Shock of season mystifies Wenger

Arsenal 2 West Bromwich Albion 3: Frenchman calls Arsenal 'unrecognisable' after Almunia's howler compounds lacklustre performance

Sometimes football throws up a result that defies analysis, and the 60,025 here witnessed one yesterday in a state of collective disbelief.

The incredulity was mixed with joy on the part of the players and supporters of West Bromwich Albion, who ended a run of 18 lossesin Premier League away matches in an unexpected fashion and at an unlikely venue. And it was mingled with rage among the Arsenal fans, most of it directed at Manuel Almunia, but some of it at Arsène Wenger for failing to replace the accident-prone goalkeeper in the summer.

Almunia's second-half howler, when he allowed a shot by GonzaloJara, the Albion right-back, to bounce in off his gloves, set the tone for one of the shock results of the season, and the goalkeeper was partly to blame when Jerome Thomas, the former Arsenal youngster, put Albion 3-0 ahead after 73 minutes.

But Almunia was only one of a number of Arsenal players who failed to approach their best, and Wenger was concerned by how far his team had fallen short of the vibrant standards set in theirprevious matches this season, especially at home, where they had scored 16 goals and conceded only one in three resounding victories.

"Everything was difficult for us today: passing the ball, winning the ball back, one against one," he said. "Overall we got what we deserved. The positive is that we did fight until the last minute, but it is just not good enough at that level." The obvious explanation would be complacency, but Wenger had not detected it before the match and was concerned to get to the bottom of his team's sudden malfunction.

"I believe today's game was an exception," he said. "We have to respond well on Tuesday night [away to Partizan Belgrade in the Champions' League]. It's the first really bad performance, and it's unexplainable how flat the whole team looked for the whole game. It's a mystery for me. I didn't recognise my team today, and we have to sit down together to analyse what happened."

Part of the credit must go to the visitors. Plenty of teams have arrived at the Emirates Stadium intending to attack with a neat, short-passing style when they had the ball, and getting 11 players behind it when they did not. Most have departed with four of five goals put past them, but RobertoDi Matteo's well-organised team proved the exception.

"We pressed them all over the pitch, and managed not to let them play in their usual way," he said. "I thought we played tremendous football but also defended very well."

Arsenal had only one noteworthy effort on goal in a tepid first half, Andrey Arshavin twice poking the ball against the same post from Emmanuel Eboué's cross after 13 minutes. However, that was an isolated moment of penetration by Arsenal, who looked as if they expected only to have to turn up to take the points.

They got a shock when Peter Odemwingie ran on to Chris Brunt's pass and was felled by Almunia, who was perhaps lucky to escape with only a yellow card. West Bromwich's frustration was compounded when Almunia dived to save Brunt's weaklyhit penalty. "It's a question mark whether he should have stayed on or not," Di Matteo said.

But Arsenal did not make the most of their reprieve, and the visitors were deservedly ahead five minutes after the restart. Thomas, a member of Arsenal's FA Youth Cup-winning teams of 2000 and 2001, who shook off a groin problem to play, bam-boozled Bacary Sagna along thebyline and laid an unmissable chance on a plate for Odemwingie.

Almunia's blunder two minutes later made the task harder evenbefore Thomas scored the third,sending Brunt clear on the right of the penalty area and netting gleefullywhen the ball came back across the face of goal with Almunia out ofhis ground.

Plenty of the crowd headed for the exits at that point, missing Samir Nasri's two replies, both well-placed low shots. But these were too littletoo late and, as Wenger admitted, a third would have been more than Arsenal deserved.

Attendance: 60,025

Referee: Michael Oliver

Man of the match: Thomas

Match rating: 7/10

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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