Arsenal has succumbed to its second consecutive defeat in the Premier League with a 3-1 loss away to West Bromwich Albion, as the North Londoners open up space to trail its top four competitors by a greater margin.
A goal from second half substitute Hal Robson-Kanu cancelled out Alexis Sanchez’s equaliser in the first period, whereas a pair of goals from Craig Dawson in each half sealed Arsenal’s fate.
In Mesut Özil’s absence, Aaron Ramsey resumed his role as a central midfielder, meanwhile Danny Welbeck was preferred to Olivier Giroud in attack, but it was the opposition’s attacking movement that initially demonstrated to be the sharpest, as Allan Nyom skipped past Héctor Bellerín and Shkodran Mustafi to deliver a dangerous ball that wasn’t read by Salomón Rondón in the 5th minute.
At the other end, no less than a minute later, it was Nacho Monreal testing the stability of the hosts’ backline with a teasing cross to Theo Walcott that was anticipated by Ben Foster between the sticks.
West Brom looked to explore the counter through James McClean down the left flank, who was able to sting the palms of Petr Čech and win his side a corner in the 11th minute.
From the resulting set-piece, Tony Pulis’ side found themselves a goal up when Craig Dawson beat Laurent Koscielny and Čech at their near-post to glance in the opener.
The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Granit Xhaka’s carefully sculpted pass to Sanchez inside the box afforded the Chilean the time and space to cut inside and fire in the equaliser from close range in the 14th minute.
The Baggies were on hand to try and catch the Arsenal defence out again through Nacer Chadli’s break from the right, but Rondón could only drag a shot wide from a less than favourable angle when concluding the move.
Ramsey almost caught Foster by surprise with a shot on the half-turn from the left, but West Brom’s replies continued to be dealt at an impressive rate, as Darren Fletcher forced a quality save out of Čech with a half-volley in the 33rd minute.
The Czech shot-stopper would then throw in the towel on an injury picked up shortly after, as David Ospina replaced the Arsenal goalkeeper moments before the interval.
Arsène Wenger’s outfit continued to look vulnerable into the second period, with Rondón rising above Koscielny to brush a header past the far-post after five minutes.
West Brom then turned to Robson-Kanu in an inspired change, with the Welshman’s pea-roller in the 55th minute propelling the Midlands outfit back into the lead after Ospina’s failure to clear his lines.
Arsenal had a vague hope that the goal would be ruled out, given the involvement of McClean in the move from an offside position, but Neil Swarbrick’s decision ensured the score would stand at 2-1.
The Gunners came close to levelling the game for a second time through Danny Welbeck in the 65th minute, heading Xhaka’s corner onto the crossbar from the back post, whereas a save from Ospina and an additional block on the line from Shkodran Mustafi in the opposite half prevented West Brom from amplifying the score.
The killer blow would eventually arrive, however, as Dawson made full use of the hosts’ forte to bag a second for himself in the 74th minute from a corner and hand Wenger’s team a 3-1 defeat at the Hawthorns.
Arsenal’s slip-up sees them rack up their fourth defeat from their last five games, which could see them drop to as low as 7th in the league table by the end of the week.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Petr Čech (6); Héctor Bellerín (5), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Laurent Koscielny (5), Nacho Monreal (6); Granit Xhaka (7), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (5), Aaron Ramsey (5); Theo Walcott (4), Alexis Sanchez (6), Danny Welbeck (4)
Subs: Ospina (4), Olivier Giroud (4), Alex Iwobi (4)