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Mikel Arteta struck twice from the penalty spot as Arsenal returned to winning ways with a 2-0 Barclays Premier League victory over West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal had started brightly but took the lead after Cazorla went to ground in the wake of a challenge by Steven Reid. West Brom, who lost twice last week to halt their fine start to the season, never recovered and there was no way back once Arteta converted from the penalty spot again after 64 minutes following Chris Brunt’s foul on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It was a lively start by the home side, who had not won in four games, but recalled most of their first-team regulars missing from the midweek Champions League defeat at Olympiacos, although forward Theo Walcott was sidelined by a calf injury. A high pass into the West Brom penalty area was palmed away by Boaz Myhill but Gervinho missed his kick and could only hack the ball wide from six yards. West Brom were forced into an early change when defender Liam Ridgewell hobbled off, replaced by Goran Popov.
On 17 minutes, Oxlade-Chamberlain darted to the goalline on the right and looped the ball back across goal. Cazorla arrived at pace, but could not keep his left-foot volley down and fired the ball high into the Clock End. West Brom were dangerous on the counter and almost snatched the lead when captain Brunt curled a 20-yard effort just wide of the top right corner.
Arsenal were awarded a penalty after 24 minutes. Cazorla cut into the left side of the area and, as he turned back inside Steven Reid, went to ground as the defender stuck out his leg. Arteta stepped up to drill the ball past Myhill.
West Brom soon went in search of swift recompense, however, Arsenal soaked up the pressure and then resumed their counter-attacks. Gervinho ghosted down the left and pulled the ball back across the face of goal but Jack Wilshere’s sliding touch stabbed it just wide.
West Brom claimed a penalty when Per Mertesacker handled a high ball in the Arsenal box but the assistant referee on the far side flagged for a foul on the Germany defender by Jonas Olsson. At the other end, Myhill pushed a low shot from Gervinho around a post before Oxlade-Chamberlain sent an acrobatic scissors kick over the crossbar.
West Brom started the second half with some purpose, yet not really stretching the Arsenal defence. Arsenal went forward quickly on the counter, with Oxlade-Chamberlain floating a ball across the face of goal. Gervinho was off target again when he glanced a free header wide on the penalty spot.
On 64 minutes, Arsenal were awarded another penalty. Brunt chopped down Oxlade-Chamberlain after the England midfielder had charged down the right. Arteta took it again and with the same outcome as the Spaniard blasted the spot-kick down the middle.
With a two-goal cushion, Arsenal had some breathing space and started to produce the slick, passing football which had been so lacking in recent performances. With 13 minutes left, Wenger sent on defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin for Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Arteta tried for a hat-trick when he whipped a 22-yard free-kick around the wall but also just past the left-hand post. West Brom substitute Markus Rosenberg tested Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny with a low shot from 20 yards.
Germany forward Lukas Podolski came off the bench to lift the ball over from six yards as Arsenal closed out what was in the end a comfortable victory to edge back up towards the top four.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "Overall we played well. We were maybe a bit lucky on the first penalty, but we created chances and kept a clean sheet. We have shown a great spirit, which many people questioned after our last game, so we did our job very well.
You could feel we were ready for a fight and that we absolutely had to win this game, which is what we did. Jack is getting closer to the player we know he is and today I think he made a big step. You could see it already this week in training, that he has gained a little burst again, a little zip in the first three or four yards. In football, you have sometimes to be patient. He can only gain it by playing but of course in the first games you cannot be at that level."
West Brom manager Steve Clarke: "At 0-0 they hadn’t created too much. I was comfortable with the way the team was defending and playing at that time. We had to do more with the ball, we hadn’t done enough with the ball up until then.
“We knew the longer the game went, the more pressure would come on Arsenal and then we would have a chance to play. That [first penalty] decision changed it."
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|01 Jan 2013||v Southampton (A)|