The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
October 06, 2013; 16:00 BST
West Bromwich Albion host Arsenal FC at the Hawthorns on Sunday in what promises to be an exciting match. Historically Arsenal have had the upper hand in this fixture and have won four of the last six meetings with the Baggies. The Hawthorns have been a happy hunting ground for the Gunners – winning five of their last six games. This two sides have already faced each other in the League Cup, where Arsenal managed to grab a hard fought win on penalties after Saido Berahino cancelled out Thomas Eisfeld’s opener.
After a fairly disappointing start to their league campaign West Brom are slowly but steadily climbing up the points table. They have won their last two game in the league, including a memorable victory over Manchester United at the Old Trafford in their last game. It was a historic result and nothing short of what their performance deserved. Morgan Amalfitano and youngster Saido Berahino scored for the away side, as West Brom jumped up to 10th in the league table.
Arsenal are currently one of the most in form side in Europe at the moment, having won their last 10 matches in all competitions. The Gunners have had a fantastic start to their season and currently leads the Premier League points table having won five of the opening six matches.
The Gunners are coming into this game on the back of a brilliant performance against Napoli in the Champions League and they will be confident of maintaining their record breaking away form in this trip to the West Midlands.
Team News and Tactical Brief
West Bromwich Albion
Steve Clarke have a lot of injury worries to contain with ahead of this fixture. Matej Vydra, Zoltan Gera, Ben Foster and Chris Bunt are still out injured and out of contention for this fixture. There are also doubts about the fitness of Nicolas Anelka, James Morrison and Scott Sinclair, although the later is expected start from the bench.
Clarke is expected to make only one change to the side that won at Old Trafford last weekend. Scott Sinclair, who was replaced by Saido Berahino in the 13th minute of the match against Manchester United will lose his place in the side. 20-year-old Englishman Berahino, who scored against Arsenal in the League cup this season, will make his first start in the league this season after impressing everyone with his footballing abilities.
West Brom will deploy similar tactics to the one they used so successfully against Manchester United. Steve Clarke will use his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation with Yacob and Mulumbu protecting the defence. The duo will play a crucial role in breaking up Arsenal’s play and putting the likes of Ozil and Wilshere under pressure when they have possession in the attacking third.
The Baggies will sit deep and will look to hit Arsenal on the counter attacks. Anichebe has added a lot of physicality upfront and is capable of holding up play. In Berahino, Sessegnon and Amalfitano they have a potent attack that is capable of causing problems to the Arsenal defence.
Steve Clarke will look to use the pace of his wingers and Sessegnon to exploit the space left behind by the marauding Arsenal full-backs. West Brom themselves have been fairly resolute at the back with Jonas Olsson in fine form presently.
Probable Starting Line up [4-2-3-1]: Myhill (GK); Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob, Mulumbu; Berahino, Sessegnon, Amalfitano; Anichebe
Like Steve Clarke, Arsene Wenger has a long injury list to contain with at the moment. Abou Diaby, Yaya Sanogo, Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain are all out injured at the moment. Santi Cazorla is reportedly close to attaining full fitness and a return to the starting line-up, but Wenger is reportedly unwilling to risk him before the international break is over. There are also slight concerns about the fitness of Sagna before this game, but the Frenchman is expected recover in time.
Arsene Wenger is expected to make only one change to the starting eleven that was fielded against Napoli in the midweek. Jack Wilshere, who came on as a substitute in that game, will replace Tomas Rosicky in the line-up. The Czech international is returning from an injury and Arsene Wenger is unlikely to many risks with him at the moment.
Arsene Wenger has the problem of plenty in the attacking half of the midfield in the squad and with the likes of Cazorla, Walcott and Podolski set to return, it will be interesting to see the combination he favours with a full fit squad. Aaron Ramsey started on the right against Napoli, although he later switched positions with Rosicky and Ozil as the match progressed. It has certainly increased the fluidity and movement in the attacking third and something which creates a lot of space for them to manoeuvre the ball.
Against West Brom, Wilshere is expected to start on the left, Ozil through the middle and Ramsey on the right, although none is expected to stick to that role. The midfield partnership of Arteta and Flamini is a new one for the Gunners, and one that worked well against Napoli. Flamini’s return to the club has certainly added a lot of steel to the midfield, something which they have lacked for a while. The duo of Flamini and Arteta will be crucial in stopping the West Brom counter attacks and they will have to cover the space left behind by Gibbs and Sagna.
Probable Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1]: Szczesny (GK); Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Arteta, Flamini; Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere; Giroud
- West Brom have won two successive matches in the Barclays Premier League – the last time they won three in a row was in November 2012.
- The Gunners have scored a league-high four goals in the opening 15 minutes of Barclays Premier League games this season.
- Arsenal FC have scored the first goal of the game in each of their six Premier League games this season.
- Arsene Wenger’s side have made a league-high tally of 12 through-balls in the Premier League this season.
- Steve Clarke has the best win percentage of any West Brom manager in the Premier League (36.4%).
Player To Watch Out For
Morgan Amalfitano (West Brom)
The 28-year-old Frenchman has been in brilliant form this season and has already made a huge impact upon his arrival from France. The former Marseille player has added a lot of spark to West Brom’s attack, something which was highlighted in the match against Manchester United. Amalfitano almost single-handedly took the game to United – scoring one and setting up another. Arsenal defenders, specially Gibbs will have to keep a close eye on the Frenchman in this game.
West Brom 1-3 Arsenal
Both the sides are high on confidence at the moment, something which should lead to an entertaining match. West Brom will come out hard at Arsenal, but the Gunners’ superior quality on the pitch should help them tackle this tricky encounter and maintain their fine run of form. Arsenal should win this by a two goal margin.