Matt Wilson takes a look at the talking points to come out of the stunning 3-1 win against Arsenal.
1 BAGGIES DEFINITELY NOT ON THE BEACH YET
When you put as much emphasis on 40 points as Tony Pulis does, there’s bound to be a subconscious release when you get there. But that only lasted one game. Both Pulis and the players insisted intensity remained high, and this was exactly the performance they needed to back those words up. It’s been a stunning season, but this was arguably the best team performance of all. To a man, Albion were on it. All the fall-out focused on Arsene Wenger’s future, but the Baggies deserved plenty of credit too.
2 JAMES MCCLEAN IS STILL A VITAL MEMBER OF THE SQUAD
It’s been slightly forgotten because of what’s come after but McClean actually started the season in good form, and only lost his place because he was suspended for the Leicester game, which kicked the campaign into gear. But his man of the match performance against Arsenal proved that he is more than just a bench-warmer who can come on for the last 15 minutes. He had a hand in all three goals and played with more passion than the whole Arsenal team put together. Now he’s in his prime, that £1.5million paid for him just under two seasons ago looks like good business.
3 LIVERMORE’S ENGLAND CALL-UP RICHLY DESERVED
Any doubters who watched Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off on television will have realised what Gareth Southgate saw in Jake Livemore. The January signing was a man possessed, harrying and hurrying every Arsenal player at every opportunity. But he’s also got a good passing range and showed the desire in the second half to get on the ball and dictate play. He could be in for a big week and based on his recent performances, he will impress an even wider audience if given the chance.
4 AND PERHAPS DAWSON WILL FOLLOW HIM!
Albion’s unassuming defender caught the eye at centre-back recently, but he’s also quietly improved at right-back this season. His crossing his much better, and his decision-making is quicker. There aren’t many English defenders outside the squad as versatile as him or with as much Premier League experience, and if he keeps on this trajectory, it might not be long until his name is mentioned in the England conversation. Dawson played 15 times for England under-21s, nobody makes defenders quite like Pulis, and he proved with his two headers against Arsenal that he’s a goal threat too.
5 LAI’S RELATIONSHIP WITH SUPPORTERS GROWING
There will always be an element of fear when someone relatively unknown buys your club, and while Guochuan Lai’s hands-off approach that lets experienced men like John Williams and Tony Pulis take the reins is sensible, it means we haven’t heard much from him. But after finally watching his side win a game, Lai then set about making friends with the fans. There was a lovely thumbs-up photo on the M40 but also a few snaps outside the ground of the owner grinning from ear to ear. His motives for the purchase lie in what expertise a Premier League team can offer him in winning government contracts in China, but it's important supporters feel connected to him too.
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