Report: Arsenal thump hopeless West Brom
The Gunners dominated the game and were well worth their comfortable win. They raced to a two-goal lead: first, Kieran Tierney beat Darnell Furlong twice before cutting in from the left and unleashing an unstoppable right-foot shot past Sam Johnstone, before Bukayo Saka doubled Arsenal’s advantage when he finished a thrilling team move from close range.
West Brom rallied in the second half and started strongly, but Alexandre Lacazette’s eighth goal of the season — Arsenal’s third on the night — ended the game as a contest. The Frenchman was in the right place to pounce when Smith Rowe’s volleyed effort was blocked. Moments later, Lacazette added a fourth when he volleyed home Tierney’s well-placed cross with his knee.
Arsenal are now firmly in mid-table thanks to their haul of nine points in a week, far from the bottom three they occupied when Baggies boss Sam Allardyce described them as ‘relegation rivals.”
Arsenal ran riot on both wings. Tierney was a constant threat on the left, while Saka’s trickery and crossing ability caused havoc on the right. West Brom simply couldn’t deal with either player.
This was a night that will have pleased Mikel Arteta. A clean sheet, four goals of which two evoked memories of vintage Arsenal thanks to their slick interplay. Happy new year, indeed.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — Arteta has stumbled across a winning formula and at the heart of it are Arsenal’s youngsters. Smith Rowe, Saka and Tierney were the standout players, but in particular Arteta’s decision to split the Tierney-Saka axis on the left, with Saka moving to the right, appears to be doubling the Gunners’ threat.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bernd Leno, 6 — The German was a bystander for much of the game, but he was alert to Matt Phillips’ sharp effort in the first half, which was hit straight at him.
DF Hector Bellerin, 7 — Bellerin linked well with Saka on the right. Like Saka, he liked to cut inside where his short passes were effective. He came close to opening the scoring with the first chance of the game, a low volley saved by Johnstone.
DF Rob Holding, 7 — Holding collected his second assist in two games, this time passing to Tierney, who went on to grab the opening goal. He read the game well and looked comfortable on the ball all game.
DF Pablo Mari, 8 — It’s no coincidence that Arsenal have looked more comfortable in defence since the Spaniard cemented his place in the side. He looked calm regardless of what unfolded around him.
DF Kieran Tierney, 9 — The Scot looked totally at home in the snow and was a constant threat on the left. He opened the scoring with a sensational opening goal when, after twice beating Furlong, he cut inside and hit an unstoppable shot past Johnstone with his right foot. He then delivered a delightful cross for Lacazette to grab his second of the night.
MF Dani Ceballos, 7 — This was Ceballos’ best game for some time. He looked sharp from the start and though he was sometimes guilty of slowing Arsenal’s transitions, he was defensively solid.
MF Granit Xhaka, 7 — Xhaka was solid in the centre for Arsenal, displaying a good range of passing. He certainly seems to perform better with younger, more mobile players around him.
MF Emile Smith Rowe, 8 — The central midfielder was a joy to watch with the ball at his feet. His passing and link-up play caused West Brom issues in the final third. He played a key role in the second goal, squaring to Saka to double the lead.
FW Bukayo Saka, 9 — Saka was an absolute menace. He played his part in a fantastic team move which he then finished to double the score when Smith Rowe squared the ball to him. He had other chances to score too, while his crossing from the right created further Arsenal opportunities.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 8 — The Frenchman worked tirelessly, and his link-up play was impressive. He was rewarded for his efforts when he found himself in the right place at the right time to secure Arsenal’s third, when he drilled home on the rebound when Smith Rowe’s volley was deflected off the goal line. He volleyed home a fourth soon after.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 7 — Aubameyang was involved throughout but still doesn’t look anywhere near his best. He came close to scoring twice but couldn’t quite get on the end of two inch-perfect crosses from Saka.
DF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 7 (on for Bellerin, 54″)– Maitland-Niles and his controversial long-johns slotted seamlessly into the right-back position. He was firm in the tackle and comfortable in possession.
FW Willian, 6 (on for Saka, 61″) — He created a chance within moments of coming on but on the evidence of this team performance, he may have his work cut out getting back into the starting XI.
MF Joe Willock, N/R (on for Smith Rowe, 77″) — Arguably the least effective of Arsenal’s youngsters though the Gunners had taken their feet off the gas by the time he came on. He was simply guilty of holding onto the ball too long at times.