A brace from Alexis Sanchez helped Arsenal return to winning ways and crucially reclaim third place from Manchester City, whilst also putting a little bit of fresh air between themselves and Manchester United, with a comfortable enough 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates.
Consecutive draws against West Ham United and Crystal Palace had seen any late hope of a title charge from Arsenal wither away in the last week, whilst also throwing the Gunners firmly in the clutches of the Manchester clubs chasing them in the race for a Champions League place for next season.
Playing on a rather Thursday night after both Manchester sides had featured twice already in the last 4 days had put that extra bit of pressure on Arsene Wenger to get a result tonight, and the general lack of disdain around the Emirates due to the lack of progress this season was very evident at kick-off.
Fortunately for Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez got Arsenal an early goal which lifted some of the feeling of doom and gloom that had descended on the stadium. A 13-pass move ended with Sanchez selling a dummy to Sandro in the middle of the park and pirouetting before unleashing an effort from distance which nestled into the corner, beating Ben Foster for pace.
While Arsenal were clearly dominating, West Brom looked dangerous as usual on set-plays, and Gareth McAuley was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet when his near perfect header cannoned back off the crossbar and into play with Petr Cech in the Arsenal goal well beaten. Arsenal’s zonal marking had let them down again with no one tracking the runner, allowing McAuley to get a free run on the ball and plant his header goalwards.
Arsenal did have more luck than West Brom with their set-play shortly after. Aaron Ramsey, finally recalled to the side in place of Francis Coquelin, was felled just outside the box in a perfect position for either a right footer or a left footer, and the confusion over who would take the freekick left Ben Foster watching as Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud ducked out of the way to leave space for Alexis Sanchez to squeeze a far from perfect freekick into the net to put Arsenal 2-0 ahead at the break.
Olivier Giroud had an early shot on goal in the second half, but found the arms of Ben Foster after some good work from Alex Iwobi. Arsenal were turning up the heat in the second half with Mesut Ozil denied twice in quick succession, first by Ben Foster, and then Jonas Olsson, who blocked the German’s goal bound effort for a corner.
Arsenal played some really pretty football towards the closing stages of the game with substitute Joel Campbell producing an excellent late cameo in the five minutes he was given by Arsene Wenger as a replacement for Ozil. The Costa Rican made space for himself before firing a shot wide, before setting up an excellent chance for Giroud, whose shot on goal was blocked by the face of Ben Foster. That passage of play saw Campbell put in another cross for Giroud, who this time toed his shot agonizingly wide.
There were to be no further additions to the scoreline for Arsenal, who probably deserved a bit more, something that can be said for their season as a whole too.
For the time being though, the Gunners move back into third place two points clear of Manchester City with a trip to relegation threatened Sunderland to look forward to on Sunday in what could be a crucial game at both ends of the table.
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Elneny, Iwobi (Coquelin), Ozil (Campbell 85′), Alexis (Walcott 85′), Giroud.
Subs: Ospina, Gabriel, Chambers, Coquelin, Campbell, Walcott, Welbeck.
West Brom: Foster, Chester (Olsson 46′), Evans, Dawson, McAuley, Sandro (Rondon 46′), Yacob, Fletcher, McClean, Sessegnon, Berahino
Subs: Myhill, Olsson, Gardner, Anichebe, McManaman, Rondon, Leko
Final Score: Arsenal 2-0 West Brom (Sánchez 6′, 38′)