Arsenal wasted the chance to go top of the Premier League as West Brom fought back from a goal down to beat them at The Hawthorns. The visitors took the lead through Olivier Giroud, who headed in Mesut Ozil’s free-kick from the right. James Morrison volleyed past Petr Cech to level before Mikel Arteta diverted James McClean’s cross into his own net. Santi Cazorla could have secured a point from the penalty spot, but he slipped at the crucial moment. Victory moves Tony Pulis’ side up to 12th, while Arsenal’s first league defeat since 19 September sees them slip to fourth.
The match at The Hawthorns was supposed to be the start of a winning run that would see them go on beat Norwich, Sunderland and Aston Villa. But, alas, they have stumbled once again. The Gunners had 73% possession and 11 efforts on goal. Two of those should have been converted, with substitute Joel Campbell missing from four yards and Cazorla slipping as he went to take a spot-kick. Injuries have cost Arsenal time and time again in recent years. Indeed, when Aaron Ramsey was sidelined in December 2013, the Gunners’ title hopes were damaged. They have a stronger squad now, but any team missing players of the calibre of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere would find it hard to sustain a title challenge. Here, midfielders Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin came off with injuries. Arteta had replaced Coquelin in the 14th minute. Arsene Wenger’s squad is not yet threadbare, but he cannot afford any more injuries over the next five weeks.
Ozil has provided an assist in seven consecutive Premier League appearances, the most in the division’s history but that did little to uplift the visiting fans. Arsenal face Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League this week before are away to Norwich on Sunday. The loss means Arsenal slip to 4th in the ranking with 26 points after 13 games. January cannot come sooner for the Arsenal faithful and hopefully there will be proper reinforcements.