PS Join the inventor of and world leader in liveblogging, Scott Murray, for today’s 3pm fixtures. Bye!
Full time: West Bromwich Albion 3-1 Arsenal
Peep peep! West Brom fully deserve this fine victory. They did a number on Arsenal, with Craig Dawson scoring two identical goals from corners. There was more to it than that, though, with the usual organised defending and some high-class counter-attacking prompted by the left foot of Chris Brunt. Arsenal’s performance aped that of Alexis Sanchez: lively in the first half, empty in the second. I’ll leave the final word to Victor Valkov. “ I’m all for showing respect to an illustrious 20-year career and a 49-game unbeaten record that will never be broken but Arsene just cost me five quid on my accumulator. He’s dead to me.”
90+2 min “NBC coverage suggest Arsenal lack moral fibre,” says Ian Copestake. “Surely the nutritionist should be sacked.”
90+1 min “Have the players downed tools on Arsene?” says Sam Hankins. “Or are Arsenal really that bad? It sure looked like that with Leicester City to get their manager the sack.”
I might be wrong, and frequently am, but I think this is more an inherent weakness in too many of the players that puts the mental in fundamental. They are an extremely good fairweather side.
90 min West Brom make a late substitution: young Sam Field replaces Nacir Chadli.
85 min Arsenal have really struggled since that third goal. Now they are enduring some ole football from West Brom. Quite a role reversal, that. West Brom have been tremendous. Their gameplan has worked perfectly, and some of their counter-attacking football has been extremely good.
84 min It wouldn’t be a surprise if Sanchez was feeling that McClean tackle in the second half, so dramatic was the drop-off in his performance. Without him, Arsenal have offered nothing in attack. Too many good-time Charlies.
83 min “Hey Rob,” says JR in Illinois. “Neil Swarbrick seems to be the only referee that holsters his canister of invisible spray on the front of his shorts. And it’s not just that it’s on the front but that it is basically centered that makes it a bit disconcerting.”
Neil Phwoarbrick more like!
I have no idea where that came from, sorry.
82 min Arsenal are suffering death by deja vu. Again.
80 min If it stays like this Arsenal will have lost four of the last five league games and six of the last 12. Everybody knows the war is over; everybody knows the good guy lost. It does feel like time for a change, but the abuse and lack of respect is not on.
78 min An Arsenal change: Alex Iwobi replaces Alexis Sanchez.
This is far too easy. McClean on the right curls over a fast corner into the six-yard box. Dawson again gets a run at the ball and strains his neck muscles to head in from a few yards, flattening one of his team-mates in the process. He was surrounded by team-mates, in fact, because Arsenal had nobody near him in the six-yard box.
GOAL! West Brom 3-1 Arsenal (Dawson 75)
This is almost identical to the first goal. Oh, Arsenal.
74 min “A part of me was really hoping Ospina tripped Chadli there just to see who would play keeper,” says Abhi Vijay. “Arsenal would truly have blurred the lines between sport and performance art.”
73 min Sanchez has been much quieter in the second half, and therefore so have Arsenal.
72 min Claudio Yacob replaces Chris Brunt, who has had a fine game, particularly with his passing on the counter-attack.
71 min If West Brom win this they will be seven points ahead of ninth-placed Stoke, who lost at home to Chelsea later this afternoon.
70 min Xhaka can’t. He cracks it into the wall.
69 min Welbeck is fouled just outside the area by Brunt. The free-kick is a fair way to the right of centre and thus suits the left-footed Xhaka.
66 min A double chance for West Brom! Brunt’s beautiful curling pass allows Robson-Kanu to run beyond Mustafi and clear on goal. Ospina dithers but then does well to block Robson-Kanu’s attempted dink. The ball rebounds to Chadli, who dances around Ospina before hitting a shot that is blocked on the line by Mustafi.
65 min Welbeck hits the bar! Xhaka coaxed a right-wing corner to the far post, where Welbeck stretched to steer a header onto the bar.
65 min Walcott has had a really poor game. Maybe he’s trying too hard. Anyway, he is coming off now to be replaced by rugged bench-warmer Olivier Giroud.
64 min “I think it would have shown great forward thinking by the WBA ownership had they provided away fans with A4 sheets of paper and marker pens,” says our Wexit correspondent Ian Copestake.
