Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Xhaka, Coquelin, Ozil, Alexis, Iwobi, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Holding, Monreal, Elneny, Ramsey, Reine-Adelaide, Lucas
Arsenal left it late to beat an obdurate West Brom side 1-0 at the Emirates today.
Arsene Wenger made a couple of changes from the team that lost 2-1 to Man City with Kieran Gibbs replacing Nacho Monreal at left-back, while Olivier Giroud was handed his first Premier League start of the season which meant Alexis Sanchez on the left, with Alex Iwobi on the right.
The game settled into a familiar pattern early on with Arsenal having plenty of the ball and West Brom sitting deep. Granit Xhaka shot wide before Mesut Ozil saw an effort blocked from inside the box. Giroud tried his luck after good work from Gibbs but curled his shot over the bar and Sanchez hit one wide of the post, all in the first fifteen minutes.
A dangerous Gibbs cross was cleared by Jacob as Iwobi looked set to pounce, Xhaka fired another one wide from distance, while Petr Cech had to be strong from a couple of West Brom corners.
The visitors game-plan was obvious, none of which made it any less frustrating for Arsenal who had lots of the ball but due to the wall of striped shirts found it very difficult to create anything clear cut.
Nacer Chadli flicked a header at goal but saw Cech equal to it, before Forster saved from Sanchez. Iwobi tried a chip to the top corner but off balance overhit it, Giroud had a half-hearted shout for a penalty before picking up a yellow card for dissent.
The first half ended in stalemate, and there were no changes from either manager at the break. With Chelsea winning 2-0 early in the second half of their game against Bournemouth, Arsenal’s need to find a way through was ever-increasing, however the second period settled into the same rhythm as the first.
It almost came when Sanchez got on the end of a Foster save from an Iwobi shot, but the keeper saved again. From the resulting corner the ball broke for the Chilean but he saw his shot from close range cannon back off the post.
The leading goalscorer came close again a few moments later, stinging the keeper’s palms with a shot from outside the box. Giroud saw a header on target but again Foster was equal to the effort and the pressure from Arsenal was growing.
The Frenchman forced the West Brom keeper into a save with his feet after working some space inside the box for a shot. Tony Pulis made his first change in the 62nd minute as James McClean came on for Chadli, and moments after Gibbs picked up a yellow card for a foul on Jacob which left both players down injured.
It left the England international unable to continue, and Arsene Wenger made a double change with Gibbs and Alex Iwobi coming off for Nacho Monreal and Lucas Perez in the 70th minute. That was followed a couple of minutes later when Aaron Ramsey became the final throw of the dice when he replaced Francis Coquelin.
Perez fizzed in a great low ball for Ozil and Giroud but neither player seemed to really try and make contact and the ball ran to safety for West Brom. Xhaka tried once more from distance and again missed the target.
Bellerin headed over from a promising position as the game entered the final ten minutes of normal time, and as things looked like they were going to never change, Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock in the 86th minute.
Arsenal worked it down the right, it came back to Ozil who curled it in with his left foot. The French striker held off the attentions of McAuley who seemed more interested in holding onto him than trying to win the ball, and the header looped over the keeper and into the back of the net. 1-0.
Ramsey almost doubled the leader in the final minute of normal time, but Foster’s legs again denied the Gunners a goal as the game entered four minutes of stoppage time. Bellerin saw a shot on target saved again, the England keeper having one of those games an opposition stopper always seems to have.
Foster saved from Sanchez, Ramsey had a chance to shoot with his left foot but cut back inside, but Giroud’s header turned out to be the winner, and a hugely important one at that.