Bacary Sagna bids farewell to Arsenal as Olivier Giroud makes the difference – Could Thomas Vermaelen be on his way out too?

Arsenal 1 West Brom 0 – Giroud The Difference As Sagna Says Farewell

Giroud West Brom 2

As Manchester City beat Everton on Saturday evening, confirming our top four status for another year, there was little at stake for Arsenal to play for yesterday but we still managed to beat visiting West Brom by a goal to nil, thanks to an early Olivier Giroud header.

It was a game that had a real end of season feel to it, as Arsenal seemed happy to just go through the motions and we definitely didn’t have to be at our best to beat West Brom, who were surprisingly unenthusiastic in their approach considering they are still not yet completely safe from relegation.

Santi Cazorla’s deflected shot won us a corner in the 13th minute, and from that the Spaniard delivered for Giroud to head home his 22nd goal of the season as he got ahead of his marker in the area.

There wasn’t a huge lot more to write about, in all honesty. Cazorla was denied brilliantly by Foster in the best move of the game, as Mesut Ozil glided past his marker, perfectly played in Lukas Podolski down the left flank and his cut back was met first time by Cazorla on the edge of the area but Foster was equal to it.

West Brom had a few chances themselves in the first half, largely borne out of our own defensive mistakes. Ozil tried to be clever outside our area and lost possession, with Berahino shooting over the bar from the edge of the area. Dorrans also saw a stinging shot from distance dropped by Wojciech Szczesny, but Berahino was flagged offside for the follow up, which he blasted over.

Sagna West Brom

We had a couple of chances to double our lead in the second half, firstly for Ozil who stabbed a Giroud flick on wide as he struggled to get the ball properly under control. Podolski saw an effort sliced onto the post as the ball fell to him in the area, and Ozil had a tame free kick saved by Foster too.

The visitors enjoyed a spell of pressure and plenty of corners late on in the game but they came to no avail. Only Sessegnon had the chance to level for them as he was slid through on goal with Per Mertesacker sleeping, but Szczesny was alert and came off his line to deny Sessegnon well.

And that was basically it. Hardly eye catching from Arsenal but we did enough to get the three points, keep the winning momentum up as we draw ever closer to the Wembley return, and capped off an impressive record in the League at the Emirates this season having only lost the one game on the opening day against Aston Villa.

The players did their customary lap of honour after the game, which was led by Bacary Sagna who looks set to depart on a Bosman this summer after seven fantastic years of service. The crowd tried their best with chants of “Bacary Sagna, we want you to stay”, but it looks almost certain now that he’ll be on his way out and, no matter where he goes, I’ll have nothing but well wishes and thanks to him for his fantastic Arsenal career.

Olivier Giroud West Brom

One man who doesn’t appear to be leaving is Arsene Wenger, who said after the game that he’d definitely be back again next season and looks set to sign a new contract after the FA Cup Final in two weeks time.

It’s been a real up and down season for Wenger, with increased pressure on him to deliver a trophy after our much talked about dry spell but also surrounding his transfer window dealings, or lack of, which have been scrutinised greatly with so much money being available. I don’t have a problem with Wenger staying on, but really hope he learns from his mistakes this year, both on and off the pitch, and can get it right for us over the summer.

Because we really weren’t that far away this season, but it’s hard to think that next season will be easier, as Man City, Chelsea and Man United will all strengthen considerably, whilst I have no doubt that Liverpool will look to build on their successful campaign too as they come back into the Champions League.

So not only will we likely need to replace Sagna, Fabianksi and potentially Thomas Vermaelen (whose random cameo at the end yesterday maybe suggested his imminent departure too), but we’ll also need to build on the core that we have that’s staying. I genuinely don’t think we need to go ridiculously huge in the transfer window to bridge the gap between us and the title winners, whoever that ends up being (please, God, be Man City) and there’s definitely been progress given how long we spent at the top of the League this season although the way we shat it away at the end was of course bitterly disappointing.

Arsene Wenger 26

There’ll be plenty of time to look at that though in the aftermath of the season, from the end of May onwards. I’m really just bringing it up now as there’s shit all else to talk about after the game yesterday.

We go to Norwich this coming weekend for the final League fixture of the season and I think they might well be relegated by then, which would probably be a good thing for us if so. Either way, I expect that Wenger will make plenty of changes to the side and allow an extra bit of rest for key players in the ilk of Sagna, Mertesacker, Ozil, Ramsey and Giroud, and give a few of the younger or fringe players in the squad a chance to have a run out.

Getting through the Norwich game without any big injuries is surely the main objective ahead of the big day back at Wembley on the 17th May, but it’d also obviously be ideal to get a result there too and keep the winning momentum going.

It’d be good to see a bit more intensity in that game too as, although it was understandable to see us play like we did yesterday, we have our biggest game of the past few years coming up and we can’t afford to take our foot off the gas too much and risk being under prepared as that occasion rapidly approaches.

Matt Littlechild

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