Arsenal vs. West Brom
16 August 2008
After a long, tedious summer for Arsenal fans, Premier League football is finally back. Arsenal kick off the new Barclays Premier League season with the early fixture at home to West Bromwich Albion. Last season in the first fixture of the new campaign, Sunderland faced T*ttenham Hotspur and the newly promoted team won the game with a late goal. Arsenal will be looking to avoid a similar upset by this seasons Championship winner.
Last season Arsenal started the season in blistering form which saw them race to the top of the table within weeks, but none of this would have happened if we didn`t complete the opening day comeback against Fulham. A proper start to each season is a facet of the game which is often under appreciated. After going behind in the opening seconds against the Cottagers thanks to a mistake by Jens Lehmann, Arsenal bombarded the Fulham goal with continuous pressure, but with only ten minutes left to go myself, along with all other Arsenal fans, were thinking 'here we go again`. But thanks to an inspired run by Kolo Toure from the centre of defence, Arsenal earned themselves a penalty and the rest is history.
This offseason Arsene has been searching for a solution that we see his team take that final step to winning the title. "A four-point gap after 38 games is down to one or two decisions in your favour, one or two injuries that you don`t have, one ball going in, instead of hitting the bar."
'We feel we were a fraction short. Now we want to show we can make up the four points that made the difference last year. This season I feel it will be more down to starting well and being more relaxed when it comes to the crunch point."
'Last year we were leading the Premier League due to a good start. So let's focus on the short-term goals and show later on that we've learned from when we dropped off last season."
Wenger is wary of the threat a newly promoted team can posses in the first game back in top flight of English football. 'Usually the teams that come up give you a good game,' said Wenger.
'We know West Brom will be up for it. Out of the three teams who just came up from the Championship, they have the most experience in the Premier League. But it is always our target to win the first match."
Le Boss was also full of praise for Arsenal`s only marquee signing this summer before the first match. "He is doing very well," said Wenger. "He is an intelligent boy and that is always a very good ingredient. When you are intelligent in life and with talent, you always have a chance."
"For me he is a player who has a good engine, good technique and vision. He can play the final ball which we like here. He has the technical level to go into any combination and is very mobile. We believe he has the ingredients to fit into our game."
Even though Cesc Fabregas is out, West Brom boss, Tony Mowbray, does not think the task for his side will be any easier. 'There is no hiding Cesc Fabregas is very important to what they do,' he said.'
'But the strength of Arsenal is their team ethos and, whoever comes in for him, the ball will still be passed well.'
'Fabregas does give them that bit of extra quality and vision but they will play exactly the same way and still have Adebayor and van Persie up front, and great players all over the pitch.'
He also praised the Gunners for the way Arsenal runs the club. 'There's always this debate in football about whether it's about winning or whether it's about entertaining and I think, generally, Arsenal have got that balance right. Arsenal don't spend hundreds of millions, continue to play fantastic football and continue to be in the top four.'
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal still have many players on the injury table for this game, but some good news is that Kolo Toure is probable and Samir Nasri will play. After getting his Champions League debut on Wednesday, Aaron Ramsey will get his full league debut in this game.
Fabregas, Diaby, Senderos, Eduardo, Rosicky, and Bischoff are all out injured, while Song is still representing Cameroon in Beijing.
Almunia will start in goal, with Djourou the most likely partner to Gallas at centre back, while Sagna and Clichy complete the back four. The midfield will probably consist of Walcott, Ramsey, Denilson, and Nasri, though I wouldn`t be surprised if Eboue featured in the starting lineup. Robin van Persie and Adebayor will lead the front line.
Player to watch: William Gallas
Gallas was captain fantastic midweek versus Twente, netting a much needed opener. He always seemed to pop up last year with important goals and he looks to be continuing that trend this year. He has been a great captain in my opinion, and he will only improve this season.
West Brom Team News:
The Baggies won the Championship last year with flowing football which was attractive to watch. Whether they are able to continue this style of play in the Premier League remains to be seen. WBA made some splashes in the transfer market this offseason, but not nearly as many as last season`s Championship winners, Sunderland, made in their preparations for the top flight. Most notably, Albion signed talented young striker Luke Moore from Aston Villa, goalkeeper Scott Carson from Liverpool, and Marek Cech, a left back from FC Porto.
West Brom also has some injuries that will affect their starting lineup. Luke Moore has a thigh problem; Robert Koren and Neil Clement both have knee problems. Gianni Zuiverloon will be missing because he is representing Holland in Beijing for the Olympic Games. On a brighter side for the vistors, new signing from Bolton Abdoulaye Meite is likely to feature.
Player to watch: Roman Bednar
Czech Republic international, who signed from Hearts this summer, will be looking to make an immediate impact in his first league game for the Baggies. He has had success scoring goals in every team he has played for, but the BPL will be a whole new world for the 25 year old.
Howard Webb will be the head official for this match. Personally I will never respect Coward Webb after how poorly he handled the extra time brawl between Arsenal and Chelsea. He is a sub-par referee who somehow has emerged as English`s best, which says a lot about the quality of English refs. Last season he officiated 27 games giving out 1 red and 101 yellows, which is about 3.78 per game.
Even with our inexperienced midfield, I just can`t see West Brom causing us many problems, though I didn`t see Fulham being a big test either. 3-0 to Arsenal with Adebayor netting a brace and van Persie to round off the scoring.