62 min “Arsene strikes me as a modular synth guy in the vein of Jean Michel Jarre - admired by the purists for his technical grasp of difficult analogue systems and methods (Dennis Bergkamp perhaps the most “analogue synth-esque player of the Wenger era), but fundamentally the fans find the lack of chart toppers hard to stomach after a while, and wish he would just invest in some quality session musicians and make a more typical record, rather than noodling constantly with weird synth patches and filters.”
That’s no way to talk about Per Mertesacker.
60 min Big Hal Robson-Kanu had been on the field for about 74 seconds when he scored that goal. Not even Quasimodo predicted that.
59 min “I firmly believe,” says Ian Copestake, “that if defenders and such had just stood off Maradona and admired sharing the turf with him rather than hacking him to bits in the name of defensive duties, he would never have picked up that air rifle.”
Arsenal aren’t happy about this. McClean played the ball infield from the left to Chadli, who lofted a return pass over the top. Ospina came out feet first to clear but the ball hit Robson-Kanu, who reacted smartly to poke it into the net. It went through the legs of McClean, who was standing behind the keeper and in an offside position, but also reacted smartly to spread his legs and ensure he didn’t touch the ball. The referee went to the linesman to check, with Arsenal encouraging him to disallow the goal, but by the laws of the game it was fine. I have no idea why Ospina didn’t use his hands there.
GOAL! West Brom 2-1 Arsenal (Robson-Kanu 56)
Big Hal Robson-Kanu gives West Brom the lead with a comedy goal!
55 min “Or,” says Steven Hughes, “the brilliant Noel Gallagher music video commentary.”
He should be knighted. He’s the best thing to happen to Britain in the last fifty centuries.
54 min Rondon is coming off, to be replaced by Big Hal Robson-Kanu.
51 min A good chance for Rondon to score his first goal since the millennium. Brunt, in space on the left, curls over a beautiful cross towards the six-yard box, where Rondon gets above Koscielny and flicks a header just wide of the far post. Koscielny just about did enough to put him off.
50 min Rondon tries to shoulder charge Bellerin, misses and ends up on his arse.
48 min Sanchez is penalised for fouling Dawson and has a long moan at the referee. He’ll be booked for dissent at some stage. I do have a bit of sympathy for him though, because he’s been cynically fouled a few times in this match.
46 min Peep peep! West Brom begin the second half, kicking from right to left.
A few of you have suggested that, had McClean’s foul on Sanchez been committed by Xhaka on a West Brom player, he would have sent off. That might be true, though I don’t think it was close to a red-card offence.
“Andy Hinchcliffe’s Dad once made a wooden doll’s house for one of my kids,” says David McMurrugh. “He was an accountant but that was his hobby.”
“Yes, those other co-commentators who merely parrot the main commentary are as otiose as those DVD commentaries by film directors who have been forced to do one at figurative gun point,” says Steven Hughes. “As they just describe what is on the screen, you think to yourself: ‘Yes, I’ve got eyes too.’”
(All DVD commentaries should be like the below. NB: contains adult language. Lots and lots and lots of effing adult language.)
Half time: West Brom 1-1 Arsenal
Peep peep! The scoreline is about right after a good half of football. West Brom were dangerous from corners and counters; Arsenal were dangerous when Alexis Sanchez had the ball. See you in 10 minutes for the second half.
45+3 min And he’s a dog person.
45+2 min When Xhaka overhits a return pass in a dangerous area, Sanchez’s face aches with frustration. I know some of his behaviour has been iffy of late, but by god he is magnificent. He is everything you could want in a player.
45+1 min Sanchez is back back back.
45 min “Pulis would play the kazoo,” says Justin O’Gorman. That’s a compliment, rig- “You can just about get a basic tune out of it. Nobody ever takes you seriously, though.”
44 min Sanchez is limping to the touchline after that tackle, which wasn’t the best. I suspect he’ll be okay for the second half.
43 min Finally somebody is booked for a foul on Sanchez. It’s McClean, who sent him flying with a sliding tackle.
42 min “The theremin, I think, for Wenger,” says Charles Antaki. “It requires a professorial, not to say aloof posture, can yield beautiful harmonies, but with poor handling produces discordant notes and horrible, screaming protest.”
