Arsenal vs. West Bromwich Albion: 6 Things We Learned
It was a relatively staid performance and just the sort of game one would expect out of a team with nothing to play for in the league and a Cup final on the horizon.
With our eyes similarly turned toward the future, let's look at six things we learned from the match.
Arsenal Had Their Minds on the FA Cup Final
It seems reasonable to think that Arsenal would not have played as they did if Manchester City's victory over Everton on Saturday had not guaranteed them fourth place and Champions League qualification.
After Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in the 14th minute, Arsenal seemed largely content to keep hold of the ball and stroll their way to a comfortable victory.
Arsenal mustered a few more shots on goal and retained the ball for 60 percent of the match, cruising to a clean sheet and a victory meaningless except in its elevation of their points total to a robust 76.
Arsene Wenger Did Not
One might have expected Arsene Wenger to rest his best players, since he has been forced into playing a very similar squad all season, and Arsenal stood to gain nothing but pride by winning on Sunday.
But the only change he made to the lineup that whipped Newcastle 3-0 on Monday was Mathieu Flamini for Aaron Ramsey, a precautionary measure made due to the Welshman's minor thigh niggle.
Giroud, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have all played several dozen games this season, but Wenger still decided to give them a run-out as if he was still gunning for the top four.
Perhaps, he wants to avoid a dip in form and concentration ahead of the team's biggest game of the season.
Arsenal Have Not Lost a Premier League Game at Home Since August 17
On August 17, Arsenal humiliatingly capitulated to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season.
They have recovered quite well; the club's fans have not had to trudge home from a Premier League defeat at the Emirates since.
If the Gunners can win their first Premier League home game of next season, they will have played a full season's worth of home games without losing a single one. For all the talk about Arsenal's collapses away from home, they should be commended for taking care of business on their own turf.
Arsenal Still Need to Be More Clinical
In his post-game analysis of Arsenal's season, Arsene Wenger opined, via Arsenal's official website:
I would just say to be brutal in our first analysis is we missed a few goals compared to the teams who scored the most goals and we missed some big away games by conceding two many.
While Arsenal's malaise might have been caused by the fact that they were merely playing for pride and their paying fans in the final home game of the season, they really have to improve their precision in front of goal during the final two games of the season and in the year ahead.
Olivier Giroud Is Improving
Giroud is a flawed player. Every one of his faults and many more have time and again been rehashed on the Internet. Few players in football have taken as severe a virtual beating this season.
But the statistics belie the evisceration Giroud has endured. He scored his 16th Premier League goal of the season on Sunday, and it took quite some skill to head into the net as he was being hauled back by Craig Dawson.
His tally is now 22 in all competitions—nothing to shake a stick at. While Arsenal certainly need reinforcements up front, Giroud is clearly not worthless.
Also, his fresh haircut is immaculate.
Arsene Wenger Is Staying
We did not exactly learn this fact from Sunday's game but rather from the post-game press conference, via the team's website, at which, Wenger confirmed that his future is in north London.
"Yes. I don't know [when I will sign a new deal]. I told you many times that my word is my word. I am from a period where you did not need a pen to commit."
If Wenger left this summer, Arsenal would be in a state of utter chaos. Wenger is such an integral part of the club, and the board seems wholly invested in him as a member of both the brass and the day-to-day management of the squad.
Hopefully, they line up a replacement for him in a couple years' time, but it's also in the club's interest to keep him around for at least another season. This summer will be one of transition for Arsenal, and there is no man better to see the club through such a period than its manager of 18 years.