Saturday, 6 April 2013

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To West Brom Previewed

Arsenal make the trip to West Brom this afternoon knowing that a win will put them back in the top four for the next 24 hours at least. They will move ahead of Chelsea with a win and within a point of Spurs too. Chelsea have a relatively easy task on Sunday at home to Sunderland, but Spurs have to play at home to Everton and without talisman Gareth Bale.

It's an ideal opportunity for Arsenal to put real pressure on both Chelsea and Spurs and give themselves a much better chance of the top four finish they crave. Both of those clubs are in the middle of their Europa League quarter finals and have to travel for the away legs next Thursday night. They were due to play each other in the league next weekend, but Chelsea's FA Cup semi final with City has got in the way of that.

That's very good news for Spurs with Bale injured as they will have over a week off after the trip to Basel on Thursday. The big games just keep coming for Chelsea though and right now it looks as if they could well be prioritising the cup competitions. With Rafa Benitez knowing he will be leaving this summer who's to say he wouldn't like a trophy or two on his CV rather than ensuring Chelsea qualify for next season's Champions League.

All of that is moot though as Arsenal's victory over Reading last Saturday meant they will finish in the top four if they win all of their remaining games. With Chelsea and Spurs having to play each other it means Arsenal will move ahead of one of them for certain after that game as long as they keep winning. Of course I don't expect Arsenal to win every game they have left, but I don't think Spurs and Chelsea will either.

West Brom will offer some very tough opposition to Arsenal and they have a very good home record this season. Only the top two clubs have won more home games than West Brom and only City and Chelsea have conceded less home goals. They tend to play on the break at home against teams who look to dominate them and it's a style which suits them.

Romelu Lukaku has looked good up front for them on his season long loan from Chelsea. If they can get him the right service he can certainly give Arsenal some real problems. Arsenal have enough good players to cause West Brom problems too and  they're on a good run at the moment.

They have won five of their last six league games with the defeat against Spurs being the only blemish in those games. It was a costly defeat but continued success in their other games has seen them put that disappointment behind them. Three points today is the order of the day ad the players have to give their all to get it.

In team news both Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott are still injured, but Nacho Monreal should be fit to play after going off injured last week. I would imagine he will keep his place at left back, but if Kieran Gibs plays it should make no difference to the strength of the team. In the corresponding fixture last season a fantastic last minute block by Gibbs ensured Arsenal's qualification for this season's Champions League.

I can't imagine there will be any changes from the Arsenal team which played very well in beating Reading 4-1 last week. Besides Gibbs I'm pretty sure Thomas Vermaelen, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will all be hoping to get in the team today. They will probably have to wait on the bench for their chance, but it's good to know how much quality Arsenal have to call on if needed.

The team started very well last week and in the wins against Swansea and Bayern Munich. The goals came early against Bayern and Reading, but the players managed to keep playing well against Swansea until they scored towards the end of the game. Whether they get an early goal or not they need to approach the game in the same manner as those three games.

Despite West Brom's good defensive record at home it has to be remembered Arsenal have the best defensive record away from home in the Premier League. They have conceded only 13 goals away from home in 15 games and despite all of their defensive problems it's quite impressive. The defence has looked better in recent weeks too with only one goal conceded in the last three games.

I think Arsenal have more than enough to win today as long as they can keep up the intensity of the last three games. Since winning away to Bayern they have looked like maybe they might have found the confidence which has being missing far too often this season. This team has plenty of ability and as long as it can be matched with hard work and that confidence they seem to have found then they can finish the season with a flourish.

I think it will be a very close game and Arsenal will just about edge it. With two games to play next week they can hopefully set themselves up very nicely to move ahead in the race for a top three or four finish.

That;s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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