WEST BROMWICH, United Kingdom (AFP) - Arsenal fans again rounded on under-fire manager Arsene Wenger as defender Craig Dawson scored twice in a comprehensive 3-1 victory for West Bromwich Albion on Saturday (March 18).
Dawson headed home from corners either side of half-time to book-end the goalscoring action in West Brom’s eighth win in their last 10 Premier League home games.
In between Dawson’s goals, Alexis Sanchez equalised for Arsenal before substitute Hal Robson-Kanu restored the home side’s lead.
But it was the renewed criticism of Wenger that grabbed the attention as fans displayed “Wenger Out” banners after two aeroplanes had towed banners above The Hawthorns with rival views on the Frenchman.
One banner read “NO CONTRACT #WENGER OUT”, while another proclaimed “IN ARSENE WE TRUST #RESPECTAW”.
Wenger’s decision to replace Sanchez late on prompted more abuse from travelling fans, who had earlier engaged in a muted chorus of “We want Wenger out!” as their side slid to a fourth defeat in five league games.
The result prevented Arsenal from whittling down the five-point gap separating them from the top five, further compromising their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Compounding Arsenal’s disappointment, the visitors also lost goalkeeper Petr Cech to an apparent muscular injury during the first half, with David Ospina taking his place.
West Brom began purposefully, with James McClean heading Nacer Chadli’s cross tamely at Cech before bursting forwards and stinging the Arsenal goalkeeper’s hands.
It was little surprise when West Brom went ahead from the corner that followed.
Chadli delivered it from the left and Dawson rose above Laurent Koscielny to head home as Cech flapped.
The visitors were level within four minutes as Granit Xhaka floated a pass to Sanchez, who coolly finished off the underside of the crossbar with his right foot.
West Brom responded well to the equaliser, though, and threatened the visitors on the break when Chadli raced down the right flank and threaded a pass to the feet of Salomon Rondon.
But the striker dragged his shot across goal and wide of the far post.
West Brom repelled an Arsenal attack when goalkeeper Ben Foster saved from Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott was crowded out as he tried to turn in the rebound.
Then Cech made a smart save to his right to keep out a dipping half-volley from Darren Fletcher.
Shortly afterwards the Arsenal goalkeeper limped off, having appeared to injure himself when he landed awkwardly while collecting a routine through-ball.
West Brom should have doubled their lead six minutes into the second half when Chris Brunt peeled out wide and delivered a superb cross to Rondon in the centre.
The striker beat Koscielny to a header, but glanced his effort wide.
That was Rondon’s last action of the game and replacement Robson-Kanu grabbed the second Albion goal just a minute after stepping off the bench.
He pounced after Chadli’s lofted pass from the edge of the area was spilt by substitute goalkeeper Ospina, the Wales striker firing home between the legs of McClean.
The goal was awarded despite Arsenal’s appeals that the offside McClean had been interfering with play.
Arsenal had been sluggish, but they almost levelled again from a corner on 66 minutes, with Danny Welbeck heading against the crossbar.
The hosts then went close to wrapping up the game when Robson-Kanu raced onto a through-ball and was denied by a low save from Ospina, Nacho Monreal blocking Chadli’s follow-up effort.
However, the third Albion goal arrived with 15 minutes remaining as McClean delivered a corner from the right and the unmarked Dawson dispatched another header.
Wenger responded by replacing fans’ favourite Sanchez with Alex Iwobi and was immediately derided by visiting fans, who sang: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”