MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 3-1 EVERTON

Ten-man Arsenal have failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the last 20 seasons, despite defeating Everton 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium on the final day of the season.

An early Héctor Bellerín goal set the North Londoners on their way to achieving their goals for the afternoon, but an early red card for Laurent Koscielny threatened to scupper their early momentum.

Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey either side of Romelu Lukaku’s second-half penalty gave Arsenal a 3-1 victory, but a win for Liverpool at Anfield against Middlesbrough meant the Gunners would finish 5th.

Mesut Özil was on hand to create the first goal, latching on to a loose ball inside the box and squaring a pass from the byline that was initially missed by Danny Welbeck but tapped in by Héctor Bellerín in the 7th minute.

Arsenal’s hopes of claiming a result would complicate itself soon after, however, as Laurent Koscielny’s reckless lunge on Enner Valencia reduced Arsenal down to 10 men as early as the 15th minute.

Everton looked to make immediate use of their numerical advantage, as Romelu Lukaku was set up for a right-footed shot inside the box that was fizzed wide and out of danger.

Koscielny’s red did little to kill off Arsenal’s early enthusiasm, as Welbeck reacted quickest to a deflected Alexis Sanchez shot to set the latter up for a simple close-range-finish in the 27th minute.

Petr Čech starred at the other end, as a looped header from Lukaku was tipped over the bar in the 42nd minute.

Lukaku had another chance to inflict damage on the brink of half-time, but, via a Gabriel Paulista deflection, the Belgian’s shot was dragged wide to keep Arsenal’s sheet clean for the time being.

Joel Robles claimed two saves from Arsenal’s attack and, as Liverpool doubled their lead versus Middlesbrough to block the Gunners’ top four entry, the problems continued to mount for Arsène Wenger with Gabriel’s injury.

Michael Oliver snubbed calls for a second yellow card for Ashley Williams, with the referee doing little to endear himself to the Emirates faithful when signalling for an Everton penalty from Rob Holding’s handball soon after.

Lukaku would be the man trusted to convert the spot-kick in the 58th minute and did so without mistake to claim his 25th league goal of the season.

Morgan Schneiderlin was next to he let off the hook with what appeared to be a clear second bookable offence for the Toffees midfielder in the 64th minute, as the tensions grew between the two sides.

Özil had the chance to restore Arsenal’s two-goal-advantage courtesy of a threaded Ramsey pass, but it was Robles again in the 74th minute who made himself big enough to keep the German’s effort out.

Alex Iwobi had his sights firmly set on the third goal for the North Londoners when waltzing into the box before Robles took advantage of a poor finish from the young midfielder.

Come the 91st minute, Ramsey would kill the game off as he received Özil’s pass on the edge of the box to curl an effort up and over Robles to find the top corner.

3-1 would be how it’d end, as Arsenal gear up for one final encounter against Chelsea in the FA Cup final next Saturday.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (8); Gabriel Paulista (6), Laurent Koscielny (5), Rob Holding (6); Héctor Bellerín (8), Granit Xhaka (6), Aaron Ramsey (7), Nacho Monreal (7); Mesut Özil (8), Danny Welbeck (5), Alexis Sanchez (6)

Subs: Francis Coquelin (6), Per Mertesacker (6), Alex Iwobi (6)

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-0 SUNDERLAND

Arsenal have ensured the race for a top four finish will run until the final day of the season after claiming a 2-0 victory over relegated Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners are back to being within a point of 4th placed Liverpool, courtesy of a brace from Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile also being three points behind 3rd placed Manchester City before this weekend’s fixture.

Nothing but a win would suffice beforehand for the North Londoners, who started right on cue through an Alexis shot that had found its way past Jordan Pickford in the 8th minute, but the early goal would soon be chalked off following a deflection from Olivier Giroud’s arm.

Giroud then found himself in half a yard of space inside the box moments later before the on-rushing Pickford did just enough to deter the Frenchman’s shot from finding the back of the net.

The ex-Montpellier striker was left claiming a penalty in the 22nd minute when a firm grapple from Lamine Koné inside the box impeded him from reaching Mesut Özil’s cross, with the referee ignoring such calls for an Arsenal spot-kick.

