Rosicky Arsenal's hero as Gunners hang on for win

Posted by Andrew Mangan

After seeing his team hang on for dear life to win 2-1 at West Brom on Saturday, Arsene Wenger will be glad he has to visit the Hawthorns only once a season.

Last year, with Champions League qualification in the balance, Arsenal won 3-2 on the final day of the campaign, but the final 30 minutes of that game were not pleasant viewing. The home side threw everything at the Gunners, and it was the same this Saturday.

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This time, however, the game turned on one incident. Arsenal were 2-0 up when, in the 71st minute, Per Mertesacker chopped down Shane Long in the box. The Irishman had got onto the end of a ball over the top of the Arsenal defence - West Brom's primary tactic when it was 11 versus 11 - and the German had no real choice but to make a tackle.

Howard Webb issued the red card and pointed to the spot. The penalty was hammered home, and on that the game changed completely. Arsenal simply couldn't keep the ball when they did get it, and the home side piled on the pressure.

Even though Wenger's team defended valiantly, West Brom missed three fantastic chances to equalise. Romelu Lukaku smashed a shot wide from eight yards with Fabianski rooted to the ground; Gareth McAuley headed a corner wide from six yards; and, late on, Long drove into the Arsenal box and lashed a left-footed shot over the bar from close range.

Sometimes you get a bit of luck in a game, and those who have watched Arsenal all season will know that it's been in short supply for them. If poor finishing from the opposition can be put down to good luck, then they got plenty this time.

Until the sending off, however, Arsenal were in control. About 15 minutes into the second half, possession stats showed them with the ball for 72 percent of the period, and they were good value for their two-goal lead.

It's the first time since he joined the club that Tomas Rosicky has scored twice in one league game. His first was an opportunistic header from close range after good work from Gervinho. His second was well deserved: After his initial shot from an Aaron Ramsey pass had been saved, the Czech stayed alert and tucked home the rebound.

His contribution wasn't just when going forward, though. In the first half, he headed off the line after a West Brom corner looked as if it was heading in. He's had a difficult season, between injury and not finding a place in the team thanks to having to compete with Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, so it's good to see him have an impact. Keen students might point to Arsenal's good form at the end of last season coinciding with Rosicky having a good extended run in the side. Lightning striking twice, perhaps.

The final comment goes to the referee. Although there can be no complaints over the penalty or the red card, Webb won't have made any friends among Arsenal fans with his performance. Some of his decisions were baffling - booking Rosicky for a perfectly clean tackle right under his nose, for example - and if there was any kind of 50/50 element to a decision, it went to West Brom.

Late on, as Arsenal were clinging to their lead, a West Brom player raked his studs right down Olivier Giroud's shin and onto his foot. Again, it was right in front of the official, and he simply played on. The opposition were tough enough, Arsenal deserve credit for not allowing the referee to have a decisive impact on the game.

The win moves Arsenal into fourth place, temporarily, at least, and they'll be hoping results go their way Sunday. The pressure is on Chelsea and Spurs now, let's see how they react.

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