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ARSENAL

The Hawthornes, West Bromwich, England
November 29th, 2014; 12:45 GMT
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For both West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal, the beginning of the season has represented disappointment. West Brom find themselves only three points above relegation. They have struggled to scored goals. They have only won one match in their last six. Arsenal have had their difficulties earning points as well. While most of their dropped points were due to poor performances, their last performance in the English Premier League did provide some encouragement. While they did lose, they dominated their match against Manchester United, particularly in the first half. It could be that Arsenal are set to go on a run of results that is more in line with the amount of chances they are creating.

Team New and Tactics

West Brom

For the Baggies, Jonas Olsson, Silvestre Varela, and Sebastian Pocognoli all seem set to miss this match due to injury. Claudio Yacob will also miss this fixture. He picked up a red card in West Brom’s last match, meaning that he will be suspended for this fixture.
West Brom will probably continue with their 4-2-3-1, but spend quite a bit of time in a 4-4-1-1 defensive shape, as it seems likely that they will concede possession to Arsenal and look to hit them on the counter. Ben Foster will remain at keeper. In front of him will probably be Andre Wisdom at right back, Craig Dawson and Joleon Lescott at the center back positions, and Chris Baird at left back. In front of that, West Brom will likely look to play two holding midfielders in Craig Gardner and James Morrison. In front of those two will be the trio of Chris Brunt on the right, Stephane Sessgnon in the center, and Graham Dorran on the left. Up front will be West Brom’s leading scoring, Saido Berahino.

West Brom will probably spend a large portion of the match defending in their own half. Unlike some teams that tend to be aggressive in the tackle when defending deep, West Brom seem less likely to play with that kind of physicality. Instead, they seem much more willing to intercept passes and block crosses. They want to attack the ball rather than attack the player. This makes sense in that interceptions probably lead to less fouls, leading to less dangerous set-pieces conceded, and allow a team to get out on the break with greater speed. Their counter attack will depend heavily on the play of Stephane Sessegnon. While an inconsistent player, his ability to carry the ball and provide passes for Saido Berahino to latch onto, an on-form Sessegnon could prove a significant asset for the Baggies

Possible Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Foster (GK); Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Baird; Gardner, Morrison; Brunt, Sessegnon, Dorrans; Berahino

arsenal-wesbrom

Arsenal

A win against Borussia Dortmund in the Champion League became a little less sweet when Mikel Arteta went off with an injury. The Spaniard will miss this match along with Mathieu Debuchy, Mesut Ozil, David Ospina, Yaya Sanogo, Jack Wilshere. Wojciech Szczesny, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott, Laurent Koscielny have a chance of appearing in this match depending on how much they have recovered from their injuries.
Arsenal’s 4-1-4-1 will probably have either Wojciech Szczesny or Damian Martinez in goal. In front of the keeper will be a back 4 of Calum Chambers, Per Mertesacker, Nacho Monreal, and Kieran Gibbs. Mathieu Flamini will probably occupy the holding role. In front of him, the line of four will have Alexis Sanchez on the left, though he may deserve a game off with the amount of games he has played and his style of play, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey centrally, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right. Up front, with Yaya Sanogo and Danny Welbeck both carrying injuries, this match could see Olivier Giroud return to the starting line-up.

With Arsenal likely having so much of the ball, against a team that wants to hit them on the counter, patience will be a virtue in this match. Instead of looking to force the play, try to push the ball through West Brom’s defense, Arsenal need to taking a more probing approach. They need to look to control spaces around the ball, so to control their opposition. They need to move West Brom’s defensive shape, pull them apart, and create the openings they need before sending the ball forward. That way, Arsenal can have greater efficiency when they do look to make the incisive play to create the chance, and it allows them to better use their possession as a method of defending.

Possible Starting Lineup (4-1-4-1): Szczesny (GK), Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs; Flamini; Sanchez; Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud

Key Facts

  • West Brom attempt a greater percentage of their shots from outside the box than any team in the English Premier League (Whoscored.com)
  • West Brom average 3.2 shots on target per game, 17th in the EPL (Whoscored.com)
  • West Brom have gone 0-2-5 in their last seven EPL matches against Arsenal
  • Arsenal have yet to beat a side above 14th place in the EPL
  • Arsenal lead the EPL in dribbling, with 15.2 dribbles per game (Whoscored.com)

Player to Watch

Olivier Giroud: If he does start for Arsenal, a few things may be of interest when it comes to the Frenchman. First, his fitness will be something to monitor. How willing he is to make those runs in behind or hold up the ball under pressure will play an important role in how much of an effect he will have on Saturday’s match. Also, with the lack of reinforcements on the bench, how he fatigues over the course the match could play a key role as well. He has yet to play a full 90 minutes since his injury lay-off, so the chances of him doing so seem slim. Second, he represents a different style of center forward than the ones with which Arsenal have played.

He does not have the athleticism of a Sanchez, Welbeck, or Sanogo. He operates as a much more static figure, looking to hold-up the ball and link-up play more than to score sometimes. This may prove beneficial to a player like Aaron Ramsey. At the same time, it remains a question to see how he will fit with the likes of Alexis Sanchez. Having a risk-taker in Sanchez and a player with the pass completion rate of Danny Welbeck does not pose nearly as much risk in losing possession as having Sanchez and Giroud. If Giroud’s touches are poor and his passes are off, combined with the risk-taking of Sanchez, it could give West Brom enough opportunities to successfully counter. So while his return adds a potentially valuable piece to this Arsenal squad, it remains to be seen how valuable he can be to Arsenal in this match.

Prediction

West Brom 1-1 Arsenal

West Brom have struggled to defeat Arsenal in the English Premier League, and it seems that this will continue. At the same time, the injury to Mikel Arteta represents a significant blow to Arsenal. For a team that needs to keep the ball moving, and maintain possession, Arteta would have been a valuable asset. Instead Arsenal have to play with Flamini, who, at this point in his career, does not have the quality to meet any of the demands of the position it seems. This means there exists a risk that Arsenal do not have the patience in possession they need, especially if they concede the first goal. This gives West Brom a chance to get something out of this game, and a chance to cause Arsenal’s disappointing season to remain as such