Wilshere a rare Arsenal bright spot, but Gunners still drop points at West Brom
2017 ended in frustrating fashion for Arsenal after a hopeless decision from celebrity referee Mike Dean allowed West Brom to equalise late in the game as the two sides played out a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
It was far from a vintage performance from the Gunners, but it looked as if an 83rd-minute Alexis Sanchez free kick -- deflected into the net by James McClean -- had given them the win, but as ever a referee who enjoys being the centre of attention made sure he made the headlines.
Kieran Gibbs hooked the ball into the arms of Calum Chambers, who was less than a yard away and had no chance of getting out of the way, but Dean decided it was worthy of a spot kick, and Jay Rodriguez tucked the ball home to earn his side a point.
The focus will, of course, be on what was an absurd decision by a dreadful official, but it ought not to mask Arsenal's other deficiencies on the day. Against the worst team in the league, they were basically toothless, and that's what Arsene Wenger can control, not the refereeing.
They were in short supply, really. Chambers had a solid game at the back, and there were moments from Jack Wilshere that added a bit of spark but in truth Arsenal were below par.
In some ways it's understandable that Arsenal lacked some zip. They played just three days ago, but when facing the team who are bottom of the league and who haven't won since August, these are two points dropped, and in such a close race for the top four, they can't afford to do that.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Wenger picked a reasonable team, but maybe he could have added another attacker rather than bringing on Per Mertesacker for Laurent Koscielny. It seemed overly cautious.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 6 -- He still can't save a penalty, but the Czech international did well overall, dealing well with a number of dangerous West Brom crosses.
DF Calum Chambers, 7 -- He was a bright spot, and the penalty award against him was really harsh. He performed well and did not deserve the punishment doled out to him by the referee.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 6 -- Picked up a yellow for a silly foul, but otherwise did fine.
DF Laurent Koscielny, 6 -- Seemed a bit subdued and worryingly left the field during the second half, which must put his participation for Wednesday's game against Chelsea in doubt.
MF Hector Bellerin, 6 -- Found it hard to be as effective down the right-hand side as he was against Crystal Palace on Thursday, never seemed to have a passing option ahead of him.
MF Granit Xhaka, 6 -- Lots of passes, but unable to find any kind of spark from midfield.
MF Jack Wilshere, 7 -- Looked the most likely to make something happen, seems to have found his groove, and that little burst of pace that allows him to drive his team forward was there.
MF Sead Kolasinac, 6 -- He struggles with players who go directly at him, but went off injured in the first half after a nasty foul by Gareth Barry. Will probably miss Chelsea too.
FW Alex Iwobi, 5 -- The young Nigerian is a player of potential, but right now he's struggling for form. Never seems to operate well from the right and Wenger needs to take him out of the firing line a bit.
FW Alexis Sanchez, 6 -- Unable to make the kind of contribution he did at Palace, and his "goal" is officially an own-goal by McClean.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 7 -- Arsenal have still to find a way to get good service to their record signing, but he came close to scoring after some nice individual play, only for the keeper to save with his legs.
MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 6 -- Replaced Kolasinac and did fine as left wing-back once again.
DF Per Mertesacker, N/R -- Shored up a defence that didn't really need it -- not Wenger's most adventurous change.
FW Danny Welbeck, N/R -- He's been a regular sub in recent weeks, but not once has he made any impact. The rumoured imminent sale of Theo Walcott meant he was the only attacking option.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.