Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Arsenal v West Brom Preview

The end of the season can't come quickly enough for Arsenal right now as they continue to disappoint in game after game. A couple of weeks ago we wondered if the wins over Everton and Watford promised a strong finish to the season or if it was just a matter of how bad the opponents were. The later has proved to be the case as Arsenal drew their next two matches against West Ham and Palace after leading both games.

The nature of the performances in those games is what has made so many fans deeply unhappy. After leading 2-0 at West Ham the team were taken apart by high balls into the box and they didn't have a clue how to deal with it. They followed that with a truly awful display at home to Palace on Sunday and nobody was surprised when Palace were handed a late equaliser by Arsenal.

What makes it all the worse is seeing Spurs close the gap on Leicester at the top of the table and we can only hope that Leicrster can hold it together or the unthinkable will happen. Arsenal went out on Sunday after seeing Leicester slip up and knowing they had to win if they were going to at least keep an interest for the last few weeks. They produced an insipid display and bottled it yet again when faced with the chance to do something.

The very next night Spurs went to Stoke and they took advantage of Leicester's slip by tearing Stoke apart. They are now five points behind them with four games to play and the momentum looks to have shifted in their favour. It's been 55 years since they last won the league and it will be Arsenal's fault if they win it this season.

Despite being so poor since the turn of the year wins against West Ham and Palace would have put Arsenal back in the picture and their inability to see both games out speaks volumes for the manager and the team he has put together. If they had won those games a win against West Brom would have put them a point behind Spurs with four games to go and very much in the hunt for second place at worst. Instead we are faced with the annual battle to finish in the top four with United, West Ham and Liverpool closing in quickly on both Arsenal and City.

With five games to go they need to take at least 10 points I would imagine to confirm a top four finish yet again. While this season has been a bitter disappointment it's still crucial to finish in the top four to qualify for next season's Champions League and try to attract the players which the team needs so badly to improve it. The squad needs some major investment this summer and we need every advantage in our favour to try to lure those players.

After the last two displays the team needs some changes against West Brom, but the options are pretty limited. Per Mertesacker could come in for Gabriel Paulista in defence I suppose, but maybe the better move might be to give Calum Chambers a game. The centre of the defence has struggled and he's the only central defender who hasn't been given much of a chance.

I would be surprised if Aaron Ramsey doesn't come back into the team, but who he replaces is the question. He could come in for either Francis Coquelin or Mohamed El Neny or possibly even on the right side of the attacking trio. I have a feeling it will be Coquelin who will miss out and maybe Ramsey can bring some life back into the team.

There's always the possibility of either Olivier Giroud or Theo Walcott playing from the start, but I would be surprised to see them in the team. I don't think there will be too many changes from the team which has disappointed so much recently. I'm not sure that's such a good thing, but what are the options.

West Brom will do what most teams do when they come to Arsenal and pack their defence. They will try to hit us on the break or from a set piece and it's a tactic we struggle to counter. For me there isn't enough pace or urgency to Arsenal's attacking play and that's got to be the way to break down a packed defence.

To be honest I don't know what we're going to get from the team, but I fear it's going to be more of the same. I desperately want it to be different, but my belief in that happening has been shot to pieces by a team who just don't look like a cohesive unit. Maybe they'll come out and play the thrilling football which they are capable of, but equally we could get another performance like the one against Palace.

Arsenal's home form has been their biggest problem this season and the lack of goals at home is a real problem. Nine other teams have scored more home goals than Arsenal and that includes Newcastle who are currently second last and looking likely to be a Championship side next season. They have three home games left and they're all against teams in the lower reaches of the league and surely they can find it within themselves to entertain the home fans and score a few goals in the process.

There's talk of a protest and a walk out on the night and the chances are there will be a lot of empty seats in the stadium. I can't remember a league game being played on a Thursday night before, but the needs of television have to be met. Wouldn't it be a pleasant change if the needs of the fans were met too and the team gave us a performance worthy of the name.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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