That performance yesterday was what the Palace game was supposed to look like on Sunday, wasn’t it? As the twighlight draws upon another season and Arsenal games begin to run out with little to play for, the team dispatches a mid-table side without any real song and dance, to which we finally get to draw level with Newcastle on goals scored at home.

That was the sort of game that, had we seen more of during the season, we would probably be in with a shout of contesting. Much like Palace, Swansea, Southampton et al, West Brom came for a point and from the off it was clear they didn’t really want to show any attacking intent. Which meant that unless Arsenal scored and scored early, a frustrating night could well ensue for us home fans, as we have seen all too often this season.

But perhaps the stale atmosphere to match Sunday’s stale performance had jolted the players a bit, because pretty much from the off we were dominant, but more than that, we were also passing it quite well, I thought. The little triangles – so symptomatic of an Arsène Wenger side in seasons past – seemed to return and players like Elneny and Iwobi were central to that, as well as Hector Bellerin in the first half. There seemed to be more shape and fluency about us and West Brom were left chasing shadows for large parts. I’ll spare you the morose aside whereby I lament that the team has not done this enough this season. But essentially, this was a routine a home win as any of us can hope for, and felt a lot more ‘Arsenal’, if that makes sense?

The talk before the game in a relatively empty Phibbers, was about how the atmosphere and lack of fans could affect the team performance, but perhaps the players had realised that they have a role to play in geeing up the fans. They started well and those of us who had turned up (I estimate we must of had around the 52,000 mark) responded to the better movement with a few ripples of noise.

As with all things in football though, the lifeblood of the game is goals, so it was lovely to see Alexis bagging another one to continue his return to form. Tom noted to me after he’d scored, that it was Alexis’ fourth in four, perhaps suggesting that the Alexis we had lost had returned. Indeed, he was a handful all night. His quick turn of body and change of pace was too much for any West Brom player too tight and, clearly knowing he was being closely marked, he was able to spin off his marker again and again, including for the goal. For me he was man-of-the-match not just for his two excellent finishes, but for being his same old effervescent self whilst on the ball, or closing people down whilst not in possession. I agree with Tom – this was Alexis early 2015. This was the Chilean that makes an impact in games. This was our star from last season. And boy were we thankful for that. 

We should be, because not to put too much of a downer on things, but Giroud was pretty poor last night. He had a few better flicks on in the second half and was better with his link-up play after the break, but he’s clearly a man short of form and possibly confidence, which means when he’s in that mood he’s of no use to anyone. I can only remember one effort straight down Foster’s throat in the second half.

Quick aside: Foster took an age on every kick. I get that ‘keepers do that, but he did it as soon as they were behind. It was bizarre. Why waste time when you’re 2-0 down?

On the left side of the flank Iwobi had a decent game, bar one moment in the second half when he held on to the ball too long when he should have released Özil in space, but I’m not going to hold that against him too much. He’s good player when he’s running at defenders, but experience will teach him when to trick his way past a defender and when to release it, so I’ll not hold anything against him too much.

Defensively we looked decent with Mertesacker and Koscielny back together and after the Gabriel experiment for half a dozen games, you do wonder if Arsène might just keep the band together if we can stay solid like that. A clean sheet is always a good thing and based on last nights performance, I’d fancy keeping it as it is for Sunday, despite Big Per’s obvious limitations. He certainly seems to bring about more calm than the Brazilian does.

I also thought the midfield duet of Elneny and Ramsey was interesting. I’m becoming quite fond of the Egyptian, don’t you know. He looks like an Artetaesque player; win the ball, recycle possession, distribute. Repeat. He rarely loses it, he covers ground, he always looks composed and his technical ability in comparison with Coquelin is quite obvious. Last night Arsène’s experiment with him alongside somebody else whilst he was the most defensive-minded player worked. Many of us – myself included – assumed that a bruising defensive midfielder alongside a cultured one was the way forward. Elneny is showing that perhaps – and only more games will tell this – you just need somebody alongside him to be that creative influence on the ball in order for a midfield partnership to blossom. It does feel like we should be ‘Elneny + 1’ at the moment. Perhaps Coquelin should be concerned. If Mo can play with Rambo, can he play with Jack? Or Santi? Does he become the default rather than the Frenchman? 

It’s an interesting conundrum to have and I wonder if Arsène will try it again on Sunday? Only time will tell.

So we’re back on third, needing probably three wins out of four to secure that spot, because I think City will slip up like we have this season, so we just need to get three against Sunderland to secure that automatic third spot. Then we can put this season to bed and forget it ever happened. 

Catch you tomorrow.