Friday 19 January 2018

Wilshere lights up Gunners as they move top

West brom 1 Arsenal 1

Jack Wilshere celebrates scoring the equaliser for Arsenal
Jack Wilshere celebrates scoring the equaliser for Arsenal

Henry Winter

After much huffing and puffing, Arsenal took a point at the Hawthorns through Jack Wilshere, who has found himself on the front pages in recent days after being pictured smoking but here guaranteed himself positive mentions on the back pages. Wilshere's deflected shot took Arsenal top of the Premier League on goal difference from Liverpool.

West Brom troubled Arsenal all afternoon. Claudio Yacob took his headed first-half goal well, his first for the club. Youssouf Mulumbu was superb in central midfield, constantly disrupting Arsenal moves. Saido Berahino showed some skilful touches on the left. Billy Jones kept raiding down the right. Yet there is resilience in this Arsenal team and Wilshere's persistence was rewarded.

Even before Yacob headed in his own landmark goal, Arsenal looked increasingly frustrated, unable to break down the massed striped ranks of West Brom's deep-lying midfield and defence. Yacob and Mulumbu sat in front of the back-four, closing down the space where Mesut Ozil loves to conjure up his magic.

The German was forced to move wide frequently or drop deep. It was a day for Arsenal celebrating left-footed creativity, being the 40th anniversary of Liam Brady's debut for the club (against Birmingham City), but Ozil had no joy in the first 45 minutes as Arsenal laboured to find a path through.

Clarke set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Berahino making his first Premier League start wide on the left. Morgan Amalfitano was on the right, moving inside to join Stephane Sessegnon in supporting the frontrunning Nicolas Anelka. Jones galloped down the right. West Brom were so well organised – they needed to be, facing Ozil.


Ozil was immediately involved, outjumping Gareth McAuley in the air, no mean feat. Ozil was soon linking with Aaron Ramsey, looking to find a gap in the wall of West Brom's defence. Ozil was in the hole behind Oliver Giroud with Wilshere on the left.

Arsenal just could not get going for an hour. Mikel Arteta did make space but his shot hit Giroud. He was then stopped by Yacob with a tackle that the Pumas would have admired. Ozil placed the ball down, stole a yard but it was Ramsey who took the free-kick, thumping it over.

Arsenal had more possession but West Brom occasionally threatened even before Yacob's goal. Berahino's shot clipped Mathieu Flamini, forcing Wojciech Szczesny to dive to his right, stretch out a hand and push the ball away. Ozil's vision and distribution continued to light up the afternoon, including a sweeping pass to Kieran Gibbs, then another to Ramsey.

The game briefly became fractious. Flamini collected his seemingly obligatory booking for catching Amalfitano. Wilshere had some promising moments, sending a left-footed shot wide. Arsenal seemed to settle. Giroud's left-footed shot was saved by Boaz Myhill. Flamini dummied to take the ball away from Anelka. Carl Jenkinson pushed on down the right like a winger.

West Brom were certainly not in awe of visitors who had started the season so strongly.

Their fans bayed for a free-kick when

Sessegnon was clearly pushed over by Kieran Gibbs just outside the box but Lee Mason waved play on.

Yacob then made the most decisive intervention of the first half. Mulumbu swept a clearance right to Amalfitano, whose cross rose perfectly for Yacob, who sent a fine header past Szczesny.

Wenger stood in the dugout, looking on in frustration. Wilshere continued to have a distracted afternoon until that 64th-minute strike. He leapt in on Yacob, who was fortunate to escape without injury. Wenger resisted the temptation to remove Wilshere at the break, a wise move as it turned out.

Yet Arsenal were still struggling to find their stride. Until Wilshere's deflected equaliser, West Brom could have added more. Berahino went on one dazzling run, taking him past Per Mertesacker, and crossing to the far post where Anelka got in a real muddle and the moment passed.

Giroud then sent Wilshere into the box but he shot over when forcefully challenged by Jones.


Still West Brom should have scored when Anelka, running on to Liam Ridgewell's pass down the left, curled his shot wide of Szczesny's left-hand upright.

Wenger made a change, withdrawing Ramsey for Tomas Rosicky. The Czech Republic international was involved in Arsenal's equaliser.

Ozil began the move on the right, picking out Giroud. Rosicky laid the ball back to Wilshere, who met it first time from 25 yards. Myhill appeared to have it covered but it clipped Jonas Olsson and flew past the West Brom 'keeper.

Clarke's men refused to be cowed. Shane Long replaced Anelka and proved highly effective. This was now a superb game, moves fizzing from end to end, chances coming and going. Jones' drive was saved by Szczesny.

Myhill did brilliantly to claw the ball away from Giroud. Berahino, hardly lacking in confidence, dragged the ball away from Ozil.

Arsenal fans then seethed as Mason waved play on as Wilshere was sent tumbling by Mulumbu's challenge in the box.

West Brom themselves deserved a penalty in added time when Laurent Koscielny bumped into Long but Mason ignored the offence.

At the end, Wilshere walked to the away fans and threw his shirt to them. They cheered – and cheered even louder when news of Spurs' defeat was announced. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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