Football: Wenger woe worsens

Craig Dawson heading in to give West Brom the lead against Arsenal. He wrapped up the 3-1 win with another header late in the game. The Gunners stay five points behind Liverpool in the battle for the final Champions League spot.
Craig Dawson heading in to give West Brom the lead against Arsenal. He wrapped up the 3-1 win with another header late in the game. The Gunners stay five points behind Liverpool in the battle for the final Champions League spot.PHOTO: REUTERS

Calls for change grow as Arsenal's Champions League hopes dim with 1-3 loss at West Brom

LONDON • Arsene Wenger endured another black day yesterday, his Arsenal side comfortably beaten 3-1 by a West Bromwich Albion side who, in losing their previous two matches, appeared to have switched off on reaching 40 Premier League points.

No such luck for the visitors to The Hawthorns. They remain outside the top four and are unlikely to gain their annual pass into the Champions League playing in this manner.

Two of the goals Arsenal conceded were from set pieces, always on the cards against a Tony Pulis side, while the one in between was a farcical mix-up in defence.

There were odd flickers of interest from Alexis Sanchez, though only occasional ones, and players such as Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck were merely peripheral presences.

"There's only one Arsene Wenger" could be heard throughout the game; unfortunately it was the home fans doing the chanting, as the Gunners suffered their fourth defeat in five league games.

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West Brom got off to a flying start. On 12 minutes, Nacer Chadli's delivery from a corner was excellent and Craig Dawson timed his leap to perfection to climb above Laurent Koscielny and head down and in from barely two metres out.

From that point on it looked as though it might be another long afternoon for Wenger, subjected to the indignity of a light aircraft buzzing the ground trailing a banner demanding his removal, though his players did manage to draw level within four minutes.

Granit Xhaka's diagonal ball picked out Sanchez unmarked at the far post and before the home cover could close him down, he had controlled the ball with his chest and rifled a shot past Ben Foster.

The action was evenly balanced for the remainder of the first half, so much so in fact that another plane appeared with a banner reading: "In Arsene We Trust".

Typical Arsenal. Why stop at one ostentatious gesture if you can afford two?

Early in the second half, Pulis introduced Hal Robson-Kanu and it looked like a stroke of coaching genius when the substitute scored with his first touch on 55 minutes to put West Brom up 2-1.

Though Wenger could be seen debating the legitimacy of the goal with the fourth official for some minutes afterwards, any sense of grievance Arsenal had went out of the window when the home side scored a third in the 75th minute.

Again from a corner, again from Dawson, this time finding space for a free header on the six-yard line.

At such times Wenger really must feel like giving up. "You don't know what you're doing," was the travelling support's reaction to the sight of Sanchez being replaced by Alex Iwobi.

The home fans were blunter still, with: "You're getting sacked in the morning."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 19, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger woe worsens'. Print Edition | Subscribe