A measured pass from Didier N’Dong led Jermain Defoe into the channels, with the Englishman afforded enough time to fire a low shot at goal on his weaker foot before being denied by Petr Cech in the 38th minute.

Héctor Bellerín then teared away through the right flank with danger in the 43rd minute following a threaded pass by Özil, but the Spaniard could only find the side-netting when opting to surprise the keeper with a shot from a tight angle.

Özil was at the heart of it all again with a lofted cut-back for Aaron Ramsey to volley at goal, forcing a save out of Pickford.

The Gunners would go close once more from the subsequent corner, but Rob Holding could get little behind his free header that fell directly into the goalkeeper’s grasp.

Arsenal returned to the second half with a fright, as Nacho Monreal’s loose pass to back to Cech caused the goalkeeper to guide the ball out with an outstretched hand and concede an indirect free-kick inside the box, later dealt with by Granit Xhaka’s headed clearance.

Giroud neared Arsenal’s anticipated opener with a glancing header from Rob Holding’s cross, but the striker’s effort would go on to skip past the far post in the 65th minute.

Alexis was next in line to find himself in a heading position, getting his execution all wrong, but Danny Welbeck would offer Pickford a sterner test with a low drive from the edge of the box, forcing the keeper to parry the effort wide.

Through a searching pass from Granit Xhaka, Arsenal would finally manage to pick-lock Sunderland’s deep-block defence, as a deft touch from Özil from the left set Alexis for an easy tap in.

A couple of efforts from Xhaka and Alex Iwobi set the Gunners closer to a second, but it was Alexis who delivered again when required in the 81st minute. A deep cross from Shkodran Mustafi was hooked out of the air brilliantly by Giroud and into Alexis’ path, leaving the Chilean to finish from close range and double Arsenal’s lead.

Mustafi was unlucky not to have claimed Arsenal’s third of the night, seeing his headed effort tipped onto the bar by the ever-impressive Pickford in the 85th minute before the referee’s final whistle concluded a 2-0 victory for Arsène Wenger’s men.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Rob Holding (7), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Nacho Monreal (5); Héctor Bellerín (6), Aaron Ramsey (6), Granit Xhaka (7), Kieran Gibbs (4); Mesut Özil (8), Olivier Giroud (6), Alexis Sanchez (7)

Subs: Danny Welbeck (6), Alex Iwobi (6), Theo Walcott (5)

MATCH REPORT: STOKE CITY 1-4 ARSENAL

Arsenal have moved to within a point of 4th-placed Liverpool in the race for top four with a 4-1 against Stoke City at the Bet365 Stadium.

The Gunners had failed to win away to the Potters in the last five seasons, but two first-half goals from Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil set Arsène Wenger’s men on their way to a much-needed victory.

A controversial Peter Crouch goal promised a frantic end to the encounter, but Arsenal’s third through Sanchez would take the fizzle out of an end-to-end game before Giroud closed off the win late on.

It was the London outfit who had started best, as Nacho Monreal neared the opener with a header at the back-post before hitting the frame of the goal in the 17th minute.

Alexis Sanchez tried his luck past the half-hour mark, picking up a spare ball deep into Stoke’s half and driving at the Stoke defence before firing a shot into the side-netting.

Arsenal would find the back of the net minutes before the interval, as Bellerín breezed towards the byline and squared a cross for Giroud to tap in Arsenal’s first goal of the evening in the 43rd minute.

The Gunners reasserted their dominance in the second period and took full advantage of Özil’s calculated run in behind Stoke’s defence in the 55th minute, spotted by Sanchez, before the German playmaker was able to dink the ball over Butland to make it 2-0.

Arsenal’s second was almost cancelled out just three minutes later, however, as Arnautovic’s cross was headed back across goal by Mame Biram Diouf from close range, with Čech beaten in sight of the Senegalese striker’s effort.

The Potters would eventually pull a goal back, with Arnautovic again at the centre of the move, but the goal would be turned in by an unnoticed handball from Peter Crouch at the near-post.

But Alexis would later be on hand to decimate the hosts’ hopes of a comeback, firing low from the edge of the box and finding the back of the net courtesy of a minor Ryan Shawcross deflection in the 74th minute, making it 3-1.

