West Brom relegated after Nicolas Pépé’s thunderbolt for Arsenal
Last modified on Sun 9 May 2021 23.57 BSTSam Allardyce had said upon joining West Brom that a first relegation from thePremier Leaguewould “kill” him and, while the defeat that sealed their fate had a blessedly more benign effect, the agony was etched on his face at full time.
Each of Arsenal’s goals had been greeted by a clench of the jaw more shuddering than the last; Allardyce must have raced through the packs of chewing gum but, coming at this stage in his career, such a blot on his copybook will leave anything but a fresh taste.
In truth this moment had long been coming and West Brom will have to yo-yo once again. It remains to be seen whether Allardyce retains control of the string for their latest attempt to depart the Championship; ending his days at the top level on this note will smart though and, given his fractious history with Arsenal, the identity of the side that applied the telling blow adds another insult. headtopics.com
Read more“I’m not going to tell you whether I’m staying or going,” said Allardyce, pre-empting the question before anybody involved in his post-match press conference could get a word in. “I’m not going to answer that after the disappointment of the situation we’re in and losing tonight. We put in a good show, we gave it everything we’ve got.”
They had a sniff of the draw that would extend their interest for at least 24 hours when Matheus Pereira drilled past Bernd Leno after an excellent solo run midway through the second half, reducing Arsenal’s lead to one.If Darnell Furlong had not fluffed a glorious headed opportunity shortly after that, Allardyce might have been masticating less furiously by the final whistle. Instead their fire was extinguished and their efforts proved too little, too late.
That sentiment applies just as well to Arsenal, even if a win offered the embattled Mikel Arteta some short-term respite. Their goals were superbly taken too, although the last of them made seasoned observers unsure whether to laugh or cry.Willian’s season has been a disaster but the picturebook free-kick he curled past Sam Johnstone to secure the outcome was redolent of his best work at Chelsea. It was his first goal for Arsenal in his 37th appearance: what a shame that it arrived in the final minute of a virtually meaningless game against doomed opponents.
“Somehow this season we haven’t managed to get the best out of him,” Arteta said of Willian. “He had spells and highlights of things he can do and today was a great example of that.”In truth Arsenal’s season would be bereft of redeeming factors without Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, both of whom could teach Willian and other senior players a little about consistency. headtopics.com
Sam Allardyce has been relegated from the Premier League for the first time.Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The GuardianSaka was deployed at left-back, a position he might usefully have filled during Kieran Tierney’s recent absence, and still managed to be the best player on the pitch. West Brom had pressed early on, coming inches away from scoring through Callum Robinson, but Saka turned up the heat with a series of underlapping runs and his quality told on the half-hour. A waste-high cross from near the byline was adroitly volleyed in on the run by Smith Rowe, who opened his Premier League account, and for a while Arsenal looked keen to unload the frustration of Thursday’s nightmare against Villarreal.
Within five minutes Nicolas Pépé cut inside and, offered all the space he needed to shoot, did so emphatically with his favoured left foot. It was a glorious finish and yet another demonstration of his obvious talent, but until he starts standing tall on the occasions that really matter nothing he does will quite seem enough.
Arsenal sagged from there, rediscovering the flatness that has dogged too much of their campaign. Pereira, who Allardyce said is “without doubt our most skilful and talented player” reignited the contest and made a summer move more likely. But Furling glanced Matt Phillips’ cross wide and Willian was left to finish the matter, giving Arsenal outside hope of hounding down Spurs for a potential place in the Europa Conference League.
The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.For Allardyce, whose contract is believed to include a break clause that can be activated now West Brom are down, the Premier League would be more than enough.“Words can’t describe it,” he said when asked how much relegation hurt; the summer will give him plenty to chew over. headtopics.comRead more: The Guardian »
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