Saturday, 3 May 2014

Arsenal v West Brom Previewed

The season is almost over and Arsenal play their last home game against West Brom on Sunday. It's a chance for the players to say farewell to the majority of the fans and a last chance for most of the fans to see the players playing this season. Of course some of those fans will see the players away to Norwich next week and quite a few of them will see them play in the FA Cup final the week after that.

With Everton playing at home to City on Saturday there's every chance that Arsenal will have fourth place tied up before they play. If Everton have managed to get a result off City then Arsenal will need to win to finish fourth with a game in hand and qualify for the Champions League for the 17th season in a row. It's a healthy position for the team to be in after things looked so bleak following the defeat to Everton a few weeks ago, but it's still another season of what might have been.

With two games to go Arsenal are on 73 points and two wins would see them finish on 79 points which is their highest total since they were last runners up in 2005. They won the FA Cup that season with a victory over United on penalties and the cup is there for them to win this season too. There hasn't been a trophy in the nine years since then and the team owe it to the fans to end that wait.

With the season almost over Bacary Sagna still hasn't signed a new contract and this could be his last game for Arsenal at the Emirates. He has been an excellent servant for the club for the past seven years and I have no doubt that the fans will give him a great send off. He's playing his cards close to his chest about his future plans, but his reaction to those fans might well tell us whether he will be at the club next season or not. If he is to go I wish him all the best, but I hope he moves to another country because I wouldn't like to see him playing against Arsenal in the league next season.

West Brom could well find themselves virtually safe from the threat of relegation before the game starts if other results have gone their way. If both Cardiff and Fulham don't win their games on Saturday West Brom will definitely finish ahead of them and then Norwich could overtake them, but they would have to win at Chelsea later in the day to keep those hopes alive. The game could well have a bit of a strange atmosphere to it if both teams have already achieved their goals before the game starts.

From an Arsenal perspective I would be surprised to see any changes to the team which has won the last two games by the same 3-0 scoreline. With the cup final coming up that starting 11 is the most likely to take the field at Wembley and the more they can play together as a unit before then the better. Players such as Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil have missed a lot of football recently and the more minutes they have before the final the better.

I would love to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain play from the start at Wembley as I think he could have a field day with his pace in the wide open spaces. He missed out last week with a slight groin injury and he's not going to be ready for this game either. It would be a shame for him to miss out on the cup final and the team could do with him in the final too.

The only other player who might force his way into the cup final team might be Kieran Gibbs, but he won't be back this week either and will only have next week to prove his fitness. I think he's a better left back than Nacho Monreal and if it's a straight choice between them I think Gibbs will get the nod. 

West Brom haven't looked too bad in recent weeks and have taken eight points from their last five games to ease their relegation worries. They play some good football at times, but they are vulnerable in defence and Arsenal should get plenty of chances to show up that vulnerability. They have only won three of their 17 away games, but they have drawn six games away from home.

On the face of it Arsenal's home form has been very good and they're unbeaten at home since the opening day defeat against Villa. Much has been made of their heavy away defeats to the title contenders this season, but Arsenal have taken more away points than both City and Chelsea. The difference between them and the three teams above them has been the amount of games they won at home.

Those three teams have all won 15 home games while Arsenal have only won 12 games at home. They have drawn too many of those home games with City, Chelsea, Everton and United all coming to Arsenal and taking a point. They were all games they could have won and the only other home draw was a game they should have won against Swansea. The team were missing a cutting edge in those games and that inability to win at home has been costly. 

I think Arsenal will continue with the form they have showed in their last few games as they continue to finish the season in fine style. It has been a season of what might have beens in the league and that's something I'll go into more in my season review in a few weeks. For now though they can get on with the job of beating West Brom and finishing with as many points as possible before going to Wembley.

With three games left to play Arsenal have scored 93 goals this season in all competitions and it would be great to see them reach the 100 goal mark. Besides winning trophies I always think the team should manage 100 goals in a season as well as averaging a minimum of two points per game. Anything above 100 goals and two points per game will see the team at least come very close to winning a trophy.

There's every chance for Arsenal to get a few of the goals they need against West Brom and they should take the three points too. With a send off to the cup final the atmosphere in the ground should be very good and it has the makings of a very good afternoon. Hopefully the team can put in another performance to send everybody home happy and keep their hopes up for the cup final.

That's it for this week.

See you next week.

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