Arsenal vs. West Brom: Match Preview and Projected Starting XI
Arsenal will look to continue their incredible climb back up the EPL table this weekend as they host West Brom. Manager Arsene Wenger has erased all talk of his possible sacking, as Arsenal have steered themselves away from their crisis earlier this season.
In all competitions, Arsenal have won eight of their last ten games and will be hoping to make it nine out of eleven this weekend.
It seems that Arsenal's issues from the beginning of the season have been solved with their recent run of form. The back four is looking very solid with the return of Thomas Vermaelen and the outstanding play of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Aaron Ramsey has comfortably filled the void of the creative midfielder for Arsene Wenger's side since the departure of Cesc Fabregas and the injury to Jack Wilshere.
Finally, Robin van Persie’s form clearly stands as the catalyst of Arsenal's recent success. Without his moments of magic and his ridiculous goal scoring output, Arsenal would be in a very different situation. We could very be discussing the downfall of Arsenal right about now and Arsene Wenger's potential sacking if it wasn't for Robin Van Persie.
West Brom have had a similar road as Arsenal this season. Roy Hodgson's side started the season poorly, but it seems that they have bounced back from their horrible start with their recent form. Before West Brom lost to Liverpool 3-0 last weekend, Roy Hodgson's side were unbeaten in their previous four games.
Defeating this in-form West Brom side will be a tough task for the Gunners. Last season, West Brom were victorious at the Emirates stadium when they outclassed Arsenal in a surprise 3-2 victory.
Arsene Wenger admitted that he made a mistake by not starting Van Persie in Arsenal's 0-0 draw with Marseille in the midweek. I expect Arsene Wenger not to make the same mistake against this dangerous West Brom side in another vital fixture for Arsenal.
Arsenal Team News
Diaby has not played since the end of last season
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Concern mounts for Arsene Wenger as Abou Diaby, who was set to make his return last week, has suffered another set back with a hamstring problem, after recovering from ankle surgery. Wenger is optimistic that Diaby can be back in action in three weeks. Wenger admits that Diaby's injury problems are a concern as the French midfielder has struggled to regain fitness. When asked about Diaby's injury, Wenger said:
"I am worried [about Diaby] but I was more worried three months ago. His ankle was not good. The surgery went very well ... but now his balance has changed and so he has to adjust his muscular strength. If he can get rid of his muscular problem in the next two to three weeks, he will be ready."
Winger Kieran Gibbs and striker Marouane Chamakh have also been ruled out for this game with injury. Chamakh has a knee problem, while Gibbs is struggling with a strain of his stomach muscles from stomach inflammation.
Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna are still long term absentees for Arsene Wenger's side.
There is good news for Arsenal, as Arsene Wenger expects Thomas Vermaelen to start against West Brom after paying a full 90 minutes against Marseille in the midweek. Vermaelen also believes that his injury problems are finally at an end.
West Brom Team News
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There is bad news, however, for West Brom, as striker Shane Long will be out for at least six weeks with a knee injury. West Brom have had real problems in front of goal this season and the injury to Shane Long will certainly not help them at all.
However, Roy Hodgson has challenged striker Peter Odemwingie to start delivering the kind of goal-scoring form, which led him to be the club's leading scorer last season. The Nigerian striker has struggled so far, only managing to score twice this season. Odemwingie will have to come up big to give his side a chance of repeating last year's result at the Emirates.
There is another big blow for West Brom as Austrian Paul Scharner is also set to miss the trip to London with knee problems.
But, Zolton Gera could make his first start since his loan move to West Brom.
Arsenal Projected Starting XI
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Szczesny; Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Santos; Song, Arteta; Ramsey; Walcott, Van Persie, Gervinho
I expect Wenger to give Per Mertesacker some rest as he has played in every premiere league game since his arrival. I believe Wenger will try out the partnership of Koscielny and Vermaelen in order to discover which center pairing is the best option for this side.
Carl Jenkinson's return has given many Arsenal supporters a lot of relief. In his performances before the injury, Jenkinson looked very solid and confident on the right flank of the Arsenal defense. However, Santos' spot in the starting XI has many worried as he has struggled defensively so far.
The midfield trio of Song, Arteta, and Ramsey has developed very good chemistry in Arsenal's recent form. All three players bring an unique quality to the Arsenal midfield. Alex Song is the enforcer in the midfield with his superb defensive play – although he also is a threat coming forward. Mikel Arteta has become the engine of the midfield for the Gunners, as he has showed full commitment to both the attack and the defense. Finally, Aaron Ramsey is the architect among the trio and he has created many great scoring chances for his teammates during Arsenal's recent run of form.
Finally, Van Persie will return to the lineup after starting on the bench against Marseille in the midweek. Van Persie is only behind Cristiano Ronaldo in goals per game ratio in this calendar year. The Dutch striker will have support in the wings from Gervinho and Theo Walcott.
Gervinho has looked amazing this season, while Walcott has shown some inconsistency this season.
West Brom Projected XI
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Foster; Reid, Olsson, McAuley, Jones; Morrison, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Brunt, Thomas; Odemwingie
Roy Hodgson will field the same side from their loss to Liverpool last weekend.
With the absence of Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie will have a difficult task of leading the West Brom attack against a solid Arsenal defense. He will have much difficulty getting past the partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen.
On the other side of the field, Olsson and Jones will have the task of quieting down Robin Van Persie.
How many will Van Persie score this weekend?
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With their recent run of form, I expect Arsenal to comfortably pick up three points in this fixture. Even though they have been on a good run of form, I expect West Brom to struggle on both sides of the field.
The defensive pairing of Olsson and McAuley will have their hands full dealing with in-form Robin Van Persie, arguably the best striker in the Premier League right now, so I expect him to continue his scoring success in this match.
Also, the speed of Theo Walcott and Gervinho will trouble the West Brom defense on both flanks throughout the full 90 minutes.
Arsenal's defense will have a pretty easy time against this West Brom attack. Roy Hodgson's side has struggled in the final third this season. Plus, the injury of Shane Long only makes matters worse for Roy Hodgson and his side.
I believe Arsenal will get their revenge against this West Brom side that defeated them 3-2 at the Emirates last season.
With the poor form of Peter Odemwingie, Arsenal should be solid in the defense and claim another three points as they continue their climb up the Premier League Table.