'Breathless' Arsenal back on top thanks to Jack Wilshere
West Brom give Gunners a real run for their money, but league leaders maintain their unbeaten run
West Bromwich 1 Arsenal 1. A share of the spoils against an impressive West Bromwich Albion was enough to propel Arsenal back to the top of the table 24 hours after being knocked off their perch by Liverpool. The Gunners 1-1 draw extends their unbeaten streak to 11 matches in all competition but rarely this season have Arsene Wenger's side had to work as hard as they did at the Hawthorns on Sunday.
"Breathless," was how Wenger described the encounter, and the Frenchman full of praise for a Baggies side still on a high after winning away at Old Trafford last week. "West Brom showed why they won at Manchester United and we had a hell of a task to come back but we showed character and we had chances to go on and win it," said Wenger. "They are strong on the break, they are quick and go forward with some quick players. We tried desperately to score the second goal and we had the chances late on to do it."
Arsenal, whose solitary defeat this term was to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, went behind on 42 minutes when Claudio Yacob found himself unmarked and headed home Morgan Amalfitano's cross. It wasn't the only lapse from the visitors' defence as West Brom created opportunities at will during the opening hour. Nicolas Anelka gave Per Mertesacker the runaround on what was a torrid afternoon for the big German, but the former Arsenal striker's finishing skills let him down at the death.
England Under-21 international Saido Berahino also caught the eye on his first league start for West Brom but it was another youngster, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who changed the course of the game on 63 minutes with his first league goal for almost three years.
It wasn't the cleanest of goals, the ball taking a deflection off the shins of Jonas Olsson to beat Boaz Myhill in the Baggies goal, but that didn't bother Wilshere. Castigated last week after being caught having a crafty cigarette outside a nightclub, Wilshere's goal was serenaded by the Arsenal faithful with a chorus of "Jack Wilshere, he smokes when he wants, he smokes when he wants".
The ditty went down well with Wilshere, who later tweeted: "Love the new song for me today! Haha fans were incredible again! Good point nice to get a goal hopefully a few more to come!"
Wilshere had a hand in almost winning the game for the Gunners late on but Olivier Giroud couldn't convert his team-mate's deft pass into a goal. Such a fate would have been harsh on West Brom, who move up to 12th, while Arsenal edge in front of Liverpool on goal difference.
"Our position is good," reflected Wenger, though he was no mood to listen to talk about titles. "We have desire, we have the spirit but we are only in October. In March and April you can show that you have the mentality of champions but at the moment it's early and it's good to continue our run." ·