Arsenal all-round poor in deserved, dispiriting defeat at West Brom
West Brom beat Arsenal 3-1 as the Gunners lurched to their fourth defeat in five league games. The result leaves Arsene Wenger outside the top four and under greater pressure than ever before.
Tony Pulis' side carried out their game plan to perfection and Arsenal simply could not find an answer. After the match, Wenger intimated he knows what he will do at the end of the season; on this evidence, there can only be one outcome.
It's genuinely difficult to find anything positive to say. Some Arsenal fans might take some comfort from the fact that another defeat will force the managerial issue to a head, but it's impossible for most supporters to see a loss as a good thing.
Where to begin? Arsenal were appalling at The Hawthorns, notably when it came to defending set pieces. The fact Wenger had spoken at length about the aerial threat posed by the Baggies made Arsenal's complete inability to deal with dead balls all the more infuriating.
At the moment, these players don't seem to be playing for their manager. If a coach has lost the dressing room, the consequences are inevitable.
Manager rating out of 10
3 -- Picked the right team, kept the 4-3-3 shape and started Danny Welbeck ahead of Olivier Giroud. However, the failure to prepare properly for West Brom's set piece threat cost Arsenal dearly. This looks like a team lacking organisation and motivation; the responsibility has to fall to the manager.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 5 -- In his short time on the field, Cech did actually make a very good save to deny Darren Fletcher. However, his muscular injury illustrated his increasing physical frailty.
DF Hector Bellerin, 3 -- What's happened to Bellerin? Since returning from injury, the Spaniard has looked a shadow of the player who was one of Arsenal's outstanding performers during the first half of the season. He was in dire form at the Hawthorns and struggled to cope with James McClean and Allan Nyom. For a player recently linked with a move to Barcelona, that speaks volumes.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 3 -- The German is another player whose performances have been poor since the turn of the year. Per Mertesacker was on the bench for Arsenal today: would Wenger consider recalling the club captain at Mustafi's expense?
DF Laurent Koscielny, 5 -- Usually so reliable, Koscielny seemed caught up in the chaos of the Arsenal defence. How long will it be before he grows tired of toiling away at the back of a team so painfully lacking in organisation?
DF Nacho Monreal, 5 -- Did well to get forward throughout the game but generally did too little with the ball. His crossing is simply not up to scratch. Arsenal certainly need a new left-back in the summer.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 5 -- Plenty of energy from Ramsey but little end product, unfortunately typical of the Welsh international's contributions this season. The hope has to be that he will improve with a run of games in his preferred position.
MF Granit Xhaka, 5 -- The summer signing showed his range of passing with the assist for Arsenal's goal, picking out Alexis Sanchez with a wonderful clipped ball to the far post. However, on the defensive front he offered very little protection for the back four. The worry is that he's just not mobile enough to play as a holding midfielder.
MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 4 -- Has been one of Arsenal's best players in recent weeks but this performance was not at that level. In a crowded midfield, Oxlade-Chamberlain struggled to assert himself.
FW Theo Walcott, 3 -- On a day when Walcott would have been eager to show Gareth Southgate was wrong to leave him out of the England squad, he offered next to nothing. He was wasteful in possession and anonymous defensively.
FW Alexis Sanchez, 6 -- Even when Arsenal are poor, Alexis is able to produce. His goal was brilliantly taken but he was eventually forced off after a succession of cynical West Brom fouls. The Baggies had a clear tactic to hit him hard -- and unfortunately it eventually paid dividends.
FW Danny Welbeck, 4 -- Thundered a second-half header against the bar, but was otherwise very quiet. Welbeck actually fared better when switched to the right flank rather than operating through the middle. A bit of rustiness is understandable for a player starting just his second league match of the season.
GK David Ospina, 3 -- Pulis must have been delighted to see the Colombian forced on by Cech's injury in the 38th minute. He was awful for West Brom's second goal and predictably stuck to his line for the third.
FW Olivier Giroud, 5 -- Came on for Walcott (65) but did offer much more than the English international.
FW Alex Iwobi, NR -- Came on when Alexis Sanchez was finally kicked out of the game after 78 minutes.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.