January 29, 2009
Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion was the curtain raiser to this years’ edition of the Premiership season. An opening match against one of the big four could have been contested as a rude awakening for this years’ newcomer, but although losing, it was a hard fought match by Tony Mowbray’s men. The Baggies proved they might just possess the grit and tenacity necessary to cope with the challenges of life in the Premier League.
Returning to England’s top flight as champions and heavily utilizing the transfer window should be enough reason to fancy West Brom as the likely candidate for survival among this seasons newly promoted sides. With editions such as Marek Cech from Porto, a player with Champions League experience and ex-England keeper Scott Carson, West Brom seem to have the resources to finish 17th or better. However, survival is not their primary target according to manager Tony Mowbray. “We are all looking forward to this season. There’s no thought of hanging in there or finishing seventeenth. If we can we are gonna go and try to compete in the league.” said Mowbray following Saturdays season opener.
From the first whistle, the Gunners seemed raring to be released from the chains of preseason football and quickly began bombarding the West Bromwich goal with waves of numerous attacks. The Baggies defenses were punctured after only 4 minutes as the newly signed Samir Nasri scored on his Premier League debut for the Gunners. Emanual Adebayor, William Gallas, Bacary Sagna, and once again Nasri threatened to double the lead as Arsenal consistently created chances near the goalmouth all prior to the 20 minute mark. However, West Brom coped with the Gunners’ resilient pressure. After the opening 20 minutes of the match it seemed as if Albion were gradually settling into the flow and tempo of play.
West Brom’s best attempts came from Ismael Miller and Paul Robinson after 50 minutes. A through-ball from Kim Do-Heon to Ismael Miller left the powerful striker with a fantastic opportunity on goal. However, Almunia produced a save that would rebound just outside the 16 yard box into the path of midfielder Paul Robinson who struck a shot that seemed destined for goal until young Gunner Djourou cleared the ball of the line. Less than two minutes later, Emmanuel Adebayor created an equally brilliant opportunity to extend his teams lead, however, his curling shot glided slightly past the bottom right hand post before going out of bounds.
As the match progressed Albion seemed to cope well with the fluency and rhythm of Arsenal. The Gunners had several decent opportunities courtesy Nicolas Bendter, Emmanuel Eboue, Emmanuel Adebayor, and substitute Robin Van Persie, however Arsenal didn’t resurrect the same impressive force utilized to pummel Baggie defenses during the opening minutes of the match. As for West Bromwich, although they never realistically pressured enough to level the score-line, the Premiership newcomers proved they were a side that could respectively challenge even the pinnacle of quality in English football.