Summer signing Alexandre Lacazette scored twice and ensured that Arsenal made it three consecutive home wins in the Premier League to start the season against West Brom last night.
The Gunners were fortunate to not concede an early penalty when Shkodran Mustafi hauled Jay Rodriguez down in the area, but the West Brom striker got back up and fired a shot onto the post.
It wasn’t long before the hosts capitalised on their luck and, after Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick came back off the crossbar, Lacazette was on hand to head home for his third consecutive goal at home.
The Gunners withstood rising pressure from the visitors, with Nacho Monreal clearing an effort off the line, but it was Lacazette who doubled the lead after the break with a cool penalty low in the corner.
The result sees Arsenal leap-frog newly-promoted Huddersfield into seventh in the Premier League, sitting six points behind the Manchester sides at the top, whilst West Brom dropped further to 12th.
Barry breaks all-time appearance record
When a fresh-faced, 17-year-old Gareth Barry stepped off the bench to make his first ever senior appearance on May 2, 1998 even he couldn’t have predicted what would follow in the next 19 years.
Since the start of his record-breaking career, helping Aston Villa to a 3-1 victory against Sheffield Wednesday, there isn’t much that Barry hasn’t experienced at the highest level and he’s gone on to win the Premier League and the FA Cup with Manchester City and make 53 England appearances.
And in lining-up against Arsenal on Monday night he broke Ryan Giggs’ all-time Premier League appearance record of 632, being named captain for the night in a nice touch from boss Tony Pulis.
Despite the result he put in a suitably obdurate performance, completing 71% of his attempted passes and making two defensive actions, and he showed there’s a lot of life still left in those old legs just yet.
Tony Pulis – and West Brom – hate the Emirates
Tony Pulis will be wondering what on earth he has to do for his luck to change at the Emirates Stadium, with Monday’s defeat signalling the tenth time in ten matches he’s lost away to Arsenal.
This dates back to his days as Stoke City manager and, no matter what he attempts, it seems that there’s almost a curse over his head in north London that sees his side fall short time and time again.
On Monday night he set his side up fairly defensively, opting for Hal Robson-Kanu in a role just behind the striker and a midfield containing the returning Jake Livermore, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Gareth Barry, rather than use the more attacking likes of Oliver Burke, Chris Brunt and Matt Phillips to get at Arsenal.
But it was a system that failed to pay off and the influence of Lacazette – combined with a severe absence of luck – meant that Pulis, and West Brom themselves, have suffered ten straight defeats.
Moment of controversy cloud Arsenal win
It could have been oh so different for the visitors had Arsenal not been gifted a controversial reprieve from referee Bobby Madley though, failing to award West Brom a clear early penalty.
Barry’s lofted ball over the top was gambled on by Jay Rodriguez and, when cutting back inside Shkodran Mustafi, the German defender slid in and clearly swiped the legs from under the striker.
Baggies boss Tony Pulis labelled it a ‘stonewall penalty’ and it’s hard to disagree with him, but it raised questions of whether Rodriguez was too honest in getting straight back up, getting back on the ball and trying to put the ball past Petr Cech – which he nearly did too, hitting the woodwork with a crisp low strike.
The incident will no doubt open a wide-scale debate across top-level football; if this is the reward honesty gets, will footballers all of a sudden make more of an effort to go down under a challenge?