Arsenal v Baggies Match Preview
Saturday, 8th December, 2012
Arsenal will be looking to haul themselves out of a rut and back into the groove with the visit of the season's surprise package West Brom.
Though West Brom themselves have hit the skids of late, having lost their last two games at Swansea and Stoke City. But West Brom come into the game sitting prettier in the table than their hosts.
Arsene Wenger believes that the rise of Steve Clarke from top rated assistant to successful Premier League manager is a wider symptom of better coaching in England, 'I think you have a lot of competent coaches in England and when they get a chance, I am very happy about that.
"He is one of them, he knows the game well. The most important thing is to be in touch with the top, top level to see what is requested. He has done that for a long time. He shows now that he is ready for the job.
"You need that in a country, a good mixture, some input from outside but the core of the coaching has to be from your own country. There is no obvious explanation, maybe now England has formed and educated coaches than before, then it was more spontaneous. Now it is more educated and prepared, people feel more directed and educated to do it."
Meanwhile, Steve Clarke thinks his Arsenal counterpart will come through a turbulent time in his tenure, 'This week it is Mr Wenger, next week it might be someone else and the following week it will be someone else again.
'It's the way the game is now. It's probably the way the game has always been but there is so much more spotlight on it now.
'There is always going to be somebody up there that they want to have a pop at.'
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal will be without Lukas Podolski, who has a hamstring strain and Theo Walcott, whose ankle has not recovered. Bacary Sagna faces a late fitness test on a foot problem, but Laurent Koscielny is still out with a groin injury.
Abou Diaby (thigh), Andre Santos (stomach), Johan Djourou (calf), Lukasz Fabianski (ankle) are unavailable.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Mannone, Sagna, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Squillaci, Gibbs, Arteta, Coquelin, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, S.Cazorla, Chamberlain, Gervinho, Arshavin, Giroud, Chamakh.
Player to watch: Alex Oxlade Chamberlain
The Ox has not really produced yet this season, which has been camouflaged beneath the avalanche of criticism for the likes of Gervinho, Santos and Ramsey.
My own view is that Chamberlain plays much better from the left than the right, but with Walcott out he'll have to play from the right. Dips in form are to be expected in a player's fledgling years- even players as talented as he. But now would really be a good time for him to step it up.
West Bromwich Albion Team News:
Ben Foster is WBA's only real absentee as he recovers from a groin operation. Boaz Myhill continues to deputise.
Peter Odemwingie, James Morrison and Chris Brunt are likely to be recalled having been rested for last weekend's defeat at Stoke.
West Bromwich Albion (from): Myhill, Daniels, Reid, Olsson, Popov, Jara, McAuley, Dawson, Ridgewell, Morrison, Dorrans, Jakob, Brunt, Mulumbu, Gera, Odemwingie, Lukaku, Long, Rosenberg, Fortune.
Player to watch: Shane Long
The Baggies have a good selection headache upfront, but Long's work ethic, allied with his nose for a poacher's goal make him a tempting option to start upfront.
It might be a solo mission for Long, with Gera tucked in behind. But he's shown on many occasions that he has the energy and the intelligence to play the role.
Match Facts & Stats
West Brom are yet to keep a clean sheet against Arsenal in the Premier League, with 12 meetings having passed.
In five of the last six meetings between the teams, there has been a goal in the first ten minutes.
West Brom have one clean sheet in their last 24 league away games.
If games lasted 80 minutes, West Brom would be 2nd.
The sides have met 130 times, with 63 Arsenal wins, 31 draws and 36 West Brom victories.
The referee will be Mike Jones.
I don't think it will be pretty or vintage, but I fancy Arsenal are getting West Brom at the best time they could possibly ask. I fancy a 2-0 victory. Gervinho and a late Rosicky goal to seal it.
Arsenal play away at Bradford City on Tuesday night in the League Cup quarter final. West Brom play at home to West Ham next Sunday.