Late substitute Aaron Ramsey would come close to adding to the Gunners’ three goals, pulling a save out of Butland upon his entrance into the game, but the Welshman would go on to assist Giroud shortly after with a low cross, subsequently bundled in on the slide by the Arsenal number 12.

Geoff Cameron threatened late on for Stoke with a volley saved by Čech, but 4-1 to the North Londoners would be how it’d end.

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Rob Holding (7), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Laurent Koscielny (7); Héctor Bellerín (8), Granit Xhaka (8), Francis Coquelin (7), Nacho Monreal (7); Mesut Özil (8), Olivier Giroud (7), Alexis Sanchez (8)

Subs: Aaron Ramsey (6), Theo Walcott (5), Danny Welbeck (5)

MATCH REPORT: SOUTHAMPTON 0-2 ARSENAL

Arsenal have renewed hopes of a top four finish in the Premier League with a 2-0 win against Southampton at the St. Mary’s Stadium, as the Gunners climb back up to 5th place.

Two second half goals from Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud set the North Londoners up for victory down on the south coast, bringing Arsenal to within three points of Manchester City, currently on 69, meanwhile also holding a game in hand in comparison to 3rd-placed Liverpool.

In an encounter dominated by the increased pressure orbiting around the two French managers on either side, a cagey start saw Arsenal register their first half-chance as late as the 14th minute, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain roamed inside from the right flank to set Aaron Ramsey from a sizeable distance prior to a tame shot wide.

Southampton accentuated their dominance in the following exchanges of the game with a lofted pass by Ryan Bertrand into Dusan Tadic, who saw his touch inside the box intercepted by Shkodran Mustafi before Petr Čech was called into action to deny Manolo Gabbiadini’s shot.

Nathan Redmond took the final risk of the half with a shot from range that would’ve found the top corner in the 42nd minute, had is not been for another good save by Čech.

Alexis Sanchez did soothe the frustrations in the second half, courtesy of a first-time assist from Mesut Özil and a crucial shoulder-drop by the Chilean that took two defenders out of his way, as a low drive in the 60th minute beat Forster and took Arsenal a goal up.

Granit Xhaka forced the Southampton shot-stopper into action with a strike from range in the 66th minute, whereas the Saints neared the equaliser at the other end through James Ward-Prowse, who headed his effort over when found deep in the Arsenal box with a cross.

Second-half substitute Olivier Giroud was on hand to kill the game off in the 83rd minute, however, acting as the recipient of Ramsey’s header across goal at the back-post to nod the ball in himself inside the six-yard-box.

Sofiane Boufal could’ve sprung life back into Southampton just three minutes later following Xhaka’s loss of possession, but the Moroccan underwhelmed with an effort against the side-netting, as Arsenal ran away with all three points.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings:

Petr Čech (7); Rob Holding (6), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Nacho Monreal (7); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Granit Xhaka (6), Aaron Ramsey (7), Kieran Gibbs (5); Mesut Özil (6), Danny Welbeck (6), Alexis Sanchez (7)

Subs: Héctor Bellerín (6), Olivier Giroud (6), Francis Coquelin (5)

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-0 MANCHESTER UNITED

Arsenal have kept their top four aspirations alive after defeating Europa League hopefuls Manchester United 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.

Two second half goals in quick succession from Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck set the victory up for Arsène Wenger’s men, taking the North Londoners above 6th-placed Man United and within three points of 4th-placed Manchester City.

Wenger placed his trust in Welbeck to reignite the club’s top four bid, but it was the opposition’s forward line who had the first taste of a goal scoring opportunity, as Wayne Rooney found Anthony Martial beyond Arsenal’s backline before the Frenchman’s toe poke was denied by Petr Čech in the 4th minute.

Alexis Sanchez replied for the hosts by playing Aaron Ramsey in on goal, who was later denied by a strong David De Gea palm from a shot across goal in the 8th minute.

On the half-hour mark, renewed pressure from Arsenal kept them in control of proceedings, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looking to make their dominance count with a shot from range that was parried away by the United keeper.

Miscommunication at the other end, however, almost gifted the visitors the lead, as Rooney looked to capitalise on a loose pass from Rob Holding but, ultimately, failed to overcome Čech from close range.

Into the second period, Granit Xhaka trusted his ability to strike the ball from distance, cashing in on a wicked deflection off Ander Herrera that beat De Gea on its way in for Arsenal’s first goal in the 53rd minute.

