Live from The Hawthorns, West Bromwich.
15:00 Hrs GMT, Sunday, 13th May
The last days of previous seasons haven’t been any short of extraordinary for Arsenal in recent times. In the 2005-06′ season, they stepped on the Highbury pitch for the last time knowing that European places can only be guaranteed if their fiercest rivals Tottenham lose their game and Arsenal are able to put it past Wigan. Arsenal talisman Thierry Henry took personal pride quite seriously smashing three past Wigan, the last being an emotional kick from the spot, his final goal at the historical Highbury pitch. Arsenal qualified as Spurs lost the last European spot in incredible circumstances. Arsene talks about that season too.
“[It reminds me of the final game at Highbury] a little bit because the qualifying was the same, with the Champions League at stake. There is even more uncertainty because fourth place is not this time necessarily in the Champions League.”
In the next 5 seasons, Arsenal never lost their last game of the season, amassing 11 goals in the process, they would very much want to repeat that feat this time around.
It is all poised quite beautifully for a neutral viewer this season. Arsenal are one point ahead of Spurs and Newcastle as they all take to the pitch knowing that winning is the only available option for European dreams to be fulfilled. For Arsenal though, it is a sure-shot qualification if they win their game, Newcastle and Spurs, even if they win their game, will have to wait for Bayern Munich to do them a favor on the 19th of May, by beating Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League final.
For the Baggies, it has been quite a decent season, they did lose to Arsenal 0-3 in the first leg, but has conceded only two goals more than Arsenal as far as their defence is concerned in this season. They have not scored a lot of goals though, mostly depending on star striker Peter Odemwingie to come up with the aces. Roy Hodgson, who will take to the field for the last time as West Brom’s manager, will indeed be satisfied with his team’s performance this season, and also with his contribution, rightfully being awarded the England job ahead of front-runner Harry Redknapp.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Safely seated at 10th place, West Brom doesn’t really have anything to play for, but one last appreciation game for their departing manager Hodgson. They will be aware of the spoilsport that they can play to Arsenal’s European party on Sunday night and help other teams in the process. Front-man Shane Long has stated that the team owes it to the manager -
“It’s been a pleasure playing under Roy and I’m a better player for it because I’ve learned a lot of new things. He’s turned us into a stable club in the Premier League that are looking up rather than looking down”.
West Brom’s biggest worry is the non-availability of captain Chris Brunt after having his tonsils removed recently. Their highest goal-scorer of the season, Peter Odwemwingie is doubtful with a leg injury. Former Arsenal man Jerome Thomas is unwell and will be fighting against time to start against the Gunners on Sunday. Austrian Midfielder Paul Scharner plays his last game in West Brom colors having run out of contract and is yet to search for a new club. Steven Reid and Zoltan Jera are long-term absentees, and will continue to be so.
Possible Starting Line-Up [4-4-2]: Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Morrison, Scharner, Mulumbu, Dorrans; Long, Fortune
It is a ‘Cup Final’ for the travelling Arsenal outfit, one which they can’t afford to lose at any cost. The result will not only affect their monetary condition, it will affect contract situations of some of their most influential players in the team. Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott are both into their last year of contract, and will have second thoughts if Arsenal fail to grab the all-important third spot at the end of Sunday. As far as arrivals are concerned, Arsenal have already secured the services of Lukas Podolski, a terrific signing to relieve van Persie from scoring responsibilities.
It will also be the last game for long-time Arsenal man Pat Rice, who has served the club well, from winning that incredible FA Cup final in 1979 as a captain to finishing as assistant coach to Arsene in appreciable circumstances. As far as team news is concerned, Mikel Arteta, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby and Bacary Sagna are out for the season. Long-time absentee Jack Wilshere will still be out, having just started training sessions with the team. van Persie, 90 minutes away from a much deserved Golden Boot, will start in attack along with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho or Yossie Benayoun, the Israeli quite possibly playing his last game in Arsenal colors. In the absence of Sagna, Jenkinson is expected to start at right full-back. The rest of the team remains same with Ramsey filling in for Arteta.
Possible Starting Line-Up [4-1-2-3]: Szczesny, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Jenkinson; Song; Ramsey, Rosicky; Yossi, van Persie, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Key Match Facts
- Robin van Persie has been involved in 40 of the 71 goals Arsenal have scored this season – 56%.
- The only time Arsenal have lost to West Brom in recent times, was the game in Sep-2010′ – 2-3 losers!
- Roy Hodgson has managed 16 clubs and 3 countries as he takes up the England job.
- Arsenal players to have played for the Baggies are – Kanu, Kevin Campbell and Junichi Inamoto.
- In the long rivalry between the two clubs, West Brom had won the 1900-01 FA CUP against Arsenal 1-0.
TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out For
Robin van Persie (Arsenal)
The League’s player of the season, Arsenal’s frontman has had a terrific season, and his manager has already requested for his services yet again to make them cross the border, as if he hasn’t done enough for the side already. van Persie has scored 30 times and assisted another 10 goals in the league this season, an incredible contribution from the team’s skipper.
West Brom 1 – 3 Arsenal
Though West Brom will be up for the task, having to appreciate their departing manager’s contribution to the team’s recent success, Arsenal will be too much to handle in this affair. The travelling party is expected to seal the deal on the final day like they have done on countless other occasions in the club’s illustrious history.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past
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