Arsenal on Saturday suffered a fourth defeat in five league games as Craig Dawson’s double helped West Brom inflict a major blow to the Gunners’ hopes of a top-four finish.
Dawson capitalised on some awful defending from the Gunners to head both of his goals from corners – the first to give the Baggies the lead, the second to seal their win.
Arsenal had initially rallied after falling behind, levelling through Alexis Sanchez’s close-range finish – the Chilean forward’s 18th league goal of the season.
However, they fell behind again 10 minutes into the second half when substitute Hal Robson-Kanu rolled the ball home with only his second touch after coming on.
Arsenal, who lost goalkeeper Petr Cech to injury, were outfought and unable to rally a second time, their challenge wilting soon after Danny Welbeck’s header from a corner struck the crossbar.
It was an eventful encounter, both on the pitch and above it as two planes pulling banners – one pro-Arsene Wenger and the other against the Arsenal boss – made circles around The Hawthorns.
It was the anti-Wenger camp who were most present and vocal by the end, though, holding aloft banners declaring “Enough is enough’’ and booing their beleaguered manager’s decision to substitute Sanchez, who had picked up a knock.
Wenger’s future beyond the end of this season remains unknown, but the facts are these – Arsenal trail fourth place by five points (albeit with a game in hand).
They must arrest a run that has seen them win just one of their last five league games if they are to continue their proud record of finishing in the top four in each of Wenger’s 20 seasons at the club so far.
After claiming a top-two finish in every season between 1997-98 and 2004-05, Arsenal have often flirted with fifth or worse since.
However, this is looking increasingly likely to be the campaign when they drop below the division’s premier quartet.