fleeting.

Before the midway point of the half, Walcott had a shot charged down and Eboue blazed wide. With 23 minutes left, Adebayor had the ball in the net only to be flagged offside.

However the overwhelming Arsenal of the first half had waned. To liven up his side, Wenger brought on Van Persie and Toure for Walcott and Bendtner with around 20 minutes left.

Ten minutes from time, Adebayor’s long, arching cross was met by the Dutchman at the far post. His header was held by Carson.

A stumbling, turning Van Persie then prod a shot past the far post with five minutes to go.

At full time, the overwhelming emotion was relief. As at Twente on Wednesday, Arsenal had won the game, kept a clean sheet and done their jobs professionally.

However the trademark finesse may have to wait until their injured players return.

Referee: Howard Webb
Attendance: 60071

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