West Brom – Arsenal: Any Christmas carolers lamenting the long wait until the 2021 season, feel free to sing along.
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Arsenal.”
Two delightful goals in five minutes gave Arsenal a first-half lead that didn’t let up in a 4-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at the snow-covered Hawthorns on Saturday.
West Brom’s Sam Johnstone made eight saves in the loss, so it could’ve been even more emphatic a beatdown.
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Alexandre Lacazette scored twice and set up Bukayo Saka for another, Kieran Tierney also sending in a stunner during the blowout win.
Arsenal’s 23 points are sixth off the top four, though several teams ahead of the Gunners have played fewer than their 17 matches.
Arsenal has Crystal Palace, Newcastle, and Southampton before beginning a tough run with a visit from Manchester United on Jan. 30.
Sam Allardyce’s Baggies have lost three-in-four to remain in the drop zone, six points back of 17th-place Brighton.
West Brom has Wolves, West Ham, and Man City up next.
STREAM WEST BROM – ARSENAL FULL MATCH REPLAY
Three things we learned from West Brom – Arsenal
1. Arsenal looks like Arsenal: We argued on Dec. 21 that Arsenal needed to get some better bounces, play Lacazette more, and pick a formation and go with it. Lacazette has since scored in three-straight matches — two starts — as Arsenal played a 4-2-3-1 in every game and got all the bounces against Chelsea to start the win streak.
Here for the back pats, Mikel.
Yes, of course, the Gunners were facing a substandard opponent, but seeing the North London side resemble itself was a welcome sight. Arsenal has been better defensively this year but so many times has failed to deliver excitement. We got two views of traditional Arsenal on Saturday. First there was Kieran Tierney’s magnificent solo goal, something Arsenal’s artists have delivered plenty over the years.
More encouraging and welcome, though, was the interplay between Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette, and Emile Smith-Rowe in producing the special second goal. Mikel Arteta is using his pieces in a more attacking manner against lesser sides, and having Saka, Lacazette, Aubameyang and a bonafide playmaker’s role — filled Saturday by Smith-Rowe — has made all the difference.
2. Baggies brutal stretch yields predictable results: The 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield had Sam Allardyce puffing out his chest, but this combined score line stands at 13-1 after four matches in charge (Aston Villa, Leeds, Liverpool, Arsenal). Star keeper Sam Johnstone had six saves, five coming on shots inside the box, as West Brom was often under fire. As hopes lean on the Liverpool draw, it’s worth noting that West Brom drew Man City and Chelsea under Slaven Bilic, and lost 1-0 to Spurs and Manchester United. So far, change for change’s sake has done very little and the Baggies are six points away from safety with Wolves, Man City, and West Ham next on the docket.
3. Arsenal defense impregnable: The Gunners had allowed at least one goal in six-straight league outings following the 3-1 win over Chelsea last week, but have now blanked Brighton and West Brom away to build a path toward the top six picture.
Arsenal had 63 percent of the ball and an 11-2 advantage in shots at halftime. The Gunners put more than half of those 11 shots on frame and produced eight shots while inside the 18. That’s all quite promising, regardless of opponent.
Man of the Match: Alexandre Lacazette
Two goals on five shots with three fouls drawn. A man in form.
West Brom – Arsenal recap
The Gunners were ready to go from the jump, and it was no surprise when they went ahead even if it came from a surprising producer.
Kieran Tierney megged his mark and then cut the same man back to drive into the 18 and slash home a gorgeous goal.
Arsenal doubled the lead off a terrific team goal, Saka, Lacazette, and Emile Smith-Rowe all delivering the goods en route to Saka’s marker for 2-0.
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The Baggies thought they’d pulled a snowy goal back in the 47th minute when Matheus Pereira sprung behind the Arsenal back line and beat Bernd Leno between the legs to hit the post, Callum Robinson belting the rebound home, but Pereira was proven offside.
Lacazette got his goal in the 61st minute after Semi Ajayi saw a possible own goal hit his post before Emile Smith-Rowe’s shot was blocked to Lacazette. Saka drove the play and deserved every mention in the MOTM debate.
Lacazette wanted a word, though, and he leaned onside before sticking his leg out to poke home from close range to make it 4-0.