Angry Walcott could Punish the Baggies
Match Preview: West Brom vs. Arsenal – Premier League – 18.03.2017
Pulis sides are notoriously difficult to break down, especially on their home patch, and Arsenal have looked disjointed in attack for a number of weeks. The Gunners beat Lincoln 5-0 in the FA Cup last weekend but the non-league side did well to keep a vastly superior team at bay for almost the entire first half. Confidence was visibly low among the Arsenal players and they needed to be patient to break the deadlock. Similar patience will be required at the Hawthorns where Arsenal have recorded just one win in their last three visits.
West Brom are adept at handling the physical presence of a player like Giroud yet Arsenal will not want to lose that edge so a return to the starting line up for Welbeck could be the perfect solution. Danny Welbeck will still offer Arsenal a physical presence and aerial threat against the large, dominant duo of Evans and McAuley but he also brings bags of pace and a direct running style that will unsettle the Albion defence.
Alexis Sanchez is another fast, mobile player who will cause problems for West Brom and Arsène Wenger would be wise to complete the tactic with Walcott on the opposite flank. Theo Walcott must be feeling rather bitter at his England omission and will want to send a message to Gareth Southgate. Arsenal’s longest serving player is dangerous at the best of times but the Walcott we’ve seen this season has developed an angry, hard streak that oddly suits him and has enhanced his game.
Any one of those players is a handful for most defences but all three together will give Arsenal’s attack a disruptive edge that could heap misery on the Albion defence. Should the manager opt for a discommoding front line he may wish to add a bit more steel in midfield. Mohamed Elneny and Mesut Özil are back in the squad so aside from Oxlade-Chamberlain who picked up a knock against Lincoln and is uncertain to feature the manager has an almost full-strength midfield to choose from. It is possible the Arsenal manager will look to partner Xhaka and Elneny for a bit more defensive stability and combativeness however, should Ramsey start he will be making his 200th Premier League appearance.
Arsenal’s top four destiny is in their own hands thanks to 1-2 games in hand on their rivals and Manchester City and Liverpool duking it out on Sunday. A win today would set them on the right path and I expect Theo Walcott at least to take out his frustrations on West Brom.
Arsenal (from): Cech, Ospina, Martinez, Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Gibbs, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Walcott, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Lucas, Alexis, Welbeck, Giroud.
“What is for sure is that we are in a position where we can’t waste points” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Arsenal 1-0 West Brom (26.12.2016)
- Arsenal 2-0 West Brom (21.04.2016)
- West Brom 2-1 Arsenal (21.11.2015)
Baggies’ centre-forward Salomon Rondon may not have scored in 13 games but that makes him no less of a a menace to an Arsenal defence that has shipped as many goals in their last 5 games as in their previous 12 which included two clean sheets against non-league opposition. However, West Brom’s biggest threat comes from set-pieces with Albion topping the charts for goals from set-pieces, 16 – that’s three more than any other team in the Premier League. Pulis’ side are also dangerous in open play as they boast intelligent movement and a goal scoring threat from wide thanks to ex-Tottenham winger Nacer Chadli. The former Tottenham Hotspur man would no doubt love to put another dent in the Gunners’ season. However, they are imbalanced in wide areas due to the absence of Matt Phillips whose creativity will be missed.
Pulis has often succeeded in frustrating Wenger by refusing to engage in a game of football and setting up his side to impose their physiques on the game. The Gunners should expect rough treatment and an unsympathetic referee.
- Arsène Wenger’s side have won only one of their last six away matches in the league and kept one clean sheet in the last nine.
- West Brom’s only win in the last 13 competitive meetings came at The Hawthorns last season.
- Arsenal have scored in 22 consecutive league matches against West Brom, winning 15 of them, since a 0-0 away draw in November 1985.
- Albion could earn consecutive top-flight home victories against Arsenal for the first time in 60 years.
- Aaron Ramsey could make his 200th Premier League appearance.
- The Baggies could lose three Premier League games in a row for the first time this season. They have never suffered three straight league defeats without scoring since Tony Pulis took charge in January 2015.
- The Gunners have lost three of their last four league fixtures, as well as suffering two 5-1 defeats against Bayern Munich during that period.
- West Brom have won seven of their last nine league matches at The Hawthorns. However, they are vying to avoid consecutive home defeats for the first time since last April.
- Arsenal have been beaten in five of their last 11 league matches. Their previous five losses were spread over 40 games.
- Albion have only earned one point from their nine games against the seven sides above them in the league table – losing seven in a row since a home draw with Spurs in October.
- The Arsenal are in danger of losing three successive Premier League away games for the first time since October 2011.
- Salomon Rondon has failed to score in all 13 league and cup appearances since his hat-trick against Swansea City on 14 December.
- Alexis Sanchez has been directly involved in a league-high 26 goals in as many appearances this season, scoring 17 and providing nine assists.
Courtesy of Opta & BBC Sport.
If Arsenal turn up they could easily win this 4-0 but I’m going to pin my colours to scrappy 1-0 win.
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