How Arsenal Will Line Up Against West Bromwich Albion

Charlie Melman@@charliemelmanCorrespondent IIMay 2, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28:  Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on April 28, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Arsenal have the chance to clinch Champions League qualification in their final home game of the season on Saturday against West Bromwich Albion.

Though fourth place was out of the Gunners' hands for a short while, Everton's unexpected slip and Arsenal's timely boomerang in form has thrust the latter in the excellent position of being able to avoid final-day drama.

It is a quite unfamiliar position for Arsenal, who have found themselves in scraps to the very end with Tottenham in recent years that have had the faux drama usually reserved for the title race.

Indeed, it looked for quite a long time as if Arsenal would finally step up to the really significant stage, but injuries and a losing mentality in title-deciding matches took their toll, and now the Gunners will have to "settle" for readmission to Europe's premier club competition and an FA Cup trophy.

Of course, neither has been achieved yet. But with no more heavyweights to play this season, a timely swing of momentum and the return of key players who were injured, things are finally looking brighter.

The latter boon will be key in Arsene Wenger's decision about how to line his team up against West Brom. Let's look at how he might put the side together.


One might notice something familiar about this starting XI—or, rather, 11 familiarities, because it is the same exact lineup that Wenger put out on Monday against Newcastle.

That Wenger will readmit every one of these 11 men into the lineup is both predictable and practical.

He is infamously tactically inflexible, and one of the most obvious manifestations of this rigidity is his reluctance to change a winning formula. Indeed, Arsenal so outperformed Newcastle earlier this week that there would be little reason for a tactical tinkerer to alter things much.

One of the only potential changes that Wenger might have been compelled to make had he been given the choice is that of Kieran Gibbs for Nacho Monreal. But, as the manager said in his pre-match press conference, the Englishman is not yet match fit and is not even in full training.

Though Monreal has been decent recently and has had a smattering of excellent performances this season, Gibbs has really shone and looks set to be Arsenal's first-choice left-back for quite some years. He adds a defensive tenacity and positional awareness to the team that Monreal simply does not show often enough.

Mathieu Flamini for Mikel Arteta might also be a decent change to make, but there is little reason to make the side more defensive and conservative at home against a clearly inferior opponent.

HULL, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Lukas Podolski (C) of Arsenal celebrates with team mates Olivier Giroud (L) and Bacary Sagna (R) after scoring his sides third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on April 20
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

West Brom are not yet mathematically safe from relegation and thus will play with all the vigor and tenacity of a club mired in the scrap for safety.

But Arsenal really should be able to dictate the pace of the game against an opponent of their caliber, and though Arteta has uncharacteristically struggled this season, his worst performances have come in matches against elite opposition. He is still quite effective against more mediocre teams.

The only other area that one might feel compelled to change is the right wing, where Santi Cazorla is forced to play in an unnatural position due to the absence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott's continued recovery.

Wenger would not even give a time-scale for The Ox's return during his press conference, so Arsenal will likely have to at least plan for his absence through the end of the season.

Cazorla will not stay on the wing and does not provide the pace that would greatly benefit a side largely bereft of it. But the formula clearly worked to perfection against Newcastle, so there's no reason why it shouldn't work against West Brom.