In no time, the Gunners fired back with a second, as Danny Welbeck utilised the space afforded to him by his former teammates to head in Chamberlain’s cross and double the hosts’ lead just three minutes later.

Rooney tried his luck from a free-kick just past the hour-mark, with Čech doing a good job of safeguarding his goal upon United’s response to going two goals down.

The United captain had a couple more measured attempts from distance, each floating past the goal, as the Red Devils grew restless in the face of defeat.

A couple of goals would separate the two sides at the final whistle, with Wenger claiming his first ever league win over José Mourinho to bring Man United’s 25-game unbeaten run to an end.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Rob Holding (6), Laurent Koscielny (6), Nacho Monreal (7); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Aaron Ramsey (7), Granit Xhaka (7), Kieran Gibbs (5); Mesut Özil (6), Danny Welbeck (6), Alexis Sanchez (6)

Subs: Héctor Bellerín (5), Olivier Giroud (4), Francis Coquelin (5)

MATCH REPORT: TOTTENHAM 2-0 ARSENAL

Arsenal have lost 2-0 versus Tottenham Hotspur in the final North London Derby to be played at the original White Hart Lane.

Second half goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane sealed the Gunners’ fate against their fierce local rivals, with the Emirates Stadium outfit also dropping precious points in the hunt for a top four finish.

Kane was the first to claim a shot on goal, coming as early as the first minute, making Petr Čech work to keep ahold of an effort from a tight angle.

Spurs looked towards Kane again in the 22nd minute, beating the offside trap before his shot ricocheted over to Dele Alli at the back post, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doing just enough to force the attacker’s header wide.

The hosts came close once more three minutes later, as Son Heung-Min tore through the left before seeing his shot deflected away by Laurent Koscielny, but the intervention then sat up for Christian Eriksen to scrape the crossbar on the volley with the goal at his mercy.

Aaron Ramsey kept Hugo Lloris on his toes with a guided effort from range in the 38th minute, with the French goalkeeper pushing the strike away for an Arsenal corner.

At the other end, Jan Vertonghen tried his luck on his right foot, as Čech got down well to safeguard Arsenal’s goal before half time.

Spurs continued on top into the second half, with Vincent Wanyama calling Čech into action with a curling effort, whereas Son caused his fair share of danger when striking the side-netting from the subsequent corner in the 48th minute.

The Gunners responded through Olivier Giroud, who fizzed a spare left-footed volley just over the crossbar moments later.

Arsène Wenger’s men continued to find the likes of Eriksen difficult to contain, however, who initiated the entrance into Arsenal’s box and saw Dele Alli bundle in his rebound to break the deadlock in the 55th minute.

The scenario complicated itself further a minute later, as Gabriel Paulista clipped Kane inside the box for a Tottenham penalty, later converted by the England international to make it 2-0.

Vertonghen renewed his duel with Čech, this time on his favoured left foot, as the Arsenal man kept out Spurs’ third of the afternoon in the 67th minute.

Čech offered more respite into the final 15 minutes, denying both Kane and Toby Alderweireld on separate occasions.

Second half substitute Theo Walcott had his rare sighting of goal in the 86th minute, but a tame shot set Arsenal on their way to a disappointing 2-0 defeat.

By Patrick Ribeiro
(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings:

Petr Čech (7); Gabriel Paulista (3), Laurent Koscielny (5), Nacho Monreal (5); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (5), Granit Xhaka (5), Aaron Ramsey (5), Kieran Gibbs (4); Mesut Özil (5), Olivier Giroud (4), Alexis Sanchez (5)

Subs: Danny Welbeck (4), Héctor Bellerín (4), Theo Walcott (4)

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-1 MANCHESTER CITY

Arsenal have booked their place in the FA Cup final with a 2-1 win over Manchester City, courtesy of an extra-time strike from Alexis Sanchez.

Nacho Monreal’s equaliser deep into the second half cancelled out Sergio Agüero’s 62nd minute opener, leaving Sanchez to steal the headlines with a goal in the 101st minute to set a date with Chelsea in an all-London final next month.

The Gunners claimed the game’s first chance when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found Olivier Giroud with a cross that was headed straight at Claudio Bravo, but it was Man City who emerged the strongest in the first half, as David Silva pulled a save out of Petr Čech in the 15th minute.

