Arsenal visit the Hawthorns this weekend on a six match unbeaten run in the Premier League, all victories bar the draw in the North London Derby last time out. That is a run that has put Arsenal level on points with Manchester City at the top of the table.
Albion’s recent form has been patchy at best, and with Albion having only amassed nine points in their twenty Premier League encounters against Arsenal (the lowest against any of the Premier League ever-presents), all omens are pointing towards an away win.
Going further back in history, Albion’s record against the Gunners is equally unimpressive. Since the legendary end to 1978 when the Baggies won on the road at both Old Trafford and Highbury, Albion have played Arsenal on 37 occasions in all competitions, emerging victorious on just three occasions at Highbury in 1983, at the Hawthorns in 2005 and at the Emirates five years ago.
Arsenal’s attacking prowess will prove a challenge even for Tony Pulis’s famous tactical prowess in defence. Only Man City, Leicester and West Ham have scored more goals in the Premier League this season while only Man Utd have conceded fewer.
While Albion’s less-than-speedy defence will be relieved that Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss the game through injury, Alexis Sanchez and Joel Campbell are hardly slouches and the speed of Arsenal’s passing alone will present some serious problems for the Baggies.
You might have guessed that I don’t hold out too much hope for Albion in this game but, having said that, Arsenal have often been unable to break down well-organised defences in the past few years, although they seem to have largely overcome that issue this season. Whatever Pulis’s faults, the defence will be extremely well-drilled and, assuming all perform to their potential, Arsenal won’t find it easy.
Tony Pulis has a decision to make in defence this weekend, as first choice centre back Gareth McAuley misses the game through suspension. Having been mistified as to why James Chester’s only appearances this season had been at full back, he shed a little light on that front this week. While saying that he needed to play more football to ensure his place in the Welsh squad for Euro 2016, he revealed that Pulis had bought him to play at full back. So while us Baggies fans had been perplexed as to why we hadn’t bought a full back over the summer given Pulis’s apparent dislike of Pocognoli and Gamboa, unbeknownst to us, Pulis had bought one disguised as a centre back for a reported fee of up to £8m. No, sorry, I’m still perplexed.
Chester’s hope of regular first team football is likely to be unfulfilled barring an injury to probably two of the back four – I expect Jonas Olsson to full in for McAuley this weekend.
Other than Ben Foster, Albion have no injury worries although Gareth McAuley will miss the game following his red card at Old Trafford. Chris Brunt is now fully recovered from his groin problem.
There could be some doubt as to whether Arsenal’s French players, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny, will be up to playing another game having already played at Wembley on Tuesday evening after last weekend’s terrorist attacks in Paris, but I’d be surprised if they don’t feature. Hector Bellerin is available once again after recovering from his groin problem although Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain are likely to miss out. Rosicky, Wilshere and Welbeck remain long-term absentees.
I’m not expected a goalfest although if Arsenal get an early goal, it could end up being embarrassing. I can’t see past a win for the Gunners.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
24 May 2015 – Premier League
Arsenal 4 (Walcott (3), Wilshere)
West Brom 1 (McAuley)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
29 Nov 2014 – Premier League
West Brom 0
Arsenal 1 (Welbeck)
25 Sep 2010 – Premier League
Arsenal 2 (Nasri (2))
West Brom 3 (Odemwingie, Jara, Thomas)
Last win at the Hawthorns
15 Oct 2005 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Kanu, Carter)
Arsenal 1 (Senderos)
Albion’s Record against Arsenal
|Premier League Record|