Arsenal host West Bromwich Albion in a high-stakes Boxing Day fixture, as the Gunners aim to get their title challenge back on track.
The Gunners overcame the curse of November and it all seemed to be going hunky dory for the North Londoners. But December seems to have derailed their title run with back-to-back defeats to Everton and Manchester City.
West Bromwich Albion are in top top form right now. Tony Pulis has got the Baggies playing at such a rhythm that they feel unplayable at times. But they saw their dominant run halted by a 2-0 loss to Manchester United at the Hawthorns. The loss though, could be seen as a rare blip in an otherwise promising start to the campaign.
Both the teams would be looking to bounce back after a defeat to the respective Manchester clubs. There is no doubt though that Arsenal go into the game with Arsene Wenger under huge pressure from a very vocal Arsenal support, who seem to blame the Frenchman for the successive defeats.
The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Boxing day fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Injuries and Arsenal are a terrible association. But, even though many of the first-team stars are out injured, the likes of Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck have returned to light training and are soon expected to be available for selection. However the Monday fixture will come too early for the duo.
Aaron Ramsey is a doubt for the game and the Welshman is due to face a late fitness test in order to be a part of the matchday squad. Granit Xhaka’s tendency to give away needless fouls and receive sanctions may force Wenger’s hand, and El Neny may profit from it, with a chance to partner Francis Coquelin in the central midfield.
Arsenal have been anything but steady at the back and in the absence of Shkodran Mustafi, they have looked even more insecure. West Brom are in great form when it comes to attacking, which could force Wenger to direct his defensive midfielders to cover for the defence as much as possible.
The attacking onus is again to be put on the pair of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker was heavily ridiculed for his lack of impact in the 2-1 loss to Manchester City and this fixture could serve as a chance for the 28-year-old to redeem himself in front of the Gooners.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel Paulista, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, El Neny; Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi; Sanchez
West Bromwich Albion
James Morrison is suffering from a flu and is a doubt for the game. The midfielder missed the Friday training and is likely to be assessed before the match by the Baggies. Jonny Evans missed the last couple of fixtures with a calf injury and his absence was telling at the back.
The former Manchester United ace is set to return to the lineup against Arsenal, as he aims to lead his side to a triumph against a stuttering opposition. Saido Berahino has not played since September and is still hoping to regain match fitness to be a part of the matchday squad.
Tony Pulis would be hoping to take advantage of Arsenal’s shaky defence with Salomon Rondon in menacing form. Matt Phillips has been a revelation this season and the former Blackpool man would be hoping to further establish his credentials with a delightful performance at the Emirates on Monday.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Nyom; Fletcher, Yacob; Brunt, Chadli, Phillips; Rondon
1. Arsenal Clean Sheet – No @ 1.83
2. Over 3.5 West Brom Corners @ 1.80
3. West Brom + 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.925
1. Full Time Result: West Brom or Draw @ 3.40
- Arsenal last lost three Premier League matches in a row back in January 2012, which is also the last time they lost three fixtures in a month.
- West Bromwich Albion have lost their last two boxing day fixtures.
- West Brom have won just 1 of their 10 matches away to Arsenal, drawing one and losing eight. Their only win came in September, 2010 as they ran out 3-2 winners at the Emirates.
- Alexis Sanchez has scored or created a goal in each of the last six Premier League fixtures for Arsenal, with 6 goals and 4 assists in the six games.
- Arsenal have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight Premier League fixtures.
Arsenal 1 – 2 West Bromwich Albion
Arsenal are on a downward trajectory. Back-to-back defeats would have hit their morale pretty hard, and the manner of the defeats have been even more disheartening. The defence looks wobbly and the attack, which was firing on all cylinders, seems to have quietened down a little bit.
West Brom and Tony Pulis are likely to go into the match confident of getting a result and may just get one here, with Salomon Rondon likely to wreak havoc upon the Gunners’ defence. West Brom have been playing with some flair this season and the in-form Matt Phillips may just be the decider in what is anticipated to be an enticing matchup on Boxing Day.
We pick West Brom mainly because of their ability to create and convert chances. They have already dominated oppositions with a rather weak defence, and we may just see them doing the same on Monday at the Emirates.
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