Arsenal vs. West Bromwich Albion: Match Recap and Player Ratings

Matthew Snyder@schnides14Analyst IIINovember 5, 2011

Vermaelen celebrates after scoring Arsenal's second goal.
Vermaelen celebrates after scoring Arsenal's second goal.Julian Finney/Getty Images

The first clear shout on goal for 20 minutes, and Arsenal scored. Can't argue with that kind of efficiency.

Perhaps that's the best way to sum up Arsenal's 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates—it wasn't the enthralling, comprehensive classic we saw one week ago against Chelsea, but it was three points all the same.

It was a decidedly cagey affair for most of the first half, with Arsenal pumping the ball up the right flank, where winger Theo Walcott and right-back Carl Jenkinson were struggling to provide adequate delivery into the penalty area.

Arsenal slowly but surely exerted their imprint upon the affairs—when they're on form, it's death by a thousand well-measured passes—although that process was made easier since West Brom were struggling to construct anything of significance in the way of attacking intent.

A post-match interview with Baggies manager Roy Hodgson got a bit heated when an intrepid journalist—if not something more vaguely sinister—asked if Albion's players had "lacked desire" on the day, which saw Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta follow the insatiable van Persie onto the scoresheet for the hosts.

Hodgson sent back a strong rebuke to dismiss that notion before effusively praising Arsenal's performance. "We were beaten by an excellent Arsenal side who were too good for us on the day. That's the truth of the matter," Soccernet's Kevin Palmer reported.

When it came down to it, that's all that needed to be said.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05:  Robin van Persie of Arsenal celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium on November 5, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The match wasn't a thoroughly engaging one, but that often seems the case when Arsenal are at their best within the comfortable confines of the Emirates. The passing gets so sublime, the control so immediate, that you can't help but feel you are slowly slipping into sleep.

If last weekend was the exciting one-night fling, Saturday was the quiet contentment of a lazy weekend day. Arsenal find themselves somewhere between the two at the moment, as they continue to integrate the late-summer signings. But if this win was any indication, they're beginning to get there.

Here follows an analysis of Arsenal's players on the day.

Wojciech Szczesny, goalkeeper—6

Outside a Steven Reid header in the final minutes, there was little to trouble the Polish keeper, who saw only two shots hone in on goal.

A quiet afternoon, but one that is long overdue given the nature of some of Arsenal's matches this season—which might be most aptly described as having furious goal-mouth action. 

Andre Santos, left-back—5

Santos is adept when going forward, but his glaring lack of consistency on the defensive end is becoming a worry. His goal against Chelsea, coupled with some well-timed tackles, helped paper the cracks in his overall performance, which had been frightful in the first half.

Both teams observe a moment of silence before kickoff.
Both teams observe a moment of silence before kickoff.Julian Finney/Getty Images

While he provides a more physical presence than the slight Kieran Gibbs, Santos has not looked reassuring in the air—once again evident against Albion on Saturday.

It was his wayward header that almost put Arsenal under duress in the first half, but thankfully the in-form Laurent Koscielny, excellent Saturday in central defense, was able to redress the error by heading the ball away to safety.

Thomas Vermaelen, center back

The Belgian provides a different presence than Per Mertesacker in the back four, often electing to bomb forward on incisive runs—something we've yet to see from the German.

It's a thrill to watch, and one wonders if it is an aspect of attack that Arsenal have been missing in his absence. He certainly brings increased mobility to the Arsenal defense, a vital key since Wenger often elects to use a high line, which requires quickness and fast response.

He showed his penchant for scoring—still there even after months on the sidelines—with a well-taken side-footed effort after a van Persie volleyed cut-back. The defender made no mistake in smashing his drive with a vengeance past Albion keeper Ben Foster.

He would also see his glancing header shoot just past the post. In defense, Vermaelen was once again assured and composed.

Laurent Koscielny
, center back—7

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05:  Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal is pursued by Zoltan Gera of West Brom during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium on November 5, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The Frenchman is a perfect example of a player brimming with confidence, and has provided the perfect complement to van Persie's offensive brilliance with his stolid defense over the past month.

Saturday was the latest in a long line of fine performances for the Frenchman, who had endured heavy criticism last season and at the start of this one, when his nervy distribution and poor cover were well-chronicled.

His 30-yard sprint to beat out a Baggies winger in the first half was the perfect embodiment of desire and fight, while his enterprising surge forward which almost saw him picked out by a van Persie through ball was a rarely seen, but welcome sight of offensive intrepidity for Koscielny, who does not often venture forward.

