Published 09/05/2021 at 17:09 GMT | Updated 09/05/2021 at 21:53 GMT
Mikel Arteta received some welcome respite as Arsenal secured a 3-1 victory over West Brom, succumbing Sam Allardyce's side to relegation.
In a game with three superb left foot finishes, Arsenal took the lead against the run of play just before the half-hour mark when Bukayo Saka clipped a ball from the by-line for Emile Smith-Rowe to slam home on the volley from six yards.
Nicolas Pepe doubled the scoreline with a rocketed drive from the edge of the box which although Sam Johnstone got his fingers to, he could not keep it out.
Matheus Pereira who went close early on for West Brom, clawed them back into the game with a wonderful goal running 50 yards with the ball before driving across Bernd Leno and into the corner.
Willian grabbed a third with a superb free kick late on and the win lifts Arsenal back to ninth in the table, while Albion remain 19th - 10 points adrift of fourth-bottom Burnley with just three games remaining.
Talking point – Big Sam not the man for Albion
Allardyce seems likely to stay with West Brom with most media pundits claiming he has done a good job at The Hawthorns and would have kept the Baggies up if he had been at the helm all season.
It does not stand up to scrutiny. He has averaged 0.86 points a game, 0.3 worse than at any club he has managed.
He is plainly not the coach he was previously. With hardly the worst defensive talent at his disposal and a top-half quality goalkeeper, Albion conceded nearly two goals a game under him, similar stats to Slaven Bilic, while scoring less goals. Defensive strength was the hallmark of Allardyce’s sides down the years. It hasn’t been the case with Albion this term - his first job after two-and-a-half years out of the game.
There was an improvement when Okay Yokuslu and Ainsley Maitland-Niles joined at the end of January – and yes it would have helped if they had joined at the start of the transfer window – but still nowhere near the bounce required to even push the club's safety quest to near the final day.
When they have looked better, including in the remarkable 5-2 win at Chelsea, it owed more to Matheus Pereira’s brilliance than tactical expertise.
Suggestions the better end of the season can be carried on next season are fanciful when in all likelihood Pereira, Johnstone, Yokuslu and Maitland-Niles will not be in the side. With parachute payments West Brom will naturally be among the top sides challenging for the Championship next term, they should do with a manager on the rise who can build a team to be a stable Premier League outfit. Keeping on Allardyce is a short-term move with neither upside nor justification on recent past performance.
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Man of the match: Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
Even when Arsenal were very poor in the first 20 minutes, Saka was a ubiquitous threat down the left flank.
Playing as an attacking full back, a rare role for him at Arsenal with Kieran Tierney usually there, Albion could not get close to him as he timed runs perfectly beyond the defence and put at least four perfect passes across the box that his team-mates failed to turn home.
It does leave an interesting conundrum for Arteta – though by far his most pressing one. This looks like it would be Saka’s best position and maybe one that could see him one day spoken about in the same breathe as Kenny Sansom and Ashley Cole.
But Tierney is one of Arsenal’s better players and Saka able to play well in many positions, so he is unlikely to get this spot in the short term.
13' Great effort from Pereira he picked up the ball 30 yards from goal and then curls a remarkable effort just past the post and hitting the stanchion behind the goal.
29' GOAL FOR ARSENAL! Saka, who has looked Arsenal's only real dangerman was played in byCeballos and he clips a ball to the six-yard box which Smith-Rowe buries with his left foot on the volley.
35' GOAL FOR ARSENAL! Pepe received the ball on the edge of the box goal on the right hand side of the field and unleashed an unstoppable drive into the top corner. Johnstone got fingers to it but it was too powerful.
69' GOAL FOR WEST BROM! Wonderful goal from Pereira. He ran 50 yards with the ball before hitting a low drive across Leno and into the corner.
89' GOAL FOR ARSENAL! Tremendous free kick from Willian ensures Arsenal will take all three points. He curled the ball away from Johnstone and into the inside side-netting.