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West Brom 2 Arsenal 2: Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie seal comeback

21 Mar 2011 09:05:35

West Brom 2 Arsenal 2: Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie seal comeback

Arsenal did not turn to 41-year-old reserve keeper Jens Lehmann, dragged out of retirement this week to bolster the team's faltering title challenge. How they must wish they had done so after another calamitous display from Manuel Almunia, who will surely not play for Arsenal again after this season. Bad day at the office: Almunia was at fault for West Brom's second goal after charging needlessly off his line And how they could have done with some of Lehmann's contemporaries. Perhaps Patrick Vieira might be persuaded to return from Manchester City. And Thierry Henry to hop across the pond from New York to play alongside Sol Campbell from Newcastle. Although Arsenal fashioned a comeback of sorts at The Hawthorns - they looked bereft of hope when 2-0 down - their failings were familiar and utterly predictable. There was a lack of authority in central defence which led to an opener that a school team would be embarrassed to concede. And there was an inexplicable charge from Almunia which, once the ball had bounced nicely for Peter Odemwingie, resulted in Arsenal chasing a bigger deficit. In a spot of bother: Arsenal lost ground in the title race after their score draw at the Hawthorns How long has Arsene Wenger held out for a new keeper and centre-half, refusing to pay above the odds? And how many trophies will pass the club by while he continues to do so? That his team fought back to earn a point belies the charge that these players have no character. Technically, the title is still in their hands. Were they to beat Manchester United at the Emirates and win their game in hand they would be top. 'We will win those games,' said Wenger. Not with a performance as insipid as the first 70 minutes they won't. They have won just one of their last six crucial games, and that was at home against Leyton Orient. Never-say-die: Robin van Persie levels for Arsenal And for long periods on Saturday they were devoid of the belief and authority a team of their talent should impose on the likes of Albion. 'We were a bit nervy and you could see that recent games had an impact on our minds,' said Wenger. 'But the team have shown great character I'mvery proud of that. It shows we are ready for a fight, but we made things difficult for ourselves. MATCH FACTS WEST BROM: Carson; Reid, Meite, Olsson, Shorey; Scharner (Cech 46min), Mulumbu; Brunt, Morrison, Thomas; Odemwingie (Fortune 74). Subs (not used): Myhill, Tchoyi, Tamas, Cox, Jara. Booked: Meite. ARSENAL: Almunia; Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy; Denilson (Chamakh 46), Wilshere; Nasri, Ramsey (Bendtner 57), Arshavin; Van Persie. Subs (not used): Lehmann, Rosicky, Eboue, Gibbs, Miquel. Booked: Denilson, Koscielny, Nasri. REFEREE: S Atwell (Warwickshire). ATTENDANCE: 25,729 'I felt that no matter what happened today, it would not be over. But it was important not to lose. After what happened to us recently, you wonder how you would recover if we had lost today. 'It was more down to fighting spirit than totypical technical Arsenal play. But it's typical of the Premier League this season. It's the most level and least predictable since I've been in England. Mathematically, we have dropped two points but psychologically we have won a point.' It would have been a travesty had Albion not got something for their organisation and defiance. Heroes abounded, whether it was Paul Scharner struggling with concussion, Chris Brunt whorose from his sickbed to complete 90 minutes, or James Morrison carrying on with five stitches in a three-inch gash. They have not lost since Roy Hodgson took over five games ago and this was another point that edges them closer tosafety. 'Proud is the wrong word,' said Hodgson. 'I'm very happy with players. I don't think Icould fault them. I don't think they can do more than that. Everyone today worked their socks off. It's always a point gained when you're fighting relegation and playing one of the teams challenging for the title.' West Bromwich's opening goal was, according to Wenger, 'very disappointing': in other words, absolutely shocking. No one met a Brunt corner and AaronRamsey, making his first start for Arsenal for a year after breaking a leg, failed to track Steven Reid who headed in. Back in the game: Andrey Arshavin makes it 2-1 Ramsey should have scored from close range after a Robin van Persie header rebounded off the bar but he shot straight at Scott Carson. Denilson often lost possession and was brought off at half-time as Wenger made a rare tactical change, reverting to 4-4-2. And while he blamed the pitch for slowing histeam's passing game, Wenger did concede that Arsenal were authors of their own misfortune. Quick off the mark: Steven Reid connects with Chris Brunt's corner to give West Brom the perfect start Theyshould have conceded when Brunt failed to convert a glorious sweeping move from three yards on 55 minutes. Yet Albion did score when nothing more than a hopeful long ball from Youssouf Mulumbu tempted Almunia to race from his box. Sebastien Squillaci failed to deal with it and Almunia was nowhere near as the bounce favoured Odemwingie and he rolledthe ball into an empty net. The season seemed over, but then Andrey Arshavin, producing his best performance for some time, conjured what had seemed an unlikely riposte by combining with Marouane Chamakh on 71 minutes to score with asharp finish. SuddenlyArsenal were alive again and, shortly after, Arshavin delivered a crosswhich Nicklas Bendtner diverted back across goal, allowing Van Persie to poke the ball home. AndGael Clichy went closest to securing victory in added time with a volley in a frantic closing period. Arsenal's familiar weaknesses, however, were undeserving of such a reward.  Wenger insists sixth empty season wouldn't force him out at ArsenalPREMIER LEAGUE LIVE: All of Saturday's action from around the groundsAndy Townsend's boot room: All the weekend's Premier League previewsAll the latest Arsenal news, features and opinionAll the latest West Bromwich Albion news, features and opinion  Explore more:People: Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Paul Scharner, Nicklas Bendtner, Jens Lehmann, Roy Hodgson, James Morrison, Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira, Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry Places: Manchester, Newcastle, New York, United Kingdom


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