Arsenal dusted off the old rifle that we had locked away in the broom cupboard for about 18 months or so now, loaded it with some fresh bullets and proceeded to blast it on our feet at the Hawthorns yesterday afternoon.
Almost everything went wrong for us on the day and it all began with the injury to Francis Coquelin. He had been making a good impression in the game until then, snapping into challenges and using the ball really well in tight areas. Ironically it was a bad pass from him that resulted in him flying into a strong 50/50 with Yacob in the middle of the pitch. He seemed ok at the time only to see one of our players kick the ball out and for the camera to flash back to Coquelin clutching the back of his knee on the floor.
Mikel Arteta was the chosen replacement, getting his first taste of action since coming back from injury. As we've seen with Mathieu Debuchy, players coming back from injury who have lacked minutes under their belts are quite often off the pace. It not the first time that I have mentioned this on this website.
When Giroud opened the scoring on 28 minutes after yet another pin point Özil delivery I thought we would really control the game from that point. West Brom had defended in numbers until then and it was proving rather difficult to break them down but the breakthrough should open up the game a little and force West Brom to come out more. I was right I guess, just not in the way I had hoped.
West Brom started to put a bit of pressure on us and we had to be strong defensively, unfortunately we were anything but that. The marking for Morrison's goal wasn't very good yet I am sure the home side will say the same of Giroud's opener but the second goal? Blimey what on earth was going on there?
Özil losing the ball in midfield is just something that happens to every possession based team but the players behind you have got to do much better. Bellerin was not close enough to his man on the flank and Cech missed the ball before Arteta inexplicably extended his arm to reach the ball and deflect into his own net. Had he not stuck his arm out, there was a good chance that Monreal would have just cleared away to safety. Given that it was Arteta who lost Morrison on the first goal, it is safe to say it was not our captain's finest moment.
So that was the first shot to the foot, the second shots came mainly in the second half where I thought we were not patient enough in possession. Trying to launch through balls from deep inside the West Brom half and in turn just giving the ball back to the home side.
The third blow to the foot was when substitute Joel Campbell made a run in behind the defence and Cazorla's curling pass found him as the West Brom player slipped to the floor. On his strongest foot Campbell should have buried that chance no question, he even had time to take a touch, send a quick whatsapp message and still tuck it away. Instead Campbell miss-hit the ball away for a goal kick.
Mesut Özil had hit the post before that with a skidding left foot shot across the keeper and West Brom could have extended their lead with a thumping header against the bar, but the last and final blow came when Mark Clattenburg awarded us a penalty we rarely ever get. Chris Brunt I think it was being punished for pulling Alexis down in the box.
Cazorla took it and slipped just as he was about to strike the ball and the ball sailed over the top.
I read some post match comments about Cazorla bottling the penalty which I think is way off the mark. He has scored every penalty he has taken for Arsenal including a very important one against Manchester City last season. On this occasion he simply slipped at the wrong time. Nothing to do with his lack of scoring from open play or his finishing for Arsenal in the last few seasons.
But there we have it. We were simply not good enough at both ends of the pitch. I thought we might find it difficult to find our groove after the break so it was always going to be important that we were solid defensively. We had to produce similar in spells against Watford and Swansea away. We could then turn the screw in the second half with our superior quality. That was not the case yesterday and we ended up trying to chase the game. Offensively we were not sharp enough to break down a deep and defensive West Brom. I didn't expect Alexis to look as sharp as he did considering his recent collection of games for club and country and I guess that is one of the positives we can take away.
Unfortunately the negatives outweigh the positives. Losing Francis Coquelin possibly for a stretch of time is a tough pill to swallow. Mikel Arteta also joins the injured list, or rejoins in his case.
I took part in an Opposition view piece on a West Brom site before the game and I said the following
"I reckon we are going to hit a wall when the fixtures start coming thick and fast, we will lose players through injury and drop some points, but then I expect us to bounce back after January and we will have a collection of rested players due to missing large chunks of the season and we will hit our stride."
I hope it hasn't started sooner than I expected. I think I am right in saying that it is the first defeat we have suffered in the league after going a goal up since our 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane last season.
I think it is important not to overreact, there has been plenty of that. All teams are and will continue to drop points, it is a long season and we have seen all our rivals struggle for consistency. Arsène has said it many times but if you are not 100% then you can lose points anywhere in the league.
We absolutely must get some players back and fast. If you haven't noticed Aaron Ramsey's absence then well, I don't know what to say. If we lose Coquelin for a sustained period we will need his presence in our midfield. We also need some options from the bench not to mention the speed and movement of Walcott.
NO MORE INJURIES PLEASE!
Might as well give caps a try. Anyway really bad day at the office, it is now all about bouncing back, so let us do that on Tuesday.