Sergio Agüero looked to pull the trigger in one of his rare openings for City, but couldn’t do much more than hit the side-netting in the 38th minute.

The Citizens will be aggrieved, however, to see an Agüero goal ruled out in the 40th minute, eventually bundled over by Sterling for further confirmation before the linesman judged Leroy Sané’s initial cross to have curved out of play before reaching its destination.

The officials continued to be in the limelight as the game drifted into half-time, dismissing a tug on Alexis Sanchez’s shirt by Jesus Navas inside the City box that would’ve otherwise seen the Chilean earn a penalty.

Granit Xhaka and Raheem Sterling traded blocked efforts from dangerous positions, with Arsenal appearing the strongest of the two sides following the half-time interval, but Agüero would soon shift the mood inside Wembley when racing away from Nacho Monreal on the counter and dinking the ball over a hesitant Čech, breaking the deadlock in the 62nd minute.

The Gunners continued to go toe-to-toe with City, however, and found themselves level no less than ten minutes later, as Monreal finished Chamberlain’s back-post cross expertly on his right foot.

Čech would go on to redeem himself in the 79th minute, getting the faintest of touches to push a Yaya Touré half-volley onto the post.

Arsenal were kept in the contest again by the woodwork in the 82nd minute, this time via Touré’s midfield partner, Fernandinho, with a strong header onto the crossbar from a corner.

Contrarily, second-half substitute Danny Welbeck might well have taken Arsène Wenger’s men over the line with four minutes to spare, but his placed finish could only graze the wrong side of Bravo’s far post before extra time.

Rob Holding claimed the first opportunity in the 6th minute of extra time, jumping in half-a-yard of space to head just over the crossbar.

Further joy for the North Londoners in front of goal would eventually come, set by Laurent Koscielny’s header back into the danger zone, as Welbeck miss-kicked his effort before Sanchez followed up to smash Arsenal into the lead.

Momentum remained on Arsenal’s side when Welbeck scuppered a great opportunity make it 3-1 with a header at the back-post, as the two sides entered the final break of the game.

Through Kevin De Bruyne, City charged on in search of the all-important equaliser, but Fabian Delph would go on to fail to find the target from the Belgian’s lay-off in the 110th minute, with Holding playing his part.

De Bruyne himself neared the leveller, flashing a strike across goal that remained untouched on its way out four minutes later.

The Gunners also continued to look threatening on the counter in the meantime, but two goals would be all Arsenal required to make it past City and into the FA Cup final.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Player Ratings:

Petr Čech (6); Gabriel Paulista (8), Laurent Koscielny (7), Rob Holding (7); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (8), Granit Xhaka (7), Aaron Ramsey (8), Nacho Monreal (7); Mesut Özil (6), Olivier Giroud (5), Alexis Sanchez (7)

Subs: Danny Welbeck (6), Héctor Bellerín (6), Francis Coquelin (5)

MATCH REPORT: MIDDLESBROUGH 1-2 ARSENAL

Arsenal have brought a dismal run of three consecutive away defeats to an end with a 2-1 victory versus Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

19th-placed Boro were amongst the small crop of Premier League sides who had done just as bad as Arsène Wenger’s men, results wise, in recent weeks, as the Frenchman experimented with a 3-4-3 formation for the first time this season.

The Gunners were given the lead through Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick in the first half and, despite Álvaro Negredo’s equaliser in the second period, the North Londoners were then able to seal all three points through Mesut Özil in the final quarter of the game.

With both clubs coming under renewed pressure ahead of this fixture, the mood was telling in a cagey opening to affairs.

A potential penalty shout on Olivier Giroud in the 17th minute shook off some of the cobwebs, whereas a two-minute salvo from the 27th minute saw Aaron Ramsey and Alexis fire the first strikes at Middlesbrough’s goal, neither of them proving to be troublesome.

Arsenal were then given the chance to crack the deadlock via a free-kick, which was won by Granit Xhaka over Adam Clayton on the edge of the box.

Alexis claimed responsibility for the free-kick and delivered with an inch-perfect effort to give Arsenal the lead in the 42nd minute.

