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Match Preview: Arsenal v West Brom; Festive Feast or Continued Famine?

It’s been a terrible week or so for Arsenal. With 2 losses coming in epic, miserable fashion, Arsenal v West Brom is a chance for the Gunners to right the ship and keep in touch with the title chasers.

It wasn’t so much how Arsenal lost that was disturbing. It was how they lost. In both losses to Everton and Man City, Arsenal got out to early leads only to completely capitulate. Not only did we lose but we lost because we suddenly forgot that a football match is a 90+ minute affair.

The effort to get the leads was admirable. It was energetic and in each match, you thought that “oh this is gonna be good.” However, Arsenal as is ever their way. They completely let the opposition take over the match and failed to match them with intensity and commitment.

In the end the teams that wanted it more came away with the win.

That is the focus of today’s match preview. We know how Tony Pulis is going to come and play. He is going to sit deep and try and choke off the passing lanes for Arsenal. We know that he’ll look to have his keeper knock the ball long to an isolated striker in Rondon. Everything else for him and his team will be about survival and prohibiting Arsenal from playing their game.

For Arsenal, they need to show a commitment level to seeing out a full match and giving it their all. Now, I know that a season is a long trudge and there are peaks and valleys in performances. I know it’s impossible to sustain a similar level of play for the entire season. You just hope that the peaks are high and long and valleys low and short.

The really disheartening thing about the losses is that it wasn’t just one or two players who were poor – it was the entire team. They all just couldn’t match the efforts of their opposition.

To make matters worse tactically and technically they we were found wanting. Going up 1-0 in both matches on the road we decided rather than press our advantage and maybe open ourselves up to a counter-attack we sat back looking to hit the opposition on the counter.

Secondly, our technical effectiveness went out the window. As we sat back and the opposition were in our zone we couldn’t effectively pass or possess the ball. The touch of even our best players was left wanting. This meant we lost the ball, usually deep in our own defensive third.

Add that to the lack of effort and the two losses aren’t really that surprising. Simply, put if Arsenal are still looking to be within the title hunt when it gets warmer – they can’t afford to play like that again. They’ve now got to be near perfect.

Yes, over the course of a season, the other title chasers will drop points. It’s inevitable. But without European distractions for Chelsea and Liverpool there is a likelihood those will be few and far between.

This is a better team than what we saw in the last two matches. They need show that and reassert themselves in the way we saw prior to this hiccup. Do that and we can have a happy Christmas, do that not – well, you know how that goes.

From all of us at we wish a happy holiday season and Joyous New Year. Thank you for your continued support over this last year.

Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Mesut Özil. He hasn’t been that effective in the last few matches. We simply need him in order to be our attacking best.

West Brom. Solomon Rondon. He’ll be looking for the long ball over the top and try and isolate our defenders 1v1.

Probable Lineups:

Arsenal v West Brom, Probable Lineups 26 December 2016

click to enlarge

Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) Mustafi (hamstring), Welbeck (knee), Mertesacker (knee), Debuchy (hamstring), , Cazorla (achilles, Mar)

West Brom: Evans (calf), Morrison (illness), Berahino (match fitness)

Last 5:
Arsenal: WWWLL

West Brom: WDLWL

Goals Scored Per Game:
Arsenal: 2.24

West Brom: 1.35

Goal Conceded Per Game:
Arsenal. 1.12

West Brom: 1.24

The Manager’s Perspective (Courtesy

“It is part of our job to do that and you know that when you go into a season it will not only be satisfaction,” he told Arsenal Player. “The disappointments are part of a successful season – that’s part of our environment.

“It’s how you respond to it that of course makes your destiny and that’s what we want to do well. I believe that of course in 20 games we lost two, and it is very difficult because we are not used to that, but as well we have to put it into perspective and fight for the next one.”

Perhaps the week’s least appetising stat is that we’re the only team this season to lose three Premier League games in which we’ve led.

Those last two defeats were exacerbated by wins for our title rivals during a nine-day sequence that took us from top on goal difference to fourth place and nine points behind. Chelsea’s relentless run has left no margin for error and we can ill-afford to surrender any more winning positions.

“In both games we were 1-0 up and we lost 2-1, and there are two aspects to it,” said Wenger. “One is the aspect we cannot influence, it’s the refereeing decisions. I must say as well that the two goals [from City] were 100 per cent offside.

“The other factor is our performances – which we can influence. Could we have done better? Certainly, yes. Especially when you lead, I would say it looks like we became a bit restricted, and don’t play with the same intensity and urgency and relentless attitude we have had until now.

“We lost that and I think there was room to win the game at City. There was big room as well to win the game at Everton and we have to look at the fact that maybe we have not had that relentless attitude that we have based our success on.

“But I have a group that is ready for the fight,” he added. “I am personally really ready for the fight and it’s now for to come back because things can change quickly, especially over Christmas.”

Match Officials:
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (10M, 39Y, 0R)
Assistants: S Child, C Hatzidakis
Fourth official: K Stroud

Broadcast Information:
Highlights on MOTD, Listen on
US: NBC Sports Extra/NBC Sports App

YAMA Predicts:
Arsenal 1 – 0 West Brom

Match Facts (Courtesy via Opta)

  • Arsenal have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League games against West Brom, winning eight of them (D2).
  • The Baggies’ only away Premier League win versus Arsenal came in September 2010, as they ran out 3-2 winners at the Emirates (D1 L8).
  • The Gunners’ 4-0 defeat to Southampton last season was their heaviest defeat on Boxing Day since 1910 against Manchester United.
  • The last time West Brom played Arsenal on Boxing Day was in 2002 – going 1-0 up before losing 2-1 to the Gunners.
  • West Brom have lost two consecutive league games played on December 26th; they’ve not three Boxing Day fixtures in a row since 1987.
  • Arsenal are the only team to have lost three Premier League matches that they have been leading in so far this season. In 2015-16, they only lost twice in this manner all season.
  • The Gunners have lost their last two Premier League games (vs Everton and Man City) – they haven’t lost three successive Premier League matches since January 2012. This is also the last time that they lost as many as three league games in the same month.
  • West Brom have won two and lost two of their four games so far in December. The Baggies haven’t won three Premier League matches in the same month since November 2012 (4).
  • Matt Phillips has had a hand in seven goals in his last seven Premier League appearances (three goals, four assists).
  • Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 18 goals in 17 Premier League appearances for Arsenal this season (12 goals, 6 assists); one more than he managed in 30 league appearances last season (17 – 13 goals, 4 assists).


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