Arsenal get to play at the traditional time of 3 p.m. this Saturday afternoon for a change. They play West Brom in the Premier League, and Arsenal are looking for their fourth straight win in the league. Their league campaign may have got off to a very poor start, but it's gradually improving week by week.
Arsenal have not won four Premier League games in a row since March 2010, and they have the opportunity to put some pressure on the teams above them. They also have the opportunity to pay West Brom back for taking all three points in this fixture last season. It wasn't really West Brom's fault though, as they merely had to turn up on the day to take the three points.
Arsenal were not at the races that day until they found themselves 3-0 down, and then two late goals from Samir Nasri were not enough to rescue a point. This time around I expect Arsenal to take their opponents a little more seriously, and play to win from the very start. West Brom are not a bad team, but their best chance is if Arsenal underestimate them again.
In team news Arsene Wenger has said Arsenal have no new injuries to add to the players who are already out. That means Marouane Chamakh, Kieran Gibbs and Abu Diaby are all still unavailable but should be back soon, and Bacary Sagna and Jack Wilshere have a long way to go before they recover. It's not ideal, but at least Thomas Vermaelen hasn't had a bad reaction since his return to the team.
With the third international break of the season coming up after this weekend, there should be no need for Wenger to rest any players in this game. That should mean Arsenal will play their strongest team available to them, and most importantly of all Robin Van Persie will play from the start. His goalscoring form at the moment is second to none, and he simply has to play every game in the Premier League.
Arsenal still have to make up ground on the teams above them if they want to finish in the top four, and he is the man to deliver the goals to do just that. The team is finding it hard to score without RVP in the team at the moment, and that was clearly illustrated against Marseille on Tuesday night. He has been absolutely magnificent in front of goal in the current calender year, and it's a joy to watch him play as an Arsenal fan.
The Arsenal defence has had its problems this season, but only two teams have actually conceded fewer goals than they have at home in the Premier League. The return of Vermaelen will only make the defence stronger, and I would be very surprised if he doesn't play. The big question will be who plays alongside him in the centre of defence.
If Per Mertesacker gets the nod it would indicate that he's the first choice, as he played against Marseille too. Wenger said that he make his choice depending on the balance of the pairings, but all three players can play with each other. I have a feeling Laurent Koscielny will be the man to play, and I'll be quite happy if he does.
Koscielny was the runner-up to RVP in the Arsenal fans' player of the month competition for October, and he has been very impressive recently. I think his style might be more suited to a West Brom team who will look to sit deep and hit Arsenal on the break. His speed and anticipation are both factors that could be very important for Arsenal in this game.
The left back role is bound to be filled by Andre Santos with Gibbs still injured, and his defensive displays have been far from impressive so far. He still looks overweight and unfit to me, and it's fairly obvious that he's a lot more comfortable going forward than defending. He has a tendency to go to ground too quickly in tackles, and it leaves him stranded at times.
I'm hoping that the defensive side of his game will improve as he regains some more fitness, but until then other players will have to continue to cover for him. He does have a lot to offer going forward though, and he has scored two goals already since he joined at the end of August. I expect to see him in an advanced role more often than not against West Brom.
Carl Jenkinson is still very inexperienced at right back, but again Wenger has very little option but to play him. He played well enough on Tuesday night, and I'm happy to see him continue his progress in the first team. Ideally he would be able to learn his trade from the other Arsenal players in training, and gradually make first team appearances in the cup competitions.
The midfield trio should be the same as it was on Tuesday night, and so should the attacking players with the exception of RVP returning for Park Ji Young. It was hoped that Park would put in a performance to put him above Marouane Chamakh in the pecking order in that game, but he didn't take the chance too well. I still think he looks like he can make an impression at Arsenal and I expect him to get another chance in the Carling Cup quarter final at home to Manchester City on November 29.
Arsenal need to approach this game with a lot more effort and enthusiasm than they did against the same opposition last season. They have started slowly in the last couple of games and given up far too many chances in the first 10 minutes against both Chelsea and Marseille. If they can go at West Brom with all guns blazing early on I think they could get the goals they need in the first half for a change.
There's still a long way to go for Arsenal to get back the swagger that they had at their very best over the last few seasons, but there are definite signs of improvement. A win for Arsenal will more than likely close the gap on at least one of the teams ahead of them, and their Premier League schedule for the next few games is far from daunting.
I'm predicting a 2-0 win for Arsenal, and there's even a possibility that someone other than RVP will score. West Brom might not be too easy to break down, but once Arsenal have a lead I'm hoping they can build on it. Gervinho was very good in Arsenal's last league win at the Emirates, and I'm hoping for more from him too.
I won't be able to see the game live myself due to prior arrangements, but I will be keeping up to date on my phone throughout the day. I'm hoping to be able to write a review before I head off on a week long break on Sunday, and there hopefully be some input from me over that time too. Luckily my break coincides with the international break, and I won't miss any Arsenal games at least.
That's it for today.
It's not too late to join the over 900 teams in my fantasy league, and there are prizes for the top three teams at the end of the season. Just go to the site and use the code 125540-42785 to join my league when your team is set up.
To join the predictions league, just go to the site and set up your predictions. Then use the code F688F-JCO to join my league. I'll update the league table in my predictions every week.
I'm also a member of a very good and very active Arsenal group on Facebook which you can join here.
See You Tomorrow.
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