Arsenal back in the saddle after win over West Brom

Arsenal put in a pretty solid performance at the Emirates on Dec. 8 to come away with a 2-0 win over West Brom in front of a lively crowd. Mikel Arteta scored both goals from the penalty spot in the 26th and 64th minutes to seal the victory. Although there was a lot of controversy about the first spot kick as Arteta’s fellow countryman Santi Cazorla was accused of diving to the ground after a challenge by West Brom’s Steven Reid. Television replays showed that Reid didn’t make solid contact with the Gunners Spanish midfielder. The second penalty was certainly deserved as Chris Brunt chopped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain down in the penalty area without any question.

Arsenal was missing leading scorer Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski started on the bench, but they were basically in control of the match from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. They might have had a goal or two more, but missed several good chances, especially Gervinho when he miss-kicked a ball from just in front of the goal. West Brom carved out a couple of decent chances on counter attacks, but the Gunners handled them well.

Cazorla was awarded a penalty when he darted into the left side of the 18-yard box and took on Reid. Cazorla went to the pitch after Reid stuck out his leg and referee Mike Jones pointed to the penalty spot straight away. West Brom tried to level the game immediately after Arteta put Arsenal ahead, but it wasn’t long before the Gunners took control again. The second penalty gave Arsenal some insurance and they produced some slick, nice-passing football after that until the end of the game.

The biggest talking point after the match was the penalty awarded to Cazorla and the subject of cheating inevitably came up again. It’s a delicate subject and the only person in a stadium full of thousands of supporters who knows the answer to a diving accusation is the player himself. Television replays can help out as they usually show the incidents from several angles, but sometimes minimal physical contact is enough to legitimately knock a player down, especially one who has built up a decent head of steam. Debating the call seems to be a bit of a senseless point as Cazorla is the only one who knows if he cheated or not.

Former Arsenal great Martin Keown told the BBC that he felt a penalty wasn’t deserved as did millions of others watching the broadcast of the match. But he then admitted that he understood why the referee called it when viewing the incident from a different angle. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said he’d talk to Cazorla about if after watching the replays for himself, but said Cazorla told him he lost his balance after Reid made contact with him in the box. Wenger also said he was sorry if the penalty was the result of a dive.

Whether it was a penalty or not one thing that has to stop is the celebrating of being awarded a penalty kick. It looks very amateurish when players congratulate each other after a penalty has been called and just about every team in the Premier League is guilty of it. Celebrations also give the fans reason to doubt the legitimacy of the call and it appears players are happy about pulling a fast one over on the referee. Also fans have to stop blaming penalty calls for their team’s losses. The referee has simply called a penalty; he hasn’t awarded an automatic goal. You have a goalkeeper between the posts and it’s his job to stop the kick.

Admittedly though, Arsenal has been pretty fortunate when it comes to penalty kicks as no other team in the league has been awarded more spot kicks on their home ground than the Gunners over the past 10 years. They’ve now had 47 penalties given to them over that time, which is just ahead of Manchester United’s 43.

Arsenal player ratings Dec. 8

Wojciech Szczesny  7
He didn’t have to do a lot, but he was always there when called upon.

Bacary Sagna  6.5
Sagna was okay throughout, but he wasn’t so hot when it came to his crossing.

Per Mertesacker  6.5
He also came through when needed, but wasn’t really given a challenge by West Brom.

Thomas Vermaelen  6.5
Had a solid if unspectacular game, which is a good sign for a defender.

Kieran Gibbs  7
The English international defender is a quality player and this was one of his better outings. He played well in both ends of the pitch.

Mikel Arteta  7.5
Scored both goals down the middle of the net on penalties after missing his last one against Fulham. He also played well in all areas.

Jack Wilshere  8
Wilshere was the best player on the pitch and came close to scoring. Played a controlled game and showed some drive and creativity.

Santi Cazorla 7
A diver or not? Only he knows for sure. Either way, he had a good game with Wilshere and passed the ball well. Came off in the 88th minute.

Gervinho  6.5
He played better than he has done in weeks, but still can’t finish. Was taken off in the 81st minute

Alex-Oxlade-Chamberlain  7
This was also a better game for the young Englishman. He crossed the ball well and had a couple of good chances himself. His energetic run earned the second penalty. Came off after 78 minutes.

Olivier Giroud  6.5
He could have been better and he could have been worse.  Provided some decent crosses, but wasn’t stuck in enough.

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