West Brom vs. Arsenal Preview: Time to Return to the Summit
The games are coming thick and fast as Arsenal’s majestic outing against Napoli is now a thing of the past. There were several lessons learned from the game as the Gunners combined a swift attacking first half display with a more matured and efficient second half outing. While the Gunners are currently on top of their tough Champions League group (*yawns*), they have business to attend to in the Premier League with a visit to the Hawthorns, a happy hunting ground.
In Arsenal’s last four visits to this ground, they have won three times and the last time the Gunners suffered defeat in the West Midlands was in the 2005/06 season, where former Gunner, Kanu Nwankwo, scored a goal in the 2-1 victory over Arsene Wenger’s side. However, the North London outfit is high on confidence, and they have recorded victories in twelve consecutive away games in all competitions including a penalty shoot-out win against West Brom in the League cup last week.
Currently, Arsenal has won eight away Premier League games on the trot, which is widely regarded as their best run of away victories ever, but with three more wins on the bounce, the Gunners will equal a long-standing record of 11 straight away victories currently held by Chelsea in 2008.
Despite the fact that history isn’t on West Brom’s side today, they host the Gunners in a good run of form, following two wins in three games, as their 3-0 victory over Sunderland cost Paolo di Canio his job while their shock 2-1 win over Manchester United in Old Trafford was their first win since the time dinosaurs walked on Earth.
The Gunners will have to be mindful of the threat Morgan Amaltifano poses, as the Olympique Marseille loanee has announced himself in the Premier League with that amazing solo effort against the defending champions at their turf. He also provided an assist for Saido Berahino, that scored the match winner and it’s also worth noting that Berahino leveled the contest for West Brom when they met the Gunners in the Capital One Cup. Strangely enough, it was Amalfitano’s penalty that sealed the Baggie’s fate.
To injuries, West Brom will be without some of their influential players as strikers, Shane Long, and former Gunner, Nicolas Anelka, face late fitness test before the game but they will definitely be without Scott Sinclair, that has been ruled out until after the international break courtesy of a hamstring injury. Zoltan Gera and Matej Vydra are the club’s long-term absentees.
Speaking of hamstrings injuries, Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna is the latest player to join the treatment table after the manager confirmed that he would be out for three weeks for twanging his hammy. Losing Sagna at this stage of the season will be a major blow, but Arsenal can count on Carl Jenkinson like 1, 2, 3… and he’ll be there. Arsenal’s injury list has some real depth with Sagna joining the likes of Abou Diaby (knee), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Knee), Lukas Podolski (Hamstring), Theo Walcott (Abdominal), Yaya Sanago (Back) and Santi Cazorla (ankle).
To team news, I would expect the same back line that started against Napoli to retain their places, with the exception of Jenkinson that is deputizing for Sagna. In midfield, the Mikel Arteta – Mathieu Flamini fulcrum was water-tight and I expect that partnership to continue, which would allow the fluid attacking midfielders switch places with consummate ease. These attacking slots will be occupied by everyone’s sweetheart, Mesut Ozil, the blazing-hot Welsh Dragon, Aaron Ramsey, and the poster boy with his smoking chronicles sorted out, Jack Wilshere. Olivier Giroud will lead the line.
I would expect both lineups to be like this,
With Liverpool grabbing all three points against Crystal Palace, the onus is on Arsenal to put up another great performance that will send them back to the summit of the Premier League.
Here’s to another exciting game of football.
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