Match Reports

No record as Albion are sunk by Pepe's double

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Arsenal complete the double over Graham Potter's team with final-day victory.

By Bruce Talbot • 23 May 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
A brace from Nicolas Pepe ensured the hosts took all three points.
  • Arsenal 2, Albion 0

Albion couldn't set a new Premier League points record as the season ended with defeat at the Emirates.

Nicolas Pepe's two second-half goals enabled the Gunners to complete the double over Albion, one of only three teams to have done that this season. It means Graham Potter's side finished the season in 16th place.

Albion had their moments, particularly in an entertaining second half, but struggled to carve out clear-cut chances.

What happened...

Lewis Dunk returned after serving his two-match ban as one of two changes to the side that beat champions Manchester City on Tuesday. Leo Trossard came in for the injured Danny Welbeck while the bench included under-23 goalkeeper Tom McGill.

By Paul Hazlewood
Jakub Moder's low drive was blocked by Rob Holding.

In the absence of Welbeck and top scorer Neal Maupay, Albion were relying on their wide players and Jakub Moder, operating in a more central role, to carry an attacking threat. They had two openings in a first half largely dominated by Arsenal, although it wasn’t until the 44th minute, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the bar, that they looked like breaching an Albion rear-guard defending with their customary diligence.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh robbed Emile Smith-Rowe in the Arsenal half in the 27th minute but in the end his tame effort was neither a shot or a cross, and Bernd Leno gathered easily. The winger was involved again more productively nine minutes later and this time he picked out Alexis Mac Allister who dummied the ball for Moder and it needed two covering defenders to block the his shot.

Arsenal had good spells of possession and there were a couple of scares for the visitors. Rob Holding thought he’d beaten Moder’s attempt to clear on the line when he touched home a corner, but the defender was flagged for offside. Then in the final minute of the half Aubameyang cleverly headed Granit Xhaka’s right-wing cross over Adam Webster and Rob Sanchez but his looping effort came back off the bar.

By Paul Hazlewood
Jakub Moder's low drive was blocked by Rob Holding.

Adam Lallana and Aaron Connolly came on at the break but within three minutes of the restart Albion conceded. Callum Chambers picked out Pepe 15 yards out and he had time and space to take a touch before firing right-footed past Sanchez.

Connolly had a chance to level moments later when he spun in behind and saw his first shot blocked by Holding and his follow-up effort on the angle curled wide of the far post. Leno then had to scramble across goal when Yves Bissouma's right-foot shot went narrowly past the left-hand post.

Albion looked a threat but on the hour Pepe made it 2-0. Odegaard's pass found him on the right-hand side of the box and with slide-rule precision, he side-footed the ball with his left foot through Dunk’s legs and inside the far post.

The visitors kept going. Leno had to push away Moder’s drive from the left-hand corner of the box but the woodwork denied Arsenal a second time when Thomas Partey’s shot from inside the D hit the crossbar.

The closing stages were played at training-ground pace as the efforts of a long and gruelling season seemed to take its toll. Potter and his players will certainly enjoy the break, but it won’t be long before preparations for their fifth season in the Premier League take shape.

Albion: Sanchez, White, Webster, Dunk, Burn, Gross, Bissouma, Jahanbakhsh (Lallana 45), Mac Allister (Alzate 65), Moder, Trossard (Connolly 45).

Unused subs: Steele, McGill, Karbownik, Tau, Caicedo, Zeqiri.

Attendance: 10,000