Friday, 7 December 2012

Arsenal's Premier League Game With West Brom Previewed

After some good signs early on Arsenal's season has drifted quickly towards mediocrity at best. After beating Sours a few weeks ago there was an opportunity for the team to kick on and put some much needed points on the board. Unfortunately the opposite is what happened with two points and one goal in three games.

That one point was the only good performance among those games with a hard fought 1-1 draw at Everton. The 0-0 draw away to Villa was an awful performance and the 2-0 defeat at home to Swansea last week just was not good enough. It leaves Arsenal tenth in the table, but still only five points off the coveted third spot.

Much had been made of the tiredness of the players with so many games to play and so few alternatives available. Arsene Wenger chose to rest almost all of the team that lost to Swansea when Arsenal made the long trip to Greece to play Olympiacos on Tuesday night. A win would have seen Arsenal win their Champions League group but that was by no means certain before the game.

As it is the 2-1 defeat meant Arsenal finished second in their group and will face a very tough draw in the last 16. Personally I feel victory in the Champions League is beyond the current squad and he made the right decision to rest the players. Their bodies may have got the break they needed, but it's their mental strength which will be tested today.

It's become all too obvious this season that Arsenal can be put off their game by being pressurised on the ball for the whole 90 minutes. Most teams tire towards the end of a game and Swansea were the first team to score in the final 15 minutes of a league game against Arsenal this season. In previous seasons those final 15 minutes have been where Arsenal took advantage of tiring opponents with their traditional late goals.

However the problem seems even worse at the moment as the team are short of confidence and devoid of the drive needed to break opponents down. Too much has been asked of some players and when Santi Cazorla and Mikael Arteta are not at their best or marked tightly Arsenal don't have a plan to counter it. The team is crying out for a couple of wide players with the actual ability to take on defenders and beat them to make things happen in the final third of the pitch.

There's no use lumping crosses into the box if Oliver Giroud is sitting on the bench and Marouane Chamakh is considered not to be good enough to even get a place on the bench.

While Arsenal wait for the transfer window to open and numerous saviours to arrive they need to make do with what they have. Between now and the end of December they could win enough points to be comfortably in the top four if they can somehow rediscover how to play. There are enough good players in the current Arsenal squad to comfortably finish in the top four.

Ahead of today's game the latest injury news is that Bacary Sagna, Lucas Podolski and Theo Walcott will miss out and Laurent Kosciely and Andre Santos aren't ready to return either. It makes the team selection a little easier for the boss although I'm sure he would prefer to have all those players available.

The defence more or less licks itself and his choices are in midfield and attack. I think Cazorla might switch to a wide attacking role with Tomas Rosicky playing in the attacking midfield spot. That would see Gervinho playing on the other side of Olivier Giroud to finish off the attack.

It would mean Aaron Ramsey misses out but I would imagine he will come on when Rosicky tires. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will probably have to make do with a seat on the bench too but he's a good option to have available.

A win is an absolute must for Arsenal and to do so in style would be ideal. Ultimately it doesn't matter how they win though as long as they get the three points. The recovery has to start somewhere and hopefully last week was the low point of the season. A couple of wins would of course start to build the confidence again and that's all we can hope for.

West Brom will be no pushover and have had a very good season so far. They will look to defend in depth and utilise their pace on the break. Arsenal have to concentrate for every single minute and not make it easy for West Brom to score.

I'm predicting a 2-1 win for Arsenal and I'm hoping for the experienced players in the team to lead. Hopefully the team can play well enough to get that result and get the crowd behind them too. It's not nice to hear boos ringing out around the stadium but the fans who pay their money are entitled to voice their disapproval.

I'm sure those same fans will be voicing their approval if the team can earn it today. Let's hope that the players can rise to the occasion and give those fans plenty of opportunities to do just that.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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