The Baggies fourth season in the Premiership since 2002 started in a very similar vein to our first season back in the top-flight, with a one-nil defeat against one of the `big four`. The Albion looked star-struck for the first section of the match, and were duly punished by a very early goal from big-money summer import Samir Nasri. The Baggies rode their luck after conceding the early goal, but managed to keep the Londoners from adding to their tally, and as the match progressed we got stronger & stronger and managed to create a couple of chances, in the end being only a second half goal-line clearance away from an equalizer.
Mowbray handed debuts to summer recruits Carson, Meite and Cech and played Miller as a lone frontman with the effervescent Kim playing in the hole behind him. From the first whistle, the Arsenal team shorn of several first-team regulars cut the West Brom defense open at will and on 4 minutes Samir Nasri finished off a slick passing move, coolly slotting past Carson unmarked from 6 yards out. Five minutes later and Arsenal were having all of it, and it looked like we may have been on the end of a cricket score – however after surviving the opening barrage we visibly grew in confidence, and perhaps more importantly, we stuck to our guns and our own passing game that made us such a treat to watch last season.
Emmanuel Adebayor was particularly profligate in the early exchanges, but Leon Barnett rose to the challenge and begun to stamp out the sniffs that the Togolese front man was getting. Bendtner, Sagna and even a thumped William Gallas 30-yarder put a lot of pressure on the Baggies, but Scott Carson impressed with his shot-stopping and reading of the match, and could not be faulted for the early goal.
In the second half we even enjoyed several spells on top, and came out all guns blazing, Miller forcing a good save from Almunia and Paul Robison followed up with a crisp drive that was somewhat fortuitously scrambled away by Johan Djorou. Adebayor could, and should, have put the match beyond us when he sent his shot wide when clean through late on, however the scoreline in no way flattered us and on a different day we could have easily left North London with a point.
Scott Carson 7/10
A very solid debut that should ensure Kiely will be warming the bench for several matches to come. The length and accuracy of his kicking looked as if he has not yet spent too much time with Joe Corrigan as he kicked superbly all afternoon. Could do nothing about the goal – very encouraging.
Carl Hoefkens 5/10
Looked very shaky and couldn’t get to grips with the Arsenal wingers. Improved as the game went on but will have to up his game now that the Dutch are out of the Olympics & Zuiverloon is back.
Leon Barnett 8/10
Very solid performance, only just piped by Kim to the star man title. Despite early nerves matched last-years 30-goal hit-man for much of the game. Seems to improve with every game, top performance.
Abdoulaye Meite 6/10
Slightly rusty – understandably so given the length of time since his last competitive match. Was a strong presence at the back and looks like he will be a steadying influence. Solid in the air and good on the ground – classic Mowbray.
Paul Robinson 7/10
Fears that Robbo might not cut-it upon our return to the top flight look ill-founded. Rampaged forward, tracked back, passed well. Good performance.
Chris Brunt 5/10
Needs to work on set-pieces. Was fairly anonymous for long periods and wasted free-kicks in good positions. Obviously has the ability to do well but needs to focus. Replaced by Craig Beattie with ten to go.
James Morrison 6/10
Formed part of a very solid midfield three. Unspectacular but effective.
Jonathan Greening 7/10
Linked well with Morrison & Kim, and managed to get off a few of his trademark fine passes too. The midfield looked good today, and Jonno was the heartbeat.
Kim Do-Heon 8/10
The Korean continued his fine form from preseason, and playing just behind the lone front man proved to be the source of all the Baggies inspiration going forward. He tested Almunia and looks like he has the potential to be a mercurial player for us this season.
Marek Cech 5/10
Similar game to Hoefkens – looks like he may need a few games to adapt to the Premiership. Was caught out of position on a couple of occasions and was quiet until his replacement by Sherjill on 68 minutes.
Ishmael Miller 6/10
Coped well with the unenviable task of being a lone striker. Carved out a few opportunities and showcased his power and pace – against less high calibre opposition he will have few problems hitting the back of the net.
Sherjill MacDonald 5/10
Improvement on Cech, whom he replaced. Flashes of talent, including a jinking run along the edge of the Arsenal box. Little impact overall.
Roman Bednar 7/10
Replaced Miller on 74 to good effect. Held the ball up and looked a handful for the Gunners back-line. Promising Premiership potential.
Few good touches but had no opportunites to create anything in the ten minutes he played.
Tony Mowbray – 7/10
Kim impressed in the support role but we looked more threatening with a second striker playing a more traditional 4-4-2. In his first ever match as a Premier League manager, defeat by the solitary goal away at Arsenal is not bad at all.
Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy, Walcott (Toure 72), Denilson, Nasri, Eboue, Adebayor, Bendtner (Van Persie 69).
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Vela, Ramsey, Wilshere, Randall
West Brom (4-4-1-1)
Carson, Hoefkens, Barnett, Meite, Robinson, Brunt (Beattie 80), Morrison, Greening, Kim, Cech (MacDonald 68), Miller (Bednar 74).
Subs Not Used: Kiely, Dorrans, Pele, Martis
Howard Webb (South Yorkshire)