We have seen some fantastic performances from Arsenal so far this season; taking apart Fenerbahce in the cauldron of their stadium in Istanbul, Giroud’s cherry on top of the north London derby and probably the best last week against Napoli. Those games highlighted the skill and creativity in the Gunners side, but that was not what was needed yesterday.
The West Brom manager Steve Clarke is no fool, and he would have realised it would be a bad idea to sit back and let Arsenal pick their way through his defence. His Baggies side are a good side as well, and were on a high after an away win at Manchester United. So his idea was to go toe-to-toe while also trying out the old adage that `Arsenal don’t like it up ’em`.
It very nearly worked as well. As soon as it was clear that the referee was going to let them be physical, especially on little Jack Wilshere, I feared the worst. Arsenal were not at their creative best either, so it looked a bit ominous when they took the lead at the end of the first half. The timing of the goal did not help either, but it certainly provided a test of character.
Arsenal passed the test; we scrapped and battled for every ball. Wilshere’s determination to influence the game was symbolic of the Arsenal performance and it was fitting that he smashed in the leveller. Flamini and Arteta never stopped trying and the defence stood up well to a powerful and relentless West Brom. That sort of performance could be just as important, especially in the big games, as the silky smooth attacking potency we saw against Napoli.