A trio of sensational goals have Arsenal feeling good and West Brom heading for the Championship after a 3-1 match at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Nicolas Pepe’s delightful individual goal doubled the lead provided by a terrific team goal capped by Emile Smith-Rowe, and Willian’s sensational 90th-minute free kick relegated Matheus Pereira’s great goal to a side note and the Baggies to the Championship.
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Arsenal snapped Sam Allardyce’s run of never being relegated from the Premier League, as West Brom only has nine points available to it on the fixture list and sits 10 points back of 17th-place Burnley. The Baggies are now the record holder for most PL relegations with five.
The Gunners move back above Leeds and sit ninth with 52 points. The top seven is still possible, but matches versus Chelsea (Wednesday), Crystal Palace, and Brighton stand in the way.
Three things we learned from Arsenal – West Brom
1. Style still in Arsenal’s arsenal: Mikel Arteta has a decent-enough defense, as Arsenal’s 38 goals conceded rank fifth-best in the Premier League, but the flair hasn’t been on display much. It was everywhere on Sunday, from Bukayo Saka’s assist on Smith-Rowe’s dynamite finish to Pepe’s dribble and smash, then capped by Willian’s terrific free kick (a reminder of what we thought his signing would mean to Arteta). West Brom does lend itself to this, so let’s see what happens versus Thomas Tuchel’s red-hot Chelsea.
2. Is this the end for Big Sam? Sam Allardyce has a well-manicured reputation as a no-nonsense coach who will get your club out of relegation trouble by hook or crook, but his record of never having failed to deliver safety is over and this particular journey could well be the last time he’s trusted with such a call. The Baggies have some impressive moments under the 66-year-old Big Sam but consider that they were 1W-4D-7L when they fired Slaven Bilic after a draw with Man City. They are 4W-7D-12L since that, an improvement but not one that has given them a realistic look at safety in some time.
3. Uncertain futures for both, but Arsenal can smile at rebound: Mikel Arteta played kids and other second-choice options after flaming out of the Europea League, clearly saving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard for midweek at Chelsea. Could Arteta again use a late-season defeat of the Blues to put some shine on an up-and-mostly-down campaign?
Man of the Match: Willian
The Brazilian had the hockey assist on Smith-Rowe’s goal before scoring his free kick. He recorded four key passes in the win.
Arsenal – West Brom recap
West Brom was bright early, desperation apparent in a big to stay up. Matheus Pereira tore into a curling shot in the 12th minute that just failed to find its way into the upper 90.
The Baggies were all over the Gunners, ripping shots toward goal and clipping the bar on a chance that probably would’ve been ruled offside by VAR.
Arsenal found some danger through Bukayo Saka, but Darnell Furlong’s sliding challenge was timed well enough to put off the England youth.
Smith-Rowe played the role of architect for his first Premier League goal, working the ball out wide to Willian and moving to the center of the box. His Brazilian teammate hit a perfectly-weighted pass toward the end line, where Bukayo Saka swirled a seeing-eye cross between two defenders for an airborne Smith-Rowe to snap a shot past Sam Johnstone.
The second goal saw Pepe turn on the individual flair, making a hard cut to earn some space just inside the right corner of the 18.
That’s all he needed, as the Ivorian looked every bit his record-signing price tag with a slashed left-footed shot that sent Johnstone into the air to no avail.
West Brom fought into the second half and Bernd Leno had to do very well to poke a seeing-eye elastico bid from reaching the far top corner off a corner kick from the left.
WHAT A HIT FROM PEPE. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/GEXRVKAV57
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) May 9, 2021