Match Report: Santi Cazorla's in a spot of bother after being caught in dive storm

Arsenal 2 West Bromwich Albion 0: Referee incurs anger of Albion manager Clarke for failing to see theatrics of Spaniard or Oxlade-Chamberlain's foul before awarding penalties

the emirates stadium

Christmas came early here on a chill midwinter afternoon, with Mike Jones as Santa and a man called Santi, unusually, playing the grateful recipient. Having made Arsenal a present of one penalty kick when Santi Cazorla dived outrageously over the foot of Steven Reid, referee Jones granted the home team a second one, even though Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had nudged another unfortunate defender out of the way before being fouled.

Mikel Arteta chipped both kicks down the centre of the goal with nerve as cool as the weather and Arsenal supporters were left to reflect on their club's supposed crisis from sixth place in the Premier League table. Whatever that table shows, they are clearly a better side than West Bromwich Albion, who will almost certainly have further to fall from the heights of the top three that they surprisingly reached a fortnight ago. Three subsequent defeats have brought about a dose of reality. Yesterday they lacked creativity and consequently were unable to service the normally brighter Irish striker Shane Long.

In contrast Arsenal, almost unfairly, had the Anglo-Spanish combination of Jack Wilshere and Cazorla operating close to their peak; and probably cursing the ineptitude in front of them as they carved out the chances. With Arteta requiring little assistance in holding up Albion's attempts to move the ball forward, Wilshere was able to attack at will from one of the nominally more defensive midfield berths as well as spreading play effectively to both flanks. His one bad moment was sliding a shot wide when set up by the otherwise hapless Gervinho.

Albion's plan to frustrate the home side and their crowd looked workable for most of the opening half an hour but fell apart after the crucial incident in the 27th minute. Cazorla twisted in on the left hand-side of the penalty area and as Reid, the right-back, moved to tackle him he fell to the floor. Later he would tell Arsène Wenger he had been touched and lost his balance but from almost every replayed angle there was no contact at all, let alone enough to bring a solidly built footballer to the floor.

It was enough to provoke the West Bromwich manager Steve Clarke to abandon his policy since taking the job of not criticising referees. "There was zero contact, it was not even close," he said. "It was a bad decision and it changed the shape of the afternoon. We knew the longer the game went on the more pressure would come on Arsenal, and that decision changed it. Cheating is too strong a word but the culture in the game now is for players to go down more easily than years ago."

There were two other decisions that upset Clarke almost as much and with some justification. Towards half-time there was a strange incident in which Per Mertesacker handled a long free-kick in his own penalty area while under pressure from Jonas Olsson but Arsenal were given a free-kick. "I've looked at it again and for the life of me I can't see a free-kick," Clarke said. "Then in the lead-up to the second penalty, Goran Popov was fouled."

That appeared to be a push by the forceful Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was then clearly brought down by Chris Brunt to offer Arteta his second opportunity and put the game well beyond Albion. Clarke felt his team "had chances" although there were not many of them, and the few tended to be from set-pieces rather than open play.

Brunt produced the only real effort of the first half, curling a fraction over the angle with his less-favoured right foot after Youssouf Mulumbu was crowded out. In between the two goals, Gareth McAuley glanced a header wide from one of Brunt's well placed free-kicks and later another one was headed feebly wide by Romelu Lukaku.

For Arsenal, Olivier Giroud, Gervinho and the substitute Lukas Podolski were all wasteful, the German committing the worst miss just before the finish when Wilshere set him up only a few yards out.

Gervinho, rapidly becoming the least popular player at the Emirates – at least when Aaron Ramsey does not play – sent a feeble stab from equally close-range straight at goalkeeper.

Wenger was understandably pleased with his two youngest men. "Jack [Wilshere] is getting closer to the player we know he is," he said. "Today he made a big step. You could see in training that he's gained a little zip." As for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who should go on to become an important player for England alongside his club-mate: "He's on the same trend as Jack, getting better, stronger, more mature, especially more determined."

Clarke believes that the next seven or eight games will shape West Bromwich's season, which applies to most teams in this next hectic month and a half.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1) Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Wilshere; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Coquelin , 77), Cazorla (Podolski, 87), Gervinho (Rosicky, 81); Giroud.

West Bromwich (4-2-3-1) Myhill; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell (Popov, 6); Mulumbu, Morrison; Odemwingie (Lukaku, 62), Gera (Rosenberg, 75), Brunt; Long.

Referee: Mike Jones

Man of the match: Wilshere (Arsenal)

Match rating: 5/10

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee