A swiftly taken, and started, first half hatrick from Theo Walcott ensured the most relaxed atmosphere to an end of season game for an age as the Arsenal set themselves up nicely for the FA Cup final with a comfortable 4-1 win against Pullis’ West Brom.
The expected rotation was there, Gabriel for Kozzer and Walcott for Giroud, in addition to the replacement of Gibbs for Monreal and Jack for Ramsey from the previous game.
However neither Santi nor Alexis got the breather I felt they needed, but then that may have been too much change for a game in which victory was desirable as it would set the mood for the FA Cup preparations.
Only the most doom laden Gooner would have feared losing third spot today as a seven goal swing was required for that to happen and fearing a repeat of the previous weekends performance from the today’s opposition against Chelsea some would argue pre match concerns like this were not entirely invalid.
Surely any Pullis side would be defensively tight, unadventurous and looking to frustrate ?
Having taken my seat in the north bank lower within a few minutes of the start I could see this was not the case, even though Arsenal were attacking the Clock End, as usual, in the first half and my sub par vision would make details hard to pick out.
West Brom looked to push forward early on and hence left gaps behind them, which after a short time was the wrong tactic.
A threaded ball from Santi found Theo wide right, who then unleashed an unstoppable rising drive that gave the Baggies keeper no chance.
Instant relief and the crowd could relax as the mini goal drought ended less than five minutes into the game.
And so started the Wembley songs which then continued for the rest of the afternoon.
In addition to the relatively open nature of the game another feature was Jack’s surging runs through the middle of the park, which drew much appreciation from the crowd, one of these led to some interchange with Özil that fired a cross into the West Brom box which Theo efficiently dispatched for his second.
Barely had we stopped cheering Theo’s brace then another attack led to some ping pong n the away penalty area which the Baggie’s defenders failed to clear and a lose ball was rifled in by Jack for the third.
The English core had now scored three goals and the ludicrous bad luck that dogged Arsenal’s goal attempts in the last three games was well and truly banished.
A Pullis side surrendering so tamely didn’t seem right and looking at the man himself he watched impassively, arms folded, without even attempting to look at all concerned.
The only semblance of order was a touch of the Stoke City’s that whenever there was a West Brom goal kick, as the ball looped down, the West Brom player was always giving out a sneaky shove to the Arsenal player attempting the clearing header.
The Baggies still came forward, even at three down, however Berahino’s early threat seemed to subside and all their approach play seemed to fizzle out impotently.
At three nil up a surge of exiting Gooners making for front of the queue for half time food missed Theo’s hat trick goal as Santi completed a move involving Özil, Alexis and Jack by firing across the goal for Theo to tap in a poachers goal.
Sign him up Arsène!
Sign da ting !
Half time came and as the score in the Stoke-Scousers game was flashed up much delirium ensued, clearly Stevie Me’s swansong would not end well as Liverpool were being battered 5-nil by Pullis’ former charges.
After such a breathless, enthralling first half, the second would struggle not to be an anti climax, and a weird starting second half it was.
First off Hector went lunging into the West Brom number 11 and received an unnecessary yellow card and then indecision in the the Arsenal defence led to a corner.
Then, after having looked so secure for nearly all his time in goal, Ospina seemed to flap at the corner and let a header in.
The excessive/ironic celebration of the Baggies fans at this point was the highlight of their day and only a mild irritant to the home support.
With the FA Cup in mind some of Arsène’s prospective starting 11 were taken off, Coquelin and then Theo to take the applause for his masterful hatrick; only the most churlish of us would take his little wave to the west stand as he walked off as a “wave goodbye”.
To my eyes if Villa allow us space to play then Theo should start; if not his replacement today, Olly, should start. Luckily that difficult decision is not mine to make.
Finally Jack was replaced by the Ox and the reception he got proved that his mid season indiscretions had been forgiven and his on field efforts very much appreciated.
The introduction of Ramsay and the Ox didn’t stop the fluidity of the mid field and chances were still being created.
Alexis, as ever, never stopped running and when one of his jinks into the opposition penalty area came to nothing, the crowd showed their appreciation and encouragement with his “Alexis baby” song – I don’t think he knows it his song yet as he just kept his head down while walking back to his position after play restarted.
Cheer up Alexis, every Gooner loves you !
A fifth goal would have been great and a Ramsay shot cannoned off the post as the game drew to a close.
The end of season feeling was confirmed when the fourth official didn’t bother signalling how much added time there would but when the final whistle blew it was with satisfaction the crowd showed their thanks for the result of the game.
Five points clear of fourth placed ManUre with no annoying Champions League pre qualifier to mess up pre season for the lads, I’d a taken that after our slow League start.
The lap of appreciation started with the handful of West Brom fans remaining holding up a plea on behalf of Sweden for Olsson, which seemed odd as he looked rather clumsy and unathletic on today’s showing, the Swedes must be desperate.
So we wait for the season climax next Saturday for our shot at another trophy; sadly for me I won’t be going as tickets are extremely hard to come by so I’ll thank you the readers for staying with me this season and I’ll see you in the 15/16 season.
By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)