Sam Allardyce had said upon joining West Brom that a first Premier League relegation in his managerial career would “kill” him and, while the defeat that sealed his fate had a blessedly more benign effect, the disgust was etched on his face entirely. . hour. In truth, this moment had come a long time ago and the Baggies will do yo-yo again; They could have imagined prolonging their interest in the season against a sore Arsenal, but despite starting and finishing strong, they were unable to capitalize on the sadness of the hosts.
Instead, Emile Smith Rowe, fed superbly by Bukayo Saka, and Nicolas Pépé scored good goals on both sides of the half hour to give Mikel Arteta a little respite after the consternation of the Europa League exit reprimand against him. Villarreal on Thursday. Matheus Pereira applied a sleek finish to increase West Brom’s hope of scratching the spot that would have kept them mathematically alive, but Willian produced a picture book free kick at the end to make his efforts pointless.
Without Saka and Smith Rowe, Arsenal’s season would be virtually devoid of redeeming factors. The point was hammered, or more accurately volleyed, home after half an hour in which an enthusiastic West Brom came closest to scoring. Saka had started on the left back on a heavily rotated side and characteristically had still been the home team’s best player in those early exchanges. The latest in a series of overlap runs to the line saw him pick up a pass from Willian, drive into an empty space, and slash at the waist. Smith Rowe, meeting Saka’s delivery on the fly, applied a sweet ending and some of the sadness that has clouded these parts since Thursday night could temporarily disappear.
When things go well, Arsenal creates a presentable impression. Pépé’s goal followed in the fifth minute and it was a peach, although Allardyce will wonder why a player with just one foot was taken aside from where it can be devastating. Using Calum Chambers’ run as a decoy, he cut from the right and threw a fierce 18-yard strike at Sam Johnstone, the ball ending up in the top corner via a wagged finger. It was the forward’s fourth goal in nine games and one more demonstration of his obvious talent, but until he starts to stand tall on the occasions that really matter, nothing he does will seem enough.
Perhaps West Brom could sympathize. Allardyce had prepared them aggressively and they were eager to ask questions early on, forcing the Arsenal center-backs into an antiquated defense with a series of crosses and long shots. Callum Robinson forced Rob Holding to block a block and then, taking advantage of a sloppy touch from Saka, passed millimeters past Bernd Leno’s right post angle with the goalkeeper hit. Some members of the traveling contingent remained on their feet until they noticed; Robinson hit the crossbar shortly after, although the VAR would have found him offside, and Matheus Pereira worried Leno with another shot from a distance.
However, they had started to lose their way in the moments leading up to Smith Rowe’s goal, and Allardyce was chewing gum and scowling when Pépé effectively sealed his team’s fate. He would have started at halftime in an even gloomier mood if Johnstone hadn’t parried Saka’s angled effort with one foot.
If there was a theory that Arsenal, now perfectly in control, could loosen up and take some anger out on their opponents, then the second half didn’t turn out that way. West Brom had given all the impressions of a team whose race was run but, 22 largely uneventful minutes after the interval, they won a lifeline.
He came from Pereira, who will surely play top football for someone next season. He carried the ball 60 yards receiving possession deep in his own half after an Arsenal attack broke down, leaving recently introduced Kieran Tierney behind before cutting off a precise low shot that edged Leno from outside the box. Almost by inertia, the game had come to life.
Darnell Furlong should have turned it on, at least relatively speaking, but he headed a Matt Phillips cross from a good position. Willian delivered the final blow with his first goal for Arsenal, who expertly edged out Johnstone in their 37th appearance for the club. Too little, too late for a genuine impact in his season, and Allardyce could say the same for West Brom’s efforts.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism