What we needed yesterday was (in order): three points; a more committed performance; a more attacking performance; a supportive crowd; a clean sheet.
It’s fair to say we achieved all five, even though things didn’t always click.
All game the players put in a massive shift, pressing West Brom deep in their half, tracking back and busting a gut to make space when we had the ball.
In defence we were hardly troubled (Szczesny parried one long shot and was quick out of his goal to snuff out another attack, and I remember one unchallenged header in the box towards the end from which the visitors probably should have scored).
In the end a result of five-nil to the Arsenal would not have been unjust.
We created numerous chances (the BBC stats say we had 16 shots on target – but presumably that figure does not include the several times we slid balls across the face of goal only for no-one to quite get on the end of them).
There were some great moments of interplay between the forwards as well as many occasions where the wavelengths were not quite in tune. There is still a lot of work to do, but what is indisputable is that we carved open West Brom time after time and should have had more goals.
On the other hand, it was a pretty poor display from the Baggies who, several times, were kind enough to simply pass the ball to our players from unchallenged positions.
The first penalty was controversial. In the ground it looked bang-on and I have only seen a replay once, where I thought the defender’s toe caught Santi’s shinpad (although not hard enough to upend him). The consensus seems to be that Santi dived. If so, I don’t approve but we’ve been on the wrong end of enough penalty-dives recently (Bale and Young last season to name but two) that I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Of course, Santi is foreign and an Arsenal players, so the media will probably go to town on him.
The second penalty was less controversial and well done Mikel Arteta for putting them both away so tidily (especially when you remember that he missed that last minute penalty against Fulham). Giroud seemed to be wanting to take the second one, but Arteta was having none of it. He had something to prove and prove it he did.
The atmosphere at the ground was good with plenty of noise from the home fans and (from where I was sitting) barely a squeak from the West Brom fans.
The relentless teasing of West Brom goalie Myhill who went from ludicrous time wasting to frantically trying to speed things up once the Baggies went behind was particularly enjoyable.
Bottom line: a good day at the office.
Szczesny: didn’t have much to do but when he was called on he was impeccable. A very reassuring presence. 8
Sagna: very solid at the back but some of his passing and crossing was erratic. 6
Mertesacker: such a reliable figure at centre back. He was outstanding once again. 8
Vermaelen: put in another tidy performance following on from a good showing in Greece. He’s getting his form back together. 7
Gibbs: fine game from Gibbs, who has made the left back spot his own. He was defensively secure and contributed plenty going forwards. 7.5
Arteta: did a great job of fighting and competing for every ball. Passing was excellent as ever and two good penalties. 8
Wilshere: he is improving game by game and yesterday showed why we are right to be so excited about him. His understanding with his team mates can still get better, but his touch, turns and forward bursts are a joy to watch and dangerous for the opposition. 8 (MoTM)
Cazorla: good creative work throughout the game and also put in a shift pressing the WBA defenders when they had the possession. Let’s not mention the dive. Whoops, I just have. 7
Oxlade-Chamberlain: showed some good moments in the second half after a quiet first period. You feel he can do more, but he is young and improving. 6
Gervinho: the current hate figure for many fans (must be nice for Ramsey to see someone else copping the heat for a change). He worked his socks off yesterday and created numerous goalscoring chances. The fact that players were an inch or two off converting them is irrelevant. If he keeps playing like that he will get many assists this season. However, I suspect it’s more likely that elements of our support will have crushed him before then by howling at every mistake (while tolerating similar errors from others). 8
Giroud: led the line very well, had some sublime touches and was occasionally out of sync with his colleagues. Work effort outstanding. 7.5
Coquelin: looked sharp and hungry.
Rosicky: picked up where he left off in Greece.
Podolski: looked lively; missed a sitter.