Same old Arsenal as Wenger again fails to beat Pulis as gunners go down to West Brom
It felt like a familiar story for Arsenal at The Hawthorns on Saturday. With an opportunity to go top of the Premier League the north Londoners slipped to their first league defeat since September and ended the weekend in fourth place as some old failings resurfaced once more.
Francis Coquelin and Mikel Arteta joined Arsenal's long injury list along the way, with fears the Frenchman could be out for some time with knee-ligament damage.
So the 2-1 loss was anything but ideal preparation for tomorrow's must-win Champions League game against Dynamo Zagreb and also creates fresh doubts about their domestic prospects.
As Arsenal have only won once away to a Tony Pulis team, and with their lack of defensive focus and killer touch, it was hard to escape the feeling that we have been here many times since that last title win in 2004.
"I don't deny that," admitted Wenger afterwards, when it was put to him that this was Arsenal stumbling on the kind of terrain that always seems to trouble them the most. "We became a bit too easy at 1-0 [ahead] despite the experience we have in the squad."
Wenger admitted it is a "difficult moment for us", adding: "In the last two games we took one point out of six and that is very disappointing when you are on such a great run."
If Santi Cazorla's late failure from the penalty spot - the Spaniard losing his feet as he struck the ball - capped a second half of missed chances, Wenger was especially vexed by his team's defending. His players did not deal with Chris Brunt's free-kick into the box for James Morrison's equalising goal and then conceded again through Arteta's own goal, undoing the advantage given them by Olivier Giroud's header.
The injuries to Arteta, who suffered a recurrence of his calf problem, and Coquelin, who left the stadium on crutches with a knee injury, are an additional headache. Mathieu Flamini is the only available holding midfielder going into tomorrow's Zagreb game. Arsenal need a home victory over the Croats, and an Olympiakos defeat at Bayern Munich, to retain any hope of progressing and Wenger does not expect any of his injured players back to provide a timely boost. "[Aaron] Ramsey will be short and [Alex Oxlade] Chamberlain will be short and they are the two closest," said the Frenchman, who is also missing Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere.
Pulis, by contrast, could take satisfaction from the defensive resilience of his Albion players as well as a "superb" display by Irish winger James McClean who gave the Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin an awkward afternoon.