WBA vs Arsenal Pre-match analysis

 

After the 1-1 draw with Tottenham, Arsenal fans faced the bizarre sensation of genuinely welcoming the international break. The timing seemed perfect; the opportunity to nurse the wounded back to health and a chance for those left out of their respective international teams to take a much needed breather.

But as Arsène Wenger met with the media on Thursday, yet more disappointment ensued, with the news that Héctor Bellerín would be the only casualty returning to the squad for the trip to The Hawthorns. It had been hoped that one of Aaron Ramsey or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, if not both, would return to offer some much needed guile and attacking impetus to Arsenal’s attacking line, but regrettably, both remain short.

Their absence, worsened by the continued injury problems to Theo Walcott, means that the manager is yet again faced with a dilemma on the right side of the Gunners front line. While Joel Campbell has displayed endeavour and fight, his lack of quality has been apparent for all to see. And although Kieran Gibbs undoubtedly put himself in contention following his goal-scoring cameo against Spurs, his selection would mean Alexis Sanchez starting from the right as opposed to his favoured left-wing starting berth. However, his introduction in the North London Derby offered some much needed natural width and a stability that had been lacking throughout much of the game.

Hector Bellerin's return to action will boost Gunners

Hector Bellerin’s return to action will boost Gunners

The return of Bellerín however could give Wenger food for thought. The Spaniard has consistently shown his worth in the final third since his emergence last season and having operated as a right winger during the infancy of his career, he could potentially offer a solution in front of Mathieu Debuchy. However, the form of the latter has been a cause for concern this season, and this could be a telling factor in the boss’ decision.

Perhaps the most worrying situation is the fitness of Alexis. The Chilean looked in desperate need of a rest prior to the international break, and having played two games on the other side of the world despite concerns of a calf injury, his fitness looks unlikely to have improved. Many had hoped that the return of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey would have allowed Alexis to at least start this game on the bench, but that luxury appears to have all but vanished.

Wenger spoke briefly in his press conference about the mental state of Laurent Koscielny following the tragedies in France last week, and it remains to be seen whether he will start on the weekend. Although he would certainly be a loss, Gabriel has proven himself to be an able deputy and could slot into the back four.

Will Koscielny be in the right frame of mind to play this weekend?

Will Koscielny be in the right frame of mind to play this weekend?

West Brom come into the game on the back of two straight defeats to Leicester and Manchester United respectively. At times, the Baggies have shown all the hallmarks of a Tony Pulis side, winning 1-0 on no less than four occasions. Equally though, they have too often been leaking goals, something that would not ordinarily be synonymous with the former Stoke City boss.

Most notably though, West Brom struggle to score goals. They have notched just ten in their opening 12 games (the joint lowest in the league) and seem to rely on nicking a goal and trying see the game out. Salomón Rondón has at times shown his undoubted quality, but too often he, alongside the unsettled Saido Berahino, has failed to make any impact.

While Arsenal head into this game with a depleted squad, it is the sort of game that they simply have to win if they are to be considered genuine title contenders. The following three games then see us take on Norwich, Sunderland and Aston Villa. It’s impossible not to look at these fixtures and think anything short of maximum points will be acceptable. If we escape with 12 points, and that’s a big if, we’ll set ourselves up for a crunch match at the Emirates with Manchester City on December 21st.

 

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. All focus must be on picking up three points from the Midlands and returning home with no fresh injury concerns. And as for the right side of Arsenal’s attack? Your guess is as good as mine!

 

By

@tomdow7

“Arsenal is my life. I travel up and down the country and plan the rest of my life around the fixture list. A bad result ruins my entire week.”

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