Premier League - Van Persie fires again
Robin van Persie's excellent run of form continued as he scored his eighth league goal in four games, and contributed two more assists, as Arsenal enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win over West Brom at Emirates Stadium.
On Friday the Dutchman received the Player of the Month prize and an award to mark his success in becoming the first player to reach 10 league goals. Such is his brilliance at present, it came as no surprise when he started in pursuit of the 20 mark after 22 minutes of this match against the Baggies.
Though unable to become the first player in Premier League history to score two or more goals in four consecutive matches, Van Persie still teed up Thomas Vermaelen and then Mikel Arteta for subsequent goals as the Gunners made it nine wins in 11 games in all competitions.
Arsenal stay in seventh place following the victory but are now level on 19 points with Liverpool in sixth and Tottenham in fifth, though Tottenham have two games in hand. West Brom are 13th with 11 points.
Arsenal suffered at the hands of West Brom last season when going three down to lose 3-2 at home and two down to draw 2-2 at The Hawthorns. Arsene Wenger's side looked determined to avoid displaying similar vulnerability and gained a firm grip on the game from the start, preventing West Brom from having even one shot in goal in the first 45 minutes.
Solidity - ensured thanks to a packed and fluid midfield - came at the expense of creativity though as the Gunners enjoyed little in the way of genuine chances in front of their home supporters. However, given how clinical they were in front of goal, it mattered not.
Unsurprisingly, the first Arsenal player to exploit a chance to the full was Van Persie - the Premier League's most in-form striker who came into the game with seven goals in his past three league games and clutching the Player of the Month award.
After 22 minutes Aaron Ramsey opened up the West Brom defence with a sumptuous pass that found Theo Walcott haring down on goal. His low shot was blocked by Ben Foster but Van Persie was anticipating the rebound and swept home from close range for his 11th goal of the season.
Arsenal continued to control the flow of the game - with the midfield axis of Ramsey, Alex Song and Arteta functioning well - and scored a second with their next clear opportunity after 39 minutes.
Song spotted a Van Persie run to the back post and found the Dutchman with a lofted pass. His cut-back was missed by Gervinho but arriving in the box to smash home the loose ball was Vermaelen, who had gone unnoticed by the West Brom defence.
With the home side enjoying over 70 per cent possession, West Brom created nothing of note and ended the half firmly on the back foot as Arteta fired over the bar from Ramsey's lay-off on the edge of the box.
The game was a more open affair at the start of the second half with both Chris Brunt and Graeme Dorrans enjoying half-chances for West Brom. However, Arsenal remained the more impressive side.
Vermaelen should have scored his second of the afternoon when rising high to meet a Van Persie corner at the near post and heading down and wide, while Ramsey dragged another effort wide of the far post after collecting a clever pass from Gervinho.
Foster also had to be alert to repel a firm first-time effort from Song while Van Persie spurned an excellent chance to claim his 12th of the season when firing well over the bar from a Walcott cut-back.
On 74 minutes, though, Van Persie did secure another assist. He spread the ball wide to substitute Tomas Rosicky on the right and after receiving the ball back artfully poked the ball to Arteta. The Spaniard met the ball with an expert finish as he swept it home past Foster to make it 3-0.
With a ninth win in 11 games secured, Arsenal became somewhat ragged. Steven Reid and James Morrison both forced Wojciech Szczesny into saves while only a sliding block from Vermaelen prevented Somen Tchoyi from doing likewise.
There was still time for Morrison to fire a free-kick over the bar but with a clean sheet in their possession and three points secured again, Arsenal's rejuvenation continues.