Middlesbrough proved to be a different beast in the second period, however, as Álvaro Negredo equalised with a stab at the ball inside the box when getting the better of Laurent Koscielny from Stewart Downing’s cross in the 50th minute.

George Friend sought to complicate matters for Arsenal further with a marauding run down the left four minutes later, but Downing’s execution following the full back’s cross spared the Gunners.

Daniel Ayala then came close to giving the hosts the lead with a diving header from close range, but was subsequently denied by the well-positioned Petr Čech on the hour mark.

Arsenal’s response came through an Alexis pass that left Mesut Özil one-on-one with Brad Guzan, with little room for the Arsenal man to get an adequate shot away meaning the goalkeeper would be the man to come out on top on this occasion.

The game continued to open up, however, with Ramsey cushioning an Alexis’ pass down to assist Özil for a volleyed finish inside the box, placing Arsenal back in the lead in the 71st minute.

Aerial threat proved to be Middlesbrough’s currency, as they came close to goal once more from a set-piece, but Čech was again on hand to collect a laboured swing of the leg from Ben Gibson.

Giroud neared the killer blow with an audacious lob on the Boro keeper with seconds to spare, skipping just wide, meaning a 2-1 lead would be enough to return Arsenal back to winning ways away from home.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Player Ratings: Petr Čech (7); Gabriel Paulista (5), Laurent Koscielny (5), Rob Holding (5); Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain (6), Granit Xhaka (6), Aaron Ramsey (5), Nacho Monreal (5); Mesut Özil (7), Alexis Sanchez (7), Olivier Giroud (5)

MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 2-2 MANCHESTER CITY

A second-half header from Shkodran Mustafi rescued Arsenal a point versus Manchester City, as the two top four hopefuls played out a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon.

The Gunners fell behind twice in their first game back from the international break, but goals from Theo Walcott and Mustafi on either side of half-time kept Arsène Wenger’s men within touching distance of those directly ahead of them in the Premier League table.

Danny Welbeck’s pace was favoured over Olivier Giroud’s towering frame in attack and it was a change that almost produced through to the early exchanges, as the ex-Manchester United striker’s pressing saw a block from Gael Clichy’s desperate clearance threaten to betray Willy Caballero on its way wide.

Arsenal’s task versus City would be made tougher by the 5th minute when Leroy Sané made full use of the space vacated by Sergio Agüero to burst through the heart of the defence, round David Ospina and slot in the game’s first goal into an empty net.

Things promised to go from bad to worse just five minutes later through Kevin De Bruyne’s curling effort onto the post, whereas this time Ospina was on hand to deny further joy in front of goal when parrying David Silva’s follow-up.

Alexis Sánchez’s shot from range in the 30th minute headlined a potential comeback from Arsenal’s behalf, as it hovered just wide of City’s goal.

Increased pressure from the North Londoners would soon pay off when Mustafi’s header back into the mixer caught out the Man City backline, leaving Walcott to take advantage of space and draw the game level in the 38th minute.

The equaliser would be short-lived, however, as an unmarked Agüero was given plenty of time to pick his spot with a low drive inside the box and make it 2-1 to the visitors a minute later.

Arsenal responded through Walcott once more, meeting Sánchez’s hopeful cross before volleying over on the brink of half-time.

Without Laurent Koscielny for the second period, the Gunners’ backline continued to look fragile in places, as Jesus Navas set Agüero up for a near-post header that was directed wide in the 52nd minute.

Mustafi would prove to be pivotal once more in Arsenal’s fightback, rising highest from a corner to slam home the equaliser with his head in the 54th minute.

Agüero popped up again inside the box to try and make amends for his earlier miss, but Ospina was on hand to follow the effort all the way into his grasp, as both teams shared the spoils at the final whistle.

By Patrick Ribeiro

(@P_SRibeiro)

Starting XI

David Ospina (6); Héctor Bellerín (5), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Laurent Koscielny (6), Nacho Monreal (6); Granit Xhaka (5), Francis Coquelin (4); Theo Walcott (6), Mesut Özil (4), Alexis Sánchez (6); Danny Welbeck (4)

Subs: Gabriel Paulista (6), Olivier Giroud (4), Alex Iwobi (6)

MATCH REPORT: WEST BROM 3-1 ARSENAL

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

Player Ratings

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)