West Bromwich Albion 1 - Arsenal 1
The pre-match scenes put the game today into perspective - it was a lovely gesture to have the mascots from other clubs as part of the dedication to Richard Eades.
I thought the 4-4-2 lineup by Pardew was bold enough but in the absence of Rondon I'd have gone with McClean on the left in a 4-5-1 with Jrod up front to give us pace on both sides.
I was disappointed that Field again failed to make the squad as a midfielder who looks like scoring, and I was surprised that Livermore again got the nod as he's in pretty poor form and needs a rest to say the least.
We started a little slowly and stood off Arsenal a bit too much in the opening 10 minutes but it was great to see Phillips play so positively and at the first opportunity attacking his man and getting us up the pitch. And we grew into a bit more, managing to get on the front foot and putting Arsenal under pressure and working opportunities but, perhaps predictably we couldn't create anything clear cut.
As we pressed and frustrated Arsenal they looked wobbly and we largely kept them at bay when they did break on us or when they worked the ball after spells of possession. As the first half drew towards a close we lost control a bit but saw the game out nicely.
Second half we started much better and again put some pressure on but lacked that bit of quality or rub of the green. I thought from about 60 minutes onwards we bagen to carry too many players. HRK looked out on his feet and Phillips was fading but Pardew kept the same players out there until 70 minutes.
Personally I'd have taken HRK off at that point and played Burke up front through the middle to push Arsenal back for 10 minutes and give us something to hit on the break that we'd been lacking, but Brunt and Phillips made way for McClean and Krychowiak. I can only assume that Pardew decided that it was time to take a point and focus on winning the West Ham game because Brunt had been our best midfielder and Phillips our only outlet.
Typical of our luck, moments afterwards we got a free-kick in prime Brunt territory which McClean could only slam into the wall. And HRK made way for Nyom as we reverted to 5 at the back to shut up shop and hold on.
In the final 10 mins we contrived to go behind to a defelcted free kick but then win the first penalty in years (you have to show ambition to win them and we didn't under Pulis) and we held on for a deserved point.
Overall I thought we were pretty good with the options available but we are crying out for creativity. The players again worked really hard, our full strength back 4 and keeper look as good as anything in the league and we are really showing quality in many areas. I don't think we're playing like a side low on confidence and there is real fight in the side.
I just hope the players have got enough in their legs to go to West Ham and start the year off with a win - I really do think they deserve it. I also hope we can retain Evans until the Summer and trade out Krychowiak for a decent striker on loan who is desperate to play - or a striker and creative midfielder if possible.
Mike Dean was useless - how he didn't give some of the fouls on our players when he gave nothing challenges against us is beyond me. Haven't seen the penalty again but it looked ot me like we got a 50/50 call for the only time in the game.
The support was magnificent. They now see a team that wants to play football. So thanks to Alan Pardew for that. We played very well.
I thought Jay R and HRK up front were great. They have gas. Gas worries any defence. The only thing missing in my opinion, were better deliveries into the box and more important, getting our fair share of the 50/50's thereafter. Luck should balance itself out and we will get those breaks and we will knock some in.
I like what Alan Pardew is doing, both on and off the pitch. A top bloke. He could be very good for us. I guess you have to make your own luck.
Happy New Year everyone.
First game I've been to under Pardew and have to say it was a far better performance than the rubbish being served up under Pulis. The crowd were more engaged and the football we tried to play was encouraging. I thought we kept the ball well on occasions and played more on the front foot than I can remember in ages. We can all see the lack of quality in attack and if we don't get some in during January then I think we will be struggling to stay up but personally I'd rather go down playing football than the slow death we were getting before.
Defensively we were good Gibbs is a quality player far better than anything Arsenal have currently. Would prefer to see Field in the squad rather than Greg because I think he has a goal in him and Albion staying up actually means something to him. Just feel Greg is going through the motions. I would also like to see Phillips, Burke or Leko tried through the middle at some point as I just think directness and pace causes problems. Just a word on the penalty, I can't believe the media outpouring over it, sure it was a dodgy call but no worse than ours at the Emirates and even the most biased Gooner couldn't really believe they did enough to win the game!
I wasn't sure Pardew was the right choice and we still might not stay up but I for one am far more likely to be spending my money to watch this Albion side play.
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