West Bromwich Albion – Arsenal: Match Preview, Predicted Lineup. Never Easy Busting Down the Pulis Bus, but Bust We Must

From the far flung reaches of International Football–and, unfortunately, the very epicenter of the ‘War on Terror’–Arsenal players return to the relative calm of English Football.

Arsenal’s French contingent–and not just the ones who were in the stadium–must somehow put the events of a week ago in Paris to the side and focus on the task at hand: taking maximum points from an always stubborn West Brom side in their home stadium.

Even more to the point, Arsenal must use the tightness (some might call it “stretchedness…”) of our squad to push through the after-effects.

The friendlies are over and our support will accept no excuses.  Few will forget that it was this fixture last season where some of the travelers sent this message to the manager:

Arsenal won that match 1-nil, Santi Cazorla snaking his way to the end line before crafting an inch-perfect assist for Danny Welbeck’s imperious header.

We won’t have Welbeck–and several others–for this one and any slip up will (as always) be blamed on the manager.  After all, it was Wenger who chose not to add out-field players in the summer transfer window.  Top Bagman, manager Tony Pulis, will hope to use that pressure against us and instill the belief that his better rested group should have a real opportunity to nick some points–if not knock off–a title contender.

The Baggies currently sit 12th in the still tightly compressed league table on 14 points, 6 points above the relegation places.  It would seem a relatively comfortable spot, but Pulis, always one focused on the pragmatic aspects of the game, will be keen to get his charges up and running again in their season-long struggle for survival.

I’d go a step further and bet that Pulis’ eyes get wider for these matches against the top clubs which come just after international breaks (and midweek forays to Europe).  Certainly, his teams are never less than well drilled and fully committed to gaining an edge wherever they can.

They also have the talent to hurt any team in the division.  Make no mistake about it, they will set out to defend first and win the physical battles.

It’s hard to know exactly how Pulis will set his team out.  He may opt for pacy and technically proficient players like Saido Berahino, Stephane Sessegnon, Callum McManaman and Salomon Rondon up front or he may prefer bigger or grittier types such as Rickey Lambert, Claudio Yacob, Chris Brunt and James Morrison.

No matter what, Arsenal will need to be up to the challenge and we might also hope for a bit of help from referee Mark Clattenburg.  We will also need to be at our technical best to break down a stubborn West Brom rearguard which has allowed only 16 goals in their 12 league matches.  Former Manchester United players, Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans, and former Spur, Michael Dawson, anchor that group.  They are still without goalkeeper Ben Foster but Boaz Myhill has been an able stand-in.  The bigger miss for this one will be Gareth McCauley who was sent off in West Brom’s last match at Manchester United.

The 6’5″ McCauley (perhaps alongside Dawson or the equally sizable Jonas Olsson) would have been WBA’s best option at set pieces, an area of the game Arsenal have been improving at recently.  With our own team short of attacking options we’ll once again have to rely on the big presence of Olivier Giroud up front.  With McCauley out, however, this may not be such a bad thing.

Before the break, picking starting 11s and bench players was a rather straightforward proposition when writing these previews.  Based on Wenger’s pre-match press conference it doesn’t get much harder.  While we had hoped that Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin would all be ready for this one, only the latter appears available.  Additionally, Wenger says he will have to talk with defensive stalwart Laurent Koscielny, who, despite a precautionary rest for our visit to Bayern Munich, played 180 emotionally draining minutes with the French team.

The bigger worry for many Gooners is what to do with Alexis Sanchez, who not only had to travel to two different hemispheres (the Southern and the Western…) but had to play two full matches of up and down running vs Colombia and Uruguay with his Chilean mates in their campaign to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.  On top of all that he was supposedly carrying a muscle injury.

I saw no evidence of the injury and he looked the only Chile player still at it late on in Montevideo.  Take an ice-bath and enjoy the leg-room in First Class, I say.  Hopefully the change of scene allows our guy to appreciate the fine (first-class?…) service better rested players like Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla offer.  Wenger will have to rest Alexis at some point–and Kieran Gibbs, who took over his spot vs Spurs and found the net, is available–but it might have to wait a match or two or until some of the others are back.  As such, here’s my predicted first 11 for this one:

Bench: Ospina, Chambers, Gibbs, Debuchy, Flamini, Arteta, Iwobi,

Of course, that’s just my best guess and others might have different views.

My hope is that Arsenal can shake off the effects of our travels and the high emotions from the events in Paris and its aftermath.   We will need to beat the Baggies with superior technique but we must also match their focus and commitment and do all the little things to win at the fine margins of the game.  I’m confident we can do just that and that the group is ready to get this long run of Arsenal football (no internationals until March) off on the correct foot.