41 min Xhaka shoots from 35 yards, but does so with a lack of conviction that suggests he realised halfway through the kicking motion that it was an entirely futile gesture. It was too late to abort so he just wafted it gently miles wide of goal.
39 min “I was at that 5-2 game with my partner, Tessa, who’s not a football fan,” says Tom Levesley. “She thought it was unfair that Albion had to play a team of people so much bigger and better. A good assessment. We were finding our feet in the Prem still and it’s fair to say it was indeed men against boys that night.”
Arsenal were bloody terrifying in the autumn of 2002. It was men against boys in every game until a 16-year-old boy called Rooney finally brought them down.
37 min David Ospina replaces Cech, who is applauded off the field by both sets of supporters.
36 min Petr Cech has injured himself and needs to come off. He injured himself while passing the ball to Mustafi; it looks like a calf or hamstring problem.
34 min Now it’s West Brom who almost take the lead. Livermore shapes an imaginative through pass that sits up perfectly for Fletcher to whack first time across goal, and Cech flies to his right to turn it behind. This is a really enjoyable game.
33 min Fine save from Foster! The chance was made by the roaming Sanchez, who cracked an excellent angled pass to Ramsey in the box. He turned smoothly and clipped an excellent left-footed shot towards the far corner. It looked like it was going in but Foster got down really smartly to his left to save. That led to a desperate scramble in the box, during which Walcott almost scored, before Nyom cleared.
31 min Rondon, found by Chadli on the break, drags a low shot through Mustafi’s legs and a few yards wide of the far post. It was a decent effort from a prohibitive angle.
30 min “On the theme of Pulis’ potential music video - which musical instruments would these two managers play, if they gave up the day job and fancied a career a little less fickle and popularity-driven than that of Premier League manager?” muses Matt Loten. “Pulis would be all about the acoustic guitar I feel: dependable; unflashy; gets the job done but hardly likely to set the pulses racing. Wenger would of course pick something wafty and elegant, but outmoded in today’s pop-and-rock world. The harp, perhaps?”
I think Pulis would be the electric guitar, and a member of Status Quo. Wenger would play the fourth flute part, and when he played the second flute nobody would notice.
27 min A dangerous corner from Brunt flashes across the six-yard box. Arsenal break and Sanchez is pulled back by Rondon; like McAuley earlier, he’s lucky not to be booked. Sanchez is ticking in the comedy style.
26 min The game hasn’t really settled down since those two quick goals, but now West Brom have a corner and that’s as good as a penalty.
24 min Sanchez is warned for repeatedly complaining about being fouled. There’s a lovely English football logic in that.
22 min The Sky commentator Andy Hinchcliffe continues to do his nut about the defending for both goals, specifically Arsenal allowing Dawson a clear run, and Chadli not bothering to share a postcode with Sanchez in the West Brom area. Hinchcliffe, quietly, is one of the best co-commentators on Sky I think. He does what so few co-commentators do - he gives you the expert’s view rather than repeating the commentary. The only slight downside is that his voice always sounds a bit worried, as if he’s commentating on the game but is preoccupied with the nagging concern that he didn’t lock the back door when he came out.
20 min “It’s nearly 11 at night, there is a seriously large storm outside and I’m watching Aberdeen play Hearts rather than the Premier League,” says Phil Withall. “Is this a sign of the mundane nature of the Premier League or a more deep seated aversion to hype over substance?”
I’m going forthe latter. Either that or you have extra-special hipster foresight and know that Scottish football will be so damn hot in five years’ time.
In all seriousness - because sometimes the laughing has to stop, kids - I wish we were able to cover more Scottish football. It’s good for the soul.
19 min Sanchez spins McAuley brilliantly 35 yards from goal and is pulled back. McAuley might have been booked for that. Sanchez looks extremely sharp today.
Arsenal passed the ball around patiently, waiting for an opening. Eventually Xhaka drilled a good crossfield pass to Sanchez, who was in an absurd amount of space on the left side of the box. He took it on the chest, came inside the covering Dawson and smashed the ball in off the bar from eight yards.
GOAL! West Brom 1-1 Arsenal (Sanchez 15)
Arsenal are level straight away!
