Arsenal will be hoping to bounce back to winning ways when they face off against relegation-threatened West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates this weekend.
Arsenal will be aiming to consolidate their place in the top half of the 2020/21 Premier League table when they lock horns with West Bromwich Albion in Matchweek 35 at the Emirates on Sunday night.
A season that began with so much promise following the FA Cup and Community Shield triumph in the space of a month is set to end on a whimper for Arsenal. The Gunners, following their elimination from the UEFA Europa League at the hands of Villarreal, find themselves staring at the possibility of no European football for next season as they are currently tenth in the table, seven points off of sixth-placed Tottenham.
The goalless draw against Villarreal in the Europa League semi-final second leg at the Emirates on Thursday pretty much summed up Arsenal’s season, in the sense that they have had a bright spark every now and then but have largely struggled to be effective, especially in the attacking third. However, Mikel Arteta & co. will be hoping to at least end the campaign by making a splash in the remaining four matches.
West Brom, meanwhile, seem set for the drop back to the EFL Championship. The Baggies are currently stuck to the 19th spot in the table, ten points off of Burnley in 17th. While a survival is still a mathematical possibility for Sam Allardyce’s men, the fact that they have failed to win their last three games in a row, most recently playing out a 1-1 draw against Wolves, does not help their cause and a defeat here would confirm the inevitable.
The reverse fixture, played at the Hawthorns in January earlier this year, saw Arsenal cruise to a thumping 4-0 win over West Brom, with goals coming from Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette (2). Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
🗞️ The latest team news update ahead of West Brom 👇
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) May 8, 2021
Arsenal will have to make do without three first-team players against West Brom as David Luiz misses out with a hamstring injury he sustained against Newcastle United last week while Pablo Mari is unavailable because of the ankle injury he picked up versus Villarreal. Granit Xhaka is also ruled out after he pulled up during the warm-up ahead of the midweek game at the Emirates.
Mikel Arteta finds himself under intense pressure in the final few games with his team selection coming under scrutiny from the fans. So, it will be certainly be interesting to see how the Spaniard sets his team up on Sunday. Mat Ryan, who started in the last Premier League game against Newcastle United, could be in line for a recall in place of Bernd Leno.
Calum Chambers should get the nod at right-back after Hector Bellerin’s disaster-class in midweek whereas Cedric Soares could come into the side at left-back as Kieran Tierney did not look fully fit after being rushed back against Villarreal. Rob Holding and Gabriel Magalhaes ought to form the central defensive pairing in the absence of Luiz and Mari.
Thomas Partey, who is having a debut season to forget in England, ought to get the nod in the double pivot, where he is likely to be partnered by Mohamed Elneny, who was on target against Newcastle United last week. Dani Ceballos will be available for selection after missing the midweek clash due to suspension but may not feature.
Bukayo Saka is a certain starter on the right-wing while Gabriel Martinelli should replace Nicolas Pepe on the left. The duo will carry the biggest attacking threat for Arsenal with their quality on the ball and ability to make things happen. Emile Smith Rowe ought to get the nod over Martin Odegaard in the No. 10 role while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stars as the No.9.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ryan; Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Cedric; Partey, Elneny; Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli; Aubameyang
West Brom, too, have three players unavailable for selection for Sunday’s trip to London as Branislav Ivanovic (thigh) and Robert Snodgrass (back) are ruled out for the season while Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who is on loan from Arsenal, is ineligible to feature against his former club.
Wishing you a speedy recovery, @robsnodgrass7 💪
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) May 7, 2021
Having switched to a three-man backline for the game against Wolves, Sam Allardyce is expected to revert to a 4-5-1 setup on Sunday at the Emirates. Sam Johnstone, who has been linked with a return to Manchester United, ought to line up between the sticks for the Baggies, where he will be shielded by the back four of Darnell Furlong, Semi Ajayi, Kyle Bartley and Conor Townsend.
Okay Yokuslu will sit the deepest of the three central midfielders for West Brom and look to keep a check on the creative output of Smith Rowe or Odegaard, whoever starts. He will be supported by Conor Gallagher, who will also look to drive forward when West Bromwich are in possession. Matheus Pereira will be the third midfielder, who will almost play as a No. 10, looking to string together plays in the final third.
Matt Phillips and Callum Robinson ought to be the two wide men, although the latter could constantly drift inside and play close to the centre-forward in January signing Mbaye Diagne, whose physical approach could ruffle some feathers in the Gunners’ backline.
Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend; Phillips, Gallagher, Yokuslu, Pereira, Robinson; Diagne
- Arsenal have won 10 of their 12 home Premier League games against West Brom, failing only in November 2004 (1-1) and September 2010 (2-3).
- West Brom have lost each of their last seven Premier League away games against Arsenal by an aggregate score of 15-1.
- Arsenal have scored in all 25 of their Premier League meetings with West Bromwich Albion, the best 100% scoring record one side has against another in the competition.
- Victory for Arsenal would see West Brom relegated from the Premier League for a joint-record fifth time (along with Norwich). It would be their 11th top-flight relegation (only Birmingham with 12 have suffered more), while it would be Sam Allardyce’s first relegation from the Premier League.
- Arsenal have lost seven home Premier League games in 2020-21; they last lost more home league matches in a single campaign in 1929-30 (9), a season in which the Gunners finished 14th in the table.
Player to Watch
Gabriel Martinelli. That's it. That's the tweet. pic.twitter.com/5T2uCZAnYg
— Ben Kitili (@Ben_Kitili) May 2, 2021
It has been a difficult campaign for the Brazilian youngster who has had to toil hard to recover from his injuries and make a return into the first-team setup. However, it almost seems like manager Mikel Arteta still does not trust Martinelli completely, seeing as the youngster was benched and brought on a bit too late during the midweek tie, despite him having starred in the win over Newcastle United at the weekend.
The teenager, though, is almost certain to start against West Brom on Sunday having played for less than 25 minutes against Villarreal. And he will be hoping to make the most of his opportunity. Martinelli has scored one and assisted one apiece in his last four league outings and another strong display would help him build up his confidence further following an injury-riddled year.
Arsenal 2-1 West Brom
Arsenal, coming into the game, will be pretty much down in the dumps after the way they were eliminated from the Europa League. And they will be up against a West Brom side, that has shown plenty of fight and spirit of late and Sam Allardyce will know that the Gunners are certainly there for the taking on Sunday. So, it will be anything but straightforward for Mikel Arteta & co.
With the defensive pairing of Gabriel Magalhaes and Rob Holding not performing all too well, one can expect the Baggies to find the back of the net at the Emirates, with Matheus Pereira likely to be instrumental.
However, the inclusion of Gabriel Martinelli could prove to be game-changing for the Gunners. The Brazilian’s clever movement and directness could cause problems to the Baggies defence and with able support from fellow youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, he could be able to drag Arsenal over the line on Sunday, confirming West Brom’s relegation in the process.