Sunday 22 April 2018

Lacazette brace secures three points for Arsenal as Gareth Barry breaks Premier League appearance record

Arsenal 2 West Brom 0

Soccer Football - Premier League - Arsenal vs West Bromwich Albion - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - September 25, 2017 Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring their second goal. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Soccer Football - Premier League - Arsenal vs West Bromwich Albion - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - September 25, 2017 Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring their second goal. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Miguel Delaney

Referee Bobby Madley may find himself under scrutiny after this game, as a somewhat erratic Arsenal continue to find their feet at the start of this season, but there can be no doubt that Alexandre Lacazette has found his groove at the Emirates.

The £52.7m summer signing continued his impressive scoring streak at his new home, with his finisher’s opportunism bringing the only two goals of this 2-0 win over West Brom and ensuring this initially tricky night for Arsenal ended rather easily.

Tony Pulis will only feel unease, though, because he could justifiably have issue with the two penalty calls ultimately decided the game.

Madley denied West Brom what seemed a clear spot-kick when it was 0-0 after eight minutes, only to then award Arsenal what seemed a much more questionable one when it was 1-0 after 67 minute.

That wasn’t the only decision from this match that will generate discussion, as Arsene Wenger again left out Mesut Ozil, but started Alexis Sanchez and Lacazette together.

It paid off, but not without the side suffering some degree of difficulty along the way.

Arsenal found themselves in real trouble by the eighth minute, and really should have been behind, only to enjoy a very fortunate number of lucky let-offs in the space of a few seconds.

First of all, Jay Rodriguez brilliantly turned Shkodran Mustafi after first putting him on the back foot with a run on goal. Panicked into a response, the German stuck a leg out as Rodriguez turned, only to bring him down. Referee Bobby Madley gave no response, though, and it’s hard not to think that was because Rodriguez showed no hesitation in getting straight back up on his feet and hammering an angled shot at goal.

It could have been 1-0 then, and it was amazing it wasn’t 1-0 by the time the move had finished. Petr Cech first got a hand to Rodriguez's shot to just turn it onto the post, before Jake Livermore’s effort somehow went wide from just yards out and with the goal gaping.

Tony Pulis was rightfully rather visibly frustrated, because he knew as well as anyone how these kind of things usually pan out when you don’t take - or get to take - your chances against the big clubs. Within minutes, Arsenal were ahead.

Sanchez stepped up for a free-kick and supremely curled it onto the bar, allowing Lacazette to run and head in yet another goal at the Emirates.

Even though one forward’s touch directly led to the other scoring with the very next touch of the game, you couldn’t quite call it a link-up, but it justified Wenger’s decision to play both while leaving Mesut Ozil on the bench.

The rampaging Rodriguez was in no mood to leave it at that, though, and continued to cause Arsenal a lot of problems with his running.

He would even made it 1-1 before half-time, though, except this time Arsenal survived through an impressive intervention rather than the intervention of blind luck. After Rodriguez had beaten Cech with a close-range header from a Grzegorz Krychowiak cross, Nacho Monreal did excellently to get back and clear the ball just as it threatened to cross the line.

It emphasised how all was still on the line.

It was also an odd game at that point. Arsenal were ahead but not exactly in control, while West Brom were threatening but not making Wenger’s side completely uncomfortable.

It was all still so on-edge, too, as illustrated straight after half-time when Lacazette’s effort just in front of goal was dangerously deflected just over the bar, and as reflected by the tension when West Brom would get a set-piece anywhere close to the Arsenal goal.

Cech very pointedly came out very forcefully to punch one away on the hour, as it to set an assertive tone in such situations for his teammates.

For all the perceptions about Arsenal’s record against Tony Pulis’ sides, mind, he had lost all 10 previous visits to the Emirates.

That was very soon to be confirmed as 11, to also remove all edge from the game - although not from the West Brom manager’s mood. On 67 minutes, in exactly the same area of the pitch where Mustafi had taken down Rodriguez, Allan Nyom bundled into Aaron Ramsey. Madley this time pointed to the spot, and Lacazette slid in his second of the game.

The striker began to really express himself, as seen with some lovely flourishes to his game late on, like one delightful double pull-back to set up a long-range strike. It was a sign that Arsenal had settled the game, and Lacazette has settled into the side.

Independent News Service

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport