Arsenal 1-0 West Brom: Olivier Giroud strikes late for Gunners
By Lewis Jones
Last Updated: 26/12/16 7:26pm
Arsenal ended 2016 on a high as Olivier Giroud netted the winner four minutes from time in a 1-0 victory at home to West Brom on Boxing Day.
Arsene Wenger's men led the Premier League on January 1 but it's been another 12 months of underachievement and this result epitomised that frustration up until Giroud's late winner on his first Premier League start of the season.
Ben Foster starred for the resilient Baggies, making a string of saves early in the second half while Alexis Sanchez also struck the post for the hosts.
The victory moves Arsenal, who had lost their two previous games, into third but they remain nine points behind Chelsea in the title race.
Theo Walcott was missing for Arsenal with a slight calf strain, which handed Giroud a rare start.
He looked short of sharpness in and around the box early on as West Brom defended deep to snuff out Arsenal's intricate approach play.
Sanchez warmed Foster's gloves from 22 yards on 26 minutes but rarely did they look capable of breaking through the well organised Baggies backline in the first-half, led manfully by the returning Jonny Evans.
Matty Phillips provided much of the quality on show early on with his 21st minute cross being flicked straight at Petr Cech by Nacer Chadli.
Arsenal came out of the blocks flying after the break and Foster had to be at his reactive best to deny Alex Iwobi's low drive and then Sanchez's close range follow up.
However, Foster was helpless 90 seconds later as Sanchez broke free in the box but his shot cannoned back off the outside of the post.
It looked likely to be West Brom's day when Foster brilliantly tipped over a rasping Sanchez drive on 56 minutes.
The visitors carried little threat but Claudio Yacob missed a glorius opportunity at the back post on 71 minutes when he fired high and wide after Cech spilled a corner.
There seemed no way through for the Gunners, who continued to probe but lacked a killer final ball against Tony Pulis' men who ran the clock down at every opportunity.
Those tactics seemed to be paying off until Giroud repaid his manager's faith with three minutes left.
Mesut Ozil curled a fantastic ball into the danger zone and Giroud held off the attentions of Evans before looping a clever header beyond the grasp of the defiant Foster.
The Emirates collectively breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Arsenal: Cech (6), Bellerin (6), Gabriel (7), Koscielny (7), Gibbs (5), Coquelin (7), Xhaka (6), Sanchez (7), Ozil (7), Iwobi (6), Giroud (7)
Subs: Ramsey (6), Monreal (6), Perez (6)
West Brom: Foster (8), Dawson (6), McAuley (7), Evans (7), Nyom (7), Yacob (6), Fletcher (6), Phillips (7), Chadli (6), Brunt (7), Rondon (5)
Subs: Robson-Kanu (6), McClean (6)
Man of the match: Ben Foster