But, what say you, fellow Kamp(esqu)ers?  High hopes, big worries or “if we can’t beat…, we…”  Please share.

by 17highburyterrace

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66 Responses to West Bromwich Albion – Arsenal: Match Preview, Predicted Lineup. Never Easy Busting Down the Pulis Bus, but Bust We Must

  1. TotalArsenal says:

    great preview, 17HT. 🙂

    I love the background info and positioning of Pulis in your preview. A colleague on my last working project was a big Baggies fan and he hated Pulis. He was constantly hoping WB would lose so Pulis would get the sack as soon as possible. Under Pulis the Brommies are playing unattractive football according to him… Survival in the PL is clearly not enough for a manager, as crowds and supporters want to be entertained above all it seems..

    You are probably right re the line-up and yes the number of our unavailable players give Wenger very little choice.

    More later 🙂

  2. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey TA, Cheers…

    Hoping your team loses because you don’t like the manager doesn’t sit well with me…but that’s just me… Maybe your colleague should cultivate a love for a better team (like ours)… Would he prefer they were back in the Championship?… Winning more matches, I guess, might be more fun….

    Lack of comments here has made me do some thinking… You might get an e-mail sooner than later…

  3. TotalArsenal says:

    You are spot on re getting the team mentality right for this one. It is always hard to play away after international break and all players need to be up for this one from the start. I reckon that is very likely to be the case but as a team they need to gel and battle together, which is harder to achieve. A hungry and aggressive WBA might bring this out of us though, so I am confident we can get something out of this game, as long as we don’t mess it up early on with defensive howlers!! 🙂

  4. TotalArsenal says:

    He knows his football, 17HT, and club values, including style of play, go above any manager. But yes, it is always negative to want your team to lose so a manager is moved on. Your club winning should always come first.

  5. TotalArsenal says:

    Re comments. We get thousands of viewers every day and we know there are a lot of people who read the posts which is the most important thing. I rather have few but good comments than lots but dumb ones! 😉

  6. 17highburyterrace says:

    TA, all agreed… You have mail with some blog thoughts… Remember, there are no dumb comment writers, just dumb comments…Or something… 😀

    Personally, I think the “tightness” of the squad could actually help us coming back from the break. Because the group basically picks itself those guys will have known that they would have to play. Also, I think that nobody picked up any injuries–except for the (massive) psychic toll the stuff in Paris engendered. Hopefully everybody can help pick each other up and will enjoy being with their “brothers,” if not their country-folk… Just like the fans must get tired of Tony P. as the seasons go by, so too must the players as we get deeper into each campaign, so maybe that’s another hope (straw to grasp at)…. We really need to get off on the right foot here. Tuesday, I think, is the better spot to rotate and hopefully AW has that in mind when he says the Ox and Rambo aren’t quite ready. After all, the result vs Dinamo is only half the equation; we’ll be just as worried about Bayern not accepting a ‘gentleman’s draw with the Greeks…

    OK, ‘nuf for now… Sunshine beckons… 🙂

  7. allezkev says:

    The traffic in London today was pthe absolute pits…

    17, great comments regarding Kroneke, always good to get a view from ‘over there’ on the man with no public voice…
    Yep, he hasn’t loaded Arsenal with a load of debt, but maybe that’s because he hasn’t got total control?
    Or am I being unfair??
    I don’t mind him skimming a bit off of the top, as long as we’re competitive, to me the £3m only becomes an issue if he shows a lack of ambition…
    Of course it’s difficult to really know what his ambitions are as he never says anything!

    I know you said (I think) that you don’t follow Grid Iron, but do you have any idea what the feeling is about him, from the fans of his other franchises…

    From what I’ve read over here, all the teams he owns are serial underachievers, or am I being unfair again…?

  8. allezkev says:

    Ok, 17 that’s a very in depth preview, as usual.
    I always enjoy reading them…

    I pretty much go along with your line up, as said above, it kinda picks itself.