Carl Jenkinson, right-back—5

A few too many fouls committed by the teenage defenseman, who recently admitted to not having expected to enjoy this much playing time in his first season with the club.

Bacary Sagna's broken leg certainly forced Wenger's hand in playing the youngster, but Jenkinson once more provided solid cover at the back, along with some impressive delivery from the right wing. He is showing good improvement, and is by no means a liability ready for exploitation by other teams. 

Alex Song, central holding midfielder—6

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05:  Andrey Arshavin of Arsenal gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium on November 5, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

He doesn't often receive the acclaim of some of his more attack-minded teammates, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more integral contributor to the Arsenal side—not to mention someone who directly affects the club's fortunes.

Once more we saw Song at his commanding best in the center of the park, providing the muscle to allow Aaron Ramsey to maneuver about farther up the pitch. His distribution was good, as was his tackling.

Sometimes, you know you've done well if there's nothing to criticize. Saturday was just that kind of day for Song. 

Mikel Arteta, central midfield—7

The Spaniard bagged his first goal at the Emirates (and second on the season for Arsenal) to cap off the 3-0 win, and was one of the best performers on the day for either side. His passing was well-measured and accurate, and that finish—coming off a good piece of build-up from Tomas Rosicky and a cut-back from van Persie—was coolly slotted into the bottom right corner of the net.

At 29, the former Everton man is one of the senior members of the side. That leadership and experience has been a welcome addition to what is still a very young side.

On Saturday Arteta once again provided a clinic for how to patrol the park as an effective creator.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05:  Mikel Arteta of Arsenal scores his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium on November 5, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Get
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Aaron Ramsey, attacking midfielder—6

If van Persie can't stop scoring, Aaron Ramsey simply can't stop threading wonderful passes through opposing defenses. 

Ramsey's delightful through ball for Theo Walcott set up the first goal, as the winger's shot fired off Ben Foster and into the path of the arriving van Persie, who was never going to miss from short distance on the kind of form he's been enjoying of late.

The Welsh national team captain saw his left-footed effort fire wide later on, but on the day he was once again a very good performer in the Arsenal side.

He made way for Tomas Rosicky in the 71st minute, whereupon the Czech international would quickly make an impact—proving integral in the build-up to Arteta's 74th minute strike.

Gervinho, left winger—5

The Ivorian's dribbling prowess, so mesmerizing to watch and difficult to defend, sometimes appears to wrongfoot the man himself.

Though he provided some impressive and much-needed industry on the flanks, there were occasions where the summer signing was not clinical enough in the final third.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05:  Thomas Vermaelen (R) of Arsenal celebrates with teammates Robin van Persie (L), Theo Walcott (2nd R) and Gervinho (R) after scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Br
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Still, a solid day for the winger, who is building an excellent relationship with van Persie in the final third.

He was substituted for Yossi Benayoun—unable to play last weekend because of his loan deal with Chelsea—in the 72nd minute.

Theo Walcott, right winger—6

There are few sights more menacing than the 22-year-old winger running at a defense, which was exactly how Arsenal opened up their scoring account in the 22nd minute.

Walcott was substituted for Andrei Arshavin (78',) but still managed to put in an impressive shift. His crossing remains a talking point, but the Englishman is improving in that department.

Robin van Persie, center forward—6

Didier Deschamps must have done a double-take, then heaved a heavy sigh of relief upon seeing that van Persie—now with eight goals in his last four league matches—was not on the pitch for kickoff in Olympique de Marseille's midweek Champions League match against Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger had decided to rest his star man, but what was most fascinating about that decision, to my mind, was the opportunity to watch Ju Young Park slot in at central forward, and then compare him to the Dutchman.

It is difficult, but still possible, to forget all the little things an in-form van Persie brings to the Arsenal side. His ability to link up play, either by dropping deep into midfield or up front in the attacking third, are always a welcome sight.

His turn in central midfield, which would set up the third goal, was of the highest quality. Beginning with his back to the opposing goal, the Dutchman opened up his body upon receiving the pass, then proceeded to blow by the defender who had been tasked with marking him.

A touch of brilliance from the star. Those bouts of industry have come so frequently in the past month that we risk taking them for granted.

Then, there are the goals. Van Persie's strike on Saturday wasn't the prettiest, but it still counts.