West Brom are so good at set pieces and they have done it again. Chadli curled it into the six-yard box from the left and Dawson got a run on Koscielny to flash a close-range header into the net. That was so simple. Cech was nowhere and Dawson, who came from deep, towered above everyone to win the header.
GOAL! West Brom 1-0 Arsenal (Dawson 12)
West Brom take the lead from a set piece.
12 min Cech makes a good save to deny McClean. It came from a fine counter-attack. Brunt played a crisp straight pass through to McClean, who ran into the area and belted a shot towards the near post from the left side of the box. Cech’s positioning was excellent and he pushed it behind for a corner.
10 min Tony Pulis harrumphs on the touchline when a decision goes against West Brom. He has his baseball cap on as usual. Surely it’s time for him to do a charity single, with saucy video, entitled ‘You Can Leave Your Cap On’.
6 min Almost a goal for Arsenal at the other end. Sanchez plays a great through pass to the overlapping Monreal, who crosses low towards Walcott in the six-yard box. Foster does well to smother the chance. I’m not sure whether it was Foster or Walcott who got to the ball first; either way, Foster got a touch at some stage and it was excellent goalkeeping.
5 min What a run from Nyom! He bulldozed skilfully past three players on the left before clipping the ball right across the face of goal. The final ball wasn’t great actually - he should have cut it back to Rondon - but his powerful, fleet-footed run was magnificent.
3 min The pattern of the match has already been established: West Brom defending deep and narrow, Arsenal having loads of the ball. They are actually playing with Welbeck up front and Sanchez on the left.
1 min Peep peep! Arsenal, in yellow, kick off from right to left. West Brom are in the usual blue and white.
Mind the time when...
“I notice West Brom have had difficulty scoring goals this season,” says Kevin Ryan. “Bournemouth have scored four more than them and 16th placed Swansea the same number (36). However judging by the photo of Arsene Wenger striding across today’s pitch the Baggies have come up with a brilliant solution - have two goals at each end. Excellent idea! Maybe they should also campaign for a novel amendment to the existing rules i.e goalkeepers not being allowed to use hands.”
You jest, but I give it 10 years, tops, before a lightbulb goes on in Gianni Infantino’s head.
“Afternoon Rob,” says Matt Loten. “Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott and Welbeck all in Arsenal’s starting line-up today; who would have thought that of the three, The Ox would be the only one to make the latest England squad? He’s probably the most naturally talented of the three, and his breakthrough performance against Barcelona, which had shades of Jack Wilshere a few years prior, would cause most football purists to swoon. Much like, Wilshere, however, Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn’t really kicked on, and seems to have fallen foul of late-Wenger’s decision to keep experienced, trophy-laden pros to a minimum - how might his career have panned out had he learnt under Vieira, Fabregas or even Ray Parlour? On the other hand, I’d have taken Walcott and Welbeck in a heartbeat, given Theo’s form and the national team’s current lack of options up front.”
Yes, I agree about Oxlade-Chamberlain - that dressing-room osmosis is incredibly important. I’m sure Welbeck will be a squad regular once he has a run of games.
West Brom (4-2-3-1) Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Nyom; Fletcher, Livermore; Brunt, Chadli, McClean; Rondon.
Substitutes: Myhill, Wilson, Olsson, Yacob, Leko, Field, Robson-Kanu.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1) Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka; Walcott, Ramsey, Welbeck; Sanchez.
Substitutes: Ospina, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Iwobi, Elneny, Coquelin, Giroud.
Hello. Melodrama is the new stability. We have become a society full of Eastenders characters, addicted to narcissistrionics. That is especially true of football, which gets more infantile by the day, and means that Tony Pulis and Arsène Wenger – the high priests of Premier League stability – get nowhere near the credit they deserve.
Pulis has been one of the managers of the season; Wenger the most scandalously treated. They have - and have had - their differences but they share an old-school philosophy and certain non-negotiable standards of behaviour. They are good men in a bad industry. Their teams meet today, with humble but admirable targets in mind: Pulis wants to establish West Brom in the top 10, Wenger wants to keep Arsenal in the top four and continue their pound-for-pound overachievement.
Neither team is in great form at the moment. West Brom have found that life ends at 40 points, and Arsenal are enduring their annual spring inquisition. If they lose today, expect plenty more melodrama.
Kick off is at 12.30pm.