Danny Welbeck’s third goal of the Premier League season kept Arsenal alive in a 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion in Saturday’s early afternoon kickoff.
The £16m signing from Manchester United ensured his first start with French striker Olivier Giroud ends with a vital victory- the ‘Gunners’ first in three league matches.
It was Giroud’s first start since August after coming off the bench to score in the defeat by United last week. Laurient Koscienly also made his first start since October 5 in place of Kieran Gibbs while Emiliano Martinez, Mathieu Flamini and Santi Cazorla replaced Wojciech Szczesny, Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Despite revelations of his arrest for alleged drink-driving, West Brom top scorer Saido Berahino started as Alan Irvine rang two changes for the clash, with Youssouf Mulumbu and Sebastian Pocognoli replacing Chris Baird and the suspended Claudio Yakob.
Arsenal threw caution to the winds in a dominant first-half performance but struggled to make the required breakthrough on the score sheet.
Ben Forster was his assured self in the Albion goal and as often as possible, kept Arsenal’s rampaging forward line at bay when called into action. From Alexis Sanchez to Welbeck and an impressive Santi Cazorla, the England goalkeeper kept using his hand proficiently.
Giroud was almost gifted a goal by Forster few minutes to the half-hour mark, when the goalkeeper failed to deal with a clumsy backpass but the Frenchman could not direct his short from a tight angle on the right into an empty net.
The Baggies on their own part lacked firepower and the resolve to halt a run of two successive defeats without a goal as Arsenal goalkeeper Martinez scraped through the hour-mark without getting tested.It was only Berahino running down the other end, with Stephanie Sessegnon proving out of form of sort.
But then, Santi Cazorla’s blistering run down the left wing ended with the Spaniard dinking a cross from the bye-line to Welbeck, who planted a powerful header past Ben Forster inside the net.
Irvine reacted to falling behind by bringing on the fit-again Victor Anichebe for defensive midfielder Mulumbu and his offensive proved the turning point for the previously lax West Brom attack.
Berahino came close to pulling the hosts back but the England youth international’s header from a Cristian Gamboa cross from the right bounced back off the crossbar in the closing nine minutes.
West Brom midfielder Craig Gardner shaved the visitors’ post few minutes later with a swerving drive but there was no deterring Wenger’s guns from clinging on to three points and rebounding right into the top four- at least- for some couple of hours.