    Although, (and there’s always an although 😄 ) I could see Flamini coming in if Sanchez is rested or if AW decides to use Flamini instead of Campbell or the right…

  9. Cheers allez…Sorry about the traffic…

    I recently looked at the Forbes list of richest sports Franchises and was amazed how high Arsenal rank (10th, I think)…with only RM, ManU, Barca and Bayern ahead of us among ‘soccer’ clubs. If that’s true, we should definitely be doing better. Of course, the owners who are willing to lose money actually lower the value of their clubs as players costs (fees and contracts) are debits rather than credits…I think, maybe… In truth, I don’t know… A closer look is probably deserved…

    In general, I think staying the course, not mortgaging the future to the present, etc. is a good enough strategy. We don’t want to get caught in a ‘race to the bottom,’ Gazidis once said. Eventually they will have to move to a ‘fairer’ structure with profit sharing, etc. And, at least in England the TV contract is shared…although (of course) that makes matches like Saturday’s all the tougher…and tougher still to compete against the Euro super clubs… Kroenke is DEFINITELY all about the money and sports, if you don’t get caught up in the winning or what the fans want, seems a great sector–lots of brand loyalty, etc. He’s just watching his bottom line grow as the Sheiks and the Garchs let their clubs nibble away at their numbers… For them maybe it’s hard to worry about a few 10s of millions if you’re worth 5 or 10 billion and gonna die all the same. Hard to say…

  10. njk84sg says:

    TA, referring to your first comment about your colleague wishes his club to lose so that TP will get the sack is absolutely bonkers.

    I guess your colleague does not know the sentense club before anyone else, and that anyone includes the manager too.

    Allezkev, yes i have read that London traffic is bonkers. Having yet to go to London myself, Jakarta is a little similar. 4 hours of getting stuck in the traffic is common.


  11. AB says:

    Evening HT. Great review, lots of positive vibe, and a great effort from you and TA in particular keeping the site well stocked with thought provoking posts. I’ve struggled for time of late, and the fragmented nature of comments and the interlull have all made engaging that bit harder.

    Tomorrow’s game is a real test for us and our ambitions. Even to the extent that a point might not be too bad, whilst a committed win would really add to our title credentials. We have a squad that is depleted and, in part, tired, and the baggies will give us a real hard go. Can we bring our greater technical skill to overcome a fresh, strong and well organised opposition? If we can, then that shows some steel and should offer real hope to the faithful.

    On the 11, there are all kind of reports around possible injury and fatigue. Subject to injuries my hunch would be that Kos and Debuchy both start, with the rest of the 11 as you suggest. Kos might be rested, but I would rest him mid-week if we needed to. And bringing Bell straight back against a physical opponent after a muscle injury…. hmmm, I’d rather we gave him 25 min at the end than risk him from the off; and Deb has every reason to give his all for us at present.

    Like every fan I worry for Sanchez. But I don’t see us being able to start without him to be honest. But hopefully the Gibbs experiment can be brought into play relatively early on, so we don’t have to risk exhausting him. In midweek, he has to be on the bench for my money.

  12. allezkev says:

    Interesting to see that Iwobi played in the U21’s today, so it seems that Jeff Reine-Adelaide could be in the squad at the Hawthorns…

    Yes 84, the traffic currently in London is the worst I’ve seen in over 20 years.
    Nothing you can do mate, everyone seems to want a car…

  13. allezkev says:

    Gibbs in for Campbell, interesting selection…

  14. AB says:

    Looks a pretty good set up to me. Campbell on early-ish in the second half for Sanchez, hopefully with us in the lead by then. Cazorla to be the key player today – should be fresh and up for a bounce back from the spud game.

    Come on Watford!

  15. AB says:

    Shame. Manure do their routine trick of playing badly and managing to sneak to 3 points. The sort of form unfortunately that is a threat, as they will gel more as the season progresses.

  16. Hi guys… Just saw the end of the Watford-United game…. Excitement with the equalizer, deflation with the very late Watford own goal… 😦

    Cheers AB and AK (above)… Are you guys able to watch the match today?,,, I know those 3 o’clocks can be tougher… I can try and keep you posted if you like…

    I guess we go with the team which finished vs Spurs…The only other change being Bells in for Debs. Gibbs from the start makes us a bit more defensive, I guess. Campbell and JRA from the bench if we need goals. A 17 yr old being given the nod over Iwobi doesn’t bode well–for the latter at least…

    Here are the teams, copied and pasted…

    West Brom: Myhill, Dawson, Olsson, Evans, Brunt, Yacob, Fletcher, Morrison, Sessegnon, McClean, Rondon. Subs: Chester, Gardner, Anichebe, Lambert, Berahino, McManaman, Lindegaard.

    Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Cazorla, Coquelin, Sanchez, Ozil, Gibbs, Giroud. Subs: Debuchy, Gabriel, Arteta, Ospina, Flamini, Campbell, Reine-Adelaide.

  17. AB says:

    Hi HT. I won’t be able to watch live sadly, but will keep track on radio in the background and an eye on the web. Our bench has looked better, but then we have practically a whole first 11 out, so excusable in my book. Have we enough fresh legs for the challenge? We will soon know.

  18. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey AB… Lemme know what they’re saying on the radio…

    WBA are trying to play and the pitch looks fast… So far, we’re playing quite narrow while WBA have had a bit of pleasure down our right side… They look a huge side with Dawson as a FB.

    Coquelin, trying to recover after a bad pass, is down hurt….

  19. allezkev says:

    Hi 17/AB…

    The radio for me 17, I’ll be channel hopping as usual…
    Funnily enough I’m listening to Birmingham vs Charlton atm.
    Jon Toral is having a great game…

  20. AB says:

    Coq with ligament injury is what the radio is saying

  21. 17highburyterrace says:


  22. 17highburyterrace says:

    Set piece goal… Ozil with the assist to extend his record…

  23. 17highburyterrace says:

    The Coq injury might not be quite so bad… It was the player himself who indicated he needed to come out, not the physio…

    Of course, it’s not good… Can’t afford to go for all the 50-50s…

    Now Giroud is hobbling…Gibbs as an attacker has some, er, limitations…(no right foot, doesn’t see Ozil’s run…)

    Bellerin takes a good yellow on Rondon…WBA set piece now…

  24. AB says:

    Been away for a bit. Its all happening by the sound. And we are playing well, according to the stats?

  25. 17highburyterrace says:

    1-1 Goal WBA… Bad defending at the set piece… Morrison with a perfect volley but Bellerin was wrong side and Arteta couldn’t get to it… Both goals were very soft…

  26. AB says:

    Ayeeee. I’m not liking this. Frenetic children at home, and something of a problem appearing on the pitch.

  27. AB says:

    Soft goal – is that us missing Coq, or was our CBs? Sorry, you suggested Bell.

    And now a goal down too.

  28. 17highburyterrace says:

    Yeah, we’re back to level… WBA have been pushing harder since we scored which maybe will give us some chances on the break… Baggies are doing well dropping off Ozil when he gets the ball…

    Oh shit… Own Goal off Arteta… Really bad…

  29. 17highburyterrace says:

    Arteta will catch loads of grief fot that one… Looked like he actually stuck his hand out too…

  30. 17highburyterrace says:

    We need to dig (very) deep here… For the first goal the foul was called on Arteta though he clearly got the ball first…

    On the plus side (maybe…) WBA have lost 2-3 at home twice this season already…

    Body language as the half ends isn’t good…

    Le Coq rash tackle (after his giveaway) looms large….

  31. 17highburyterrace says:

    Gibbs does better in attack and wins a corner…Comes to nothing…

    This is a difficult one and the narratives re: Arteta and not buying back up for Le Coq will be very tough…

    Before the goals we were looking very smooth with the 4 Spaniards appearing technically superior at the rear of midfield/FB area… Bellerin, in truth, is probably just as culpable for the two goals …and the first should never have happened as it was a very poor call by Clattenburg…

    Giroud and Ozil, however, need to avoid hanging their heads when moves don’t come off…

  32. AB says:

    Yup. Some more changes sound like they might be needed. If heads are down, Flam might be an option? Gir on a yellow with us goals down, must be a red card risk. But bench options limited. Any sense how Gibbs is playing?

  33. allezkev says:

    Well, this isn’t turning out to be one of Arsenal’s finest 45’s…

    We’re gonna have to dig deep to get anything from this game, and we won’t have Le Coq driving us on from midfield.
    You don’t win championships from these positions by folding up, you roll up your sleeves, get on with it and get something…
    This’ll be a test of our title credentials imo…

    Thanks for info 17

  34. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey AB, hectic around here too as my wife, trying to repair one computer rather broke it… She got it back to zero while I grabbed the other one…

    Gibbs is just very left footed…At the end there the ball fell that way so he could show off his pace. The cross, however, was blind and easily defended. The first sub has to be him out for Campbell and Alexis shifted to the left. Bellerin’s attacking game, I think, is limited with unpredictable Alexis in front of him…

    Here’s the thing… Arteta (and Wenger for sticking with him…) will be the focus of Gooner ire, Le Coq rash in the challenge is the MUCH bigger moment… Bells, always better going forward than defending is a secondary problem. A lot of the debate, of course, will come down to ‘youth vs veteran’ and preferences of that sort.

    Of course, for the moment we need to score goals and not concede further. Santi, Ozil and Arteta need to work the ball and Alexis needs to work with them…

  35. 17highburyterrace says:

    Ozil off the post!! Shit…

    Kos, down and now Arteta looking hurt… Nothing quite working here, but we’ve started well…

    Arteta is done… Flams on… Wow…

  36. AB says:

    Edgy wife v 3 boys under 6. All trying to work out a Wii, while I try to prevent them breaking the tv and everything else in the room.

    Flam on for Art. Blimey, what is that telling us!

  37. 17highburyterrace says:

    Wow…incredible work from Alexis on the right… Earlier Ozil set piece shows Giroud was tackled, gridiron style, by Olsson…

  38. AB says:

    Grief Art injured. Parlour is confident that Coq has knee ligament damage on the radio. Depressing if is calling it right

  39. 17highburyterrace says:

    We’re getting some good moments in attack…Flams almost on the end of the most recent… It’s all a bit scrambly however, and WBA are phyically imposing if they get it at our end… Yeah, the Coq injury didn’t look good…

    Now, with the 2 subs used, we’ll likely wait until very late to bring on Campbell for Gibbs. This group will need to get at least one…

  40. 17highburyterrace says:

    Wrong again… Looks like Campbell is coming on… AW is going all in here…

  41. AB says:

    No better time for Campbell to get a goal. Or two…..

  42. 17highburyterrace says:

    Campbell misses a SITTER…. 😦

  43. AB says:

    Grief. Sounds like he missed a sitter.

  44. AB says:

    It was as bad as its sounds then HT?

  45. 17highburyterrace says:

    That will not help him going forward… Needs to redeem himself…

  46. 17highburyterrace says:

    Worse… 😦

    Giroud offside… takes us into the 70s…

  47. 17highburyterrace says:

    Looked like #3 from a corner but goal line technology and offside flag saves us…

    Is that the bit of fortune we needed?….

  48. 17highburyterrace says:

    Now we’re crossing and Alexis almost gets on the end of one…

    C’mon boys…

  49. 17highburyterrace says:

    Now Ricky Lambert is on… Looks like the Pukka pies are working for him…

    78th min… Need that goal to lift our spirits…

  50. 17highburyterrace says:

    Ooooh…still trying but throughball get just in between Giroud and Alexis and keeper gathers…

  51. 17highburyterrace says:

    The stadium has gone awfully quiet… Away support prepared for the worst rather than urging our players forward… 😦


  52. AB says:

    worst place to be. Trying to get a late goal back against a Pulis side….

    Can we do the pen?

  53. AB says:

    I don’t believe it

  54. 17highburyterrace says:

    SANTI misses… Slipped on the run up…

  55. 17highburyterrace says:

    Campbell almost gets on a fine ball from Alexis…

    Hard to see a way back now…

  56. AB says:

    A sense of the inevitable now. We should have won this game, even with the injuries and the fatigue. Dear oh dear

  57. 17highburyterrace says:

    Promising move breaks down at JC… and then he’s too small at a high ball… Corner won… but keeper claims it

  58. 17highburyterrace says:

    Trying hard all the way to the end here… 4 mins extra time…

  59. 17highburyterrace says:

    Looked like a corner but goal kick given…then a yellow for time wasting on Myhill…

    Throw-in should get us to 92:00… Not looking good

  60. 17highburyterrace says:

    Kos, in attack, almost makes something good happen…

    Full time… Extremely disappointing and bodes very poorly for the future…

    Leicester City top of the table…

  61. njk84sg says:

    Pathetic. Couldn’t find any words.

  62. AB says:

    Dire! And very disappointing. I don’t think this means too much for our next league games, as long as we get some of our key injured folk back (and Coq is not a long absence). It was a predictably tough game, of the kind we have come up short on many times. This time we had a comedy of errors to compound matters. I’m not sure I want to even see the Campbell miss or Santi’s penalty. On to the next game and make sure we bounce back strongly, as we have shown we can.

  63. allezkev says:

    Thanks for info 17…

    Sounds like the boys gave it their all…

    Losing Coquelin for, who knows, 4-6 weeks?
    Is gonna be seriously damaging…

  64. Admir says:

    I love Arteta but Arsene’s decision not to by a proper cover for Coquelin has probably ended our title challenge today. 😦

    Clattenburg made two huge errors today though. Arteta’s “foul” was non-existing before their first (that doesn’t excuse Arteta for poor defending after the free-kick) and there was a stone-wall penalty on Giroud in the second half by Olsson (even if Santi “No-goal-from-an-open-play-for-a-year” Cazorla would have missed it anyway).

  65. AB says:

    Thanks for the updates HT. Just one of those days I fear. And there will be the predictable gloom until we get our next win. Coq injury does have me worried though.

  66. 17highburyterrace says:

    New post

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