Banners Flown or the Beginning of a Banner Run-In? West Bromwich Albion–Arsenal. Match Preview, Predicted Team.

This is where it all began–the banners amongst the traveling “support” telling Arsene Wenger that his services as manager at Arsenal Football Club were no longer desired.  What year was it?  2014 maybe, but who can remember?  For what feels like an eternity, Arsenal fans have seen title challenges fall away and watched what feels like an annual right of passage–each February from the first elimination round of the Champions League.  What’s the point of trying for another top 4 finish in the league if that’s all that can be expected?  Sports should be a respite from our boring lives.  Consistency?  No thank you…

Even if the results haven’t actually gotten worse (in fact, we finished 2nd in the league last season and won a pair of FA cups in the proceeding campaigns), the sense of futility (sameness?) and the toxicity of the Arsenal environment only grows.  A fund had been raised to hire a plane and fly another message to the board: “Wenger Out. No New Contract.”  Due to bad weather, it will have to wait.  Instead, only the hand-held ones will be on display.

But that’s the “game within the game” or maybe the battle amongst brothers.  Arsenal supporters all yearn for success–or at least easy answers and change for the sake of change–but there’s an actual match that must be played and it will be against an always resolute opponent: Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion.  If Arsenal can win it–and make no mistake, with Wenger still at the helm, ALL matches are ones he must win–the protests will be held over until the International break is done and we host Manchester City.  If we cannot… Well, let’s not go there unless we must.  As the song goes: “Oh to be a Gooner..”

Pulis’ team is having a fine season and have already reached the 40 point mark finding itself in 8th place in the league table.  Their last two outings have been poor, however.  They failed to score and were beaten 3-nil at Everton last weekend, and, even worse, allowed two Crystal Palace goals while scoring none themselves in a home match the weekend before.  Pulis, always a strong motivator, will want to right the ship and will surely have his players well focused for the task at hand.  And, although his teams have a reputation for defending first and foremost–and that such a tactic might also be aided by the rough weather–he’ll also know that an early goal will only fuel the rancor amongst the traveling support and put extra pressure on Arsenal to come at his Baggies and perhaps leave themselves exposed for counterattacks.

And, we must remember, WBA are no Lincoln City, the non-league team we were able to beat in the FA Cup last weekend.  Instead of part-time players and former tradesmen, West Brom have several players who have played at much more renowned clubs.  Ben Foster, the former Manchester United keeper, anchors it all, while other former Red-Devils, notably Jonny Evans and Darren Fletcher, will likely play ahead of him.  Nacer Chadli and Jake Livermore did time at Tottenham and now take up midfield roles with the Baggies.  Solomon Rondon (the answer to the question “Who ate all the empanadas (Spanish for pies)?” is a big force up front and he could be paired with Hal Robson-Kanu who impressed in the 2016 European Championships with Wales.

How does Wenger, under so much pressure that he cannot afford a mistake, set up his team against the Baggies?

He certainly played a strong squad against Lincoln City and I suspect he’ll go with that same group again, with the exception of starting Mesut Ozil (who came on for the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the middle of the first half) and replacing Kieran Gibbs (who seems to have caught the illness which had gotten Ozil before him) at left back.  That would make for a starting 11 as follows:

Cech

Bellerin–Mustafi–Koscielny–Monreal

Xhaka–Ramsey

Walcott–Ozil–Alexis

Giroud

Substitutes: Ospina, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Coquelin, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lucas

Of course, he could also choose to mix things up a bit by going more defensive in midfield with Coquelin or choosing to use Alexis up front and keeping Giroud in reserve if goals are needed late.  The manager was far from definitive in his pre-match comments about the health of other flu stricken players (Iwobi and Welbeck) and on the recovery of injured guys like the Ox and Mohamed Elneny.  Still, with the pressure he’s under and the fact that the Lincoln match was one of his only successful recent outings, I think he’ll only tinker as he must.  As I said before, it’s a must win match and only such a result see the banner carriers leave the Hawthorns somewhat sheepishly.  They’ll be back, of course, after the international break, but most Gooners could probably use a respite from the angst surrounding the club.

But what do I know?  How do my fellow BK-esquers (the few, the proud..) feel about the match and what are your predictions (or desires) for the game?

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

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58 Responses to Banners Flown or the Beginning of a Banner Run-In? West Bromwich Albion–Arsenal. Match Preview, Predicted Team.

  1. D-Money says:

    Will be honest: genuinely struggling to care about results right now…to be honest a part of me does not want us to make the top 4 and qualify for UCL just so that we can get suffer another embarrassing R16 exit – what would be the point? A part of me thinks that Chelsea and Leicester have greatly benefitted from not having European commitments. The last time Liverpool came close it was also when they had no European commitments. Quite frankly I’m not sure I’d be bothered if we finished outside top 7, though that seems unlikely and the last thing we need is Spursday football.

    I appreciate that this is a match preview and I am not directly commenting on the match, but like I said, I’m struggling to see any motivation for why these matches are important, and why it’s necessary for us to finish the season on a good run. Because top 4 without accompanying progress in UCL has lost it’s appeal for me.

    One of the reasons behind Brexit (ignorance and xenophobia aside) are voters and people who just could not be bothered…many Arsenal fans are divided along In/Out extremisms, but then there’s another group who are just tired of analysing both sides and having to find “peace” amongst the extremists. I’m tired of seeking this peace and honestly win or lose, I doubt either will bring great joy or sadness. It just doesn’t seem to have a purpose at all now. Top 4 for what? UCL TV money? Is that enough motivations for fans of a football club?

    Do not get me wrong, I want the team to win every match available and left for the season. If possible I pray we win FA Cup by beating Spurs via an offside last minute deflected own goal.

    But even then, what follows? Club just seems to lack direction and focus. Games and victories exist in isolation,no coherent plan to turn individual victories into something bigger. Do I care and want the team to beat West Brom? Yes. Is it as much as I wish I cared? No, not even close.

    (If this comes across “entitled” and/or “morbid”, so be it, that’s how I feel right now.)

  2. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey D-Money, long time…

    Maybe you also read my comment towards the end of the last thread… In it, I tried to link Wenger’s hope for competing in Europe with the current malaise. Is it structural that we (and the other English teams–even the ones pumped up on foreign money) cannot get far in Europe? Should we really just look inwardly and focus on the domestic competitions? What about the quality of the football or how the game is being played? It does seem like an existential question for a lot of folks (not just football fans…) and some of the “managers” (and politicians) are riding high trying to promote the narrow view… Sorry, but it doesn’t work for me and if fans cannot support their own team I have little hope that folks will be able to support the one we all belong to…you know, humanity…

    Sorry TA, if that’s too much politics, lemme know… D-money (kind of, maybe) started it, however… 😀 … 😦

  3. Pony Eye says:

    Hey D-Money, Arsenal is not the In/Out squabble. It’s much bigger than that. All its details would pass away, Wenger, Alexis, Koscienly, Cech etc but the club stays. We need to keep our eyes on the ball. Belong where you want in the In/Out but belong to Arsenal in deeds and words. We should care.

  4. Pony Eye says:

    Lovely post HT. Your emotions are always so well centered that when am well adjusted I nod in agreement reading your piece.

    One little point though. Coquelin for Xhaka for me. We will dominate the field territorially with most of the game in West Brom’s half. That reduces the value of a long passer like Xhaka. On the other hand, because of more space in our half Coq’s passing would be enhanced. The defensive aspect of their play becomes the deciding factor in the choice between the two.

    I expect Giroud to play not only for a big frame in the box but also for defending set pieces as West Brom leads the league in set piece goals (16 goals).

    Expected line up:

    ———Cech———
    Bel–Must–Kos–Nacho
    ———-Coq———-
    —–Ozil——Rambo
    Theo—-Giroud—-Alexis.

    Bench: Ospina, Gabriel, Niles, Xhaka, Iwobi, Welbeck

    This is a game we cannot afford to loose. Our biggest fight is against the toxic atmosphere.

  5. Pony Eye says:

    Incredible how things have gone so quiet everywhere. It’s unfair to expect those 11 lads on the field to drag everybody up just on their own. It should be a mutual thing. While they struggle to drag themselves and us up, we should be dragging them and ourselves up too. They are same place as the fans.

  6. Waldo says:

    With this being Arsenal last match until 3 April, the Ox out injured and Gibbs under an injury cloud, the starting line up I would like to see versus WBA is:

    GK: Cech
    RB: Debuchy
    CB: Mustafi
    CB: Koscielny
    LB: Monreal
    LCDM: Xhaka
    CDM: Coquelin
    RCDM: Elneny
    RW: Alexis
    CF: Perez
    LW: Ozil

    In that setup I’m envisaging:

    – Alexis and Ozil taking turns coming in off their flank and dropping into the No 10 role when Arsenal attack; the other winger moving centrally to playing alongside Perez as a strike duo; that striking duo making off the ball runs behind the opposition’s defensive line for the winger who has assumed the No 10 role to target with through balls.
    – The back seven keep it nice and simple by focusing on maintaining their defensive structure and shape, staying compact, tackling and intercepting with Elneny and Xhaka being the transitional outlets, by executing long range passes to the front three, as well as providing Arsenal with a long range shooting option.

    Alternatively, if Wenger is wanting to give Giroud a run, the starting line up I’d like to see is:

    GK: Cech
    RB: Debuchy
    CB: Mustafi
    CB: Koscielny
    LB: Monreal
    LCDM: Xhaka
    CDM: Coquelin
    RCDM: Elneny
    RW: Alexis
    CF: Giroud
    LW: Ozil

    In that setup I’m envisaging:

    – Alexis and Ozil staying wide and forward along side Giroud in the CF role and trying to deliver accurate early crosses for Giroud to attack.
    –Again the back seven keep it nice and simple by focusing on maintaining their defensive structure and shape, staying compact, tackling and intercepting with Elneny and Xhaka being the transitional outlets, by executing long range passes to the front three, as well as providing Arsenal with a long range shooting option.
    – If and when Arsenal are able to monopolise possession in the opposition’s half I’d like the see purposeful build up play with the aim of creating opportunities for Monreal and Ozil