It’s not a surprise to anyone that both Tony Pulis and Arsene Wenger don’t see eye to eye. On Monday, the two aging managers will meet again, and as always, we can likely expect a stubborn West Bromwich side looking to frustrate the very fragile at times Arsenal squad.
Last season, it took a hard earned goal from Olivier Giroud at the Emirates to snatch all three points against the Baggies. Both sides had opportunities, but Arsenal tend to make things difficult for themselves. Just the thought of West Brom sitting deep and building a fort in front of Ben Foster gives me anxiety.
This is that type of fixture that will potentially be a nail biter. One that will make us want to pull our hair out. And for those who prefer neither of those options, it will be a match that could lead some to drink… a lot!
From their last 12 Premier League meetings in North London, Arsenal have won nine, drew one, and lost one. Since the 2-3 defeat in 2010, it’s been six successive victories, with the visitors failing to score in five of those fixtures. Will history be an indicator again?
Don’t Change Much From The Chelsea Match
Much to the surprise of most Arsenal supporters, neutrals and even pundits, Arsene Wenger got everything spot on tactically against Chelsea. On and off the ball, the team was outstanding, and from a physicality perspective, it was unlike anything I’ve seen in quite some time. I can honestly say I don’t recall such a passionate performance from the Gunners against a top five club in England in the last years.
Knowing that West Brom isn’t going to play free flowing footy, they are going to rely on counter attacks and physical play to frustrate the lads. More often than not, a few crunching tackles or cynical fouls and the Arsenal squad come undone.
Meeting their level of physicality will really eliminate arguably their only advantage in the fixture. I guess set pieces are also an advantage for Pulis’ men, but again, a bit more grit in the box similar to what we saw at the bridge will be enough.
Offensively, knowing we had 76% possession in last season’s 1-0 victory, I’d be willing to bet it won’t be much different this time around. West Brom doesn’t need the ball for long periods of time to beat you. All it takes is one set piece, they nudge you a bit, put you off your game, and by the time you realize it, you’re picking the ball out of Cech’s goal.
In order to get three points, pace going forward will be key.
With a defensive line sitting so deep, minimal to no movement off the ball is much easier to defend. They eliminate the gaps in behind, so if no one is moving in front of them, their defenders don’t have to move very much.
Lack of pace in the final third seems to be a consistent problem for Arsenal against teams that look to hit them on the counter. One can hope they’ve learned their lesson right?
Lastly, another disciplined performance from Aaron Ramsey will be key.
If you watch back the match against Chelsea, off the ball, he was always in the right spots. That means Xhaka wasn’t often exposed as has been the case before. That also allowed Ramsey to get into great areas in the final third. The play starts from the back, and he needs to be that link between lines, so when he’s bombing forward 99% of the time, we are left with useless long balls, leaving Xhaka alone in the midfield.
Even with Ozil likely coming back into the squad, Ramsey needs to keep the same approach. That’s the only way his partnership with Xhaka will work as expected.
Having conceded just one goal in their last four in all competitions, it would be nice to see another clean sheet here against a side who are winless in their last four. Arsenal have a good run of fixtures coming up, which could really build some momentum in the squad, but it’s matches like these that could be a banana peel.
I’m going to say that the performance away to Chelsea is a turning point for the Gunners, or at least I hope it was. No more getting pushed around. Three points is a must tonight in order to keep pace with our rivals. The Gunners will walk away with a 3-0 victory, Lacazette gets a brace, and Giroud gets his milestone goal.
Happy Monday Gooners!