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Wenger: Keen to play ball with the big boys
Without a win in four consecutive games, Arsene Wenger would do well to put all the motivational prowess he can muster to good use this weekend if his Gunners side are to assure themselves of Champions League football next season by grabbing a win against West Brom.
Although the match holds great significance for the visitors, the Baggies will be having a sentimental time too, as they wave goodbye to manager Roy Hodgson before he truly delves into his tenure as England manager.
Despite a slippery start to the campaign, the North London club have rallied since the turn of the year (with special thanks to a certain prolific Dutchman) and now sit precariously in third spot.
That could all be taken away from them however, and with Tottenham and Newcastle just one and two points behind them respectively, anything but a win at the Hawthorns on Sunday is risky to say the least.
Arsenal have played their best football at the Emirates Stadium this campaign but even that form appears to be stuttering, meaning that away form is surely not far behind.
The Gunners have attack can’t be disrupted too much when you boast a figure like Robin van Persie leading the assault but their back line has been a different story, conceding 1.67 goals per away outing; a very average "average."
With Sunderland facing Manchester United and Swansea hosting a resurgent Liverpool, the Albion would like to think that the 10th spot is all sewn up
However, that won’t stop the Baggies from attempting to cause a serious upset by sending Arsenal packing on Sunday, especially in Hodgson’s last game in charge of the club.
Surprisingly, West Brom have found it easier to score away from home this season than in front of their own fans but Sunday’s hosts are unbeaten in their last three home fixtures and will be striving to make that number four before season’s end.
With Bacary Sagna out with a very unfortunate broken leg, Francis Coquelin is expected to return from injury and fill in at right-back for Arsenal.
Yossi Benayoun’s loan period comes to an end at the end of the season and travelling fans will be grateful for the Israeli’s work over the season.
There’s one more story to take into account though, as this could be Robin van Persie’s last game in an Arsenal shirt if transfer speculation is to be believed, making for a potentially emotional crescendo for the Dutch hitman.
Hodgson has no considerable injury concerns to worry about but still has a hefty job in his hands in holding off what will surely be a very eager Arsenal attack who will be going out guns blazing in an effort to clinch third.
Prediction: West Brom 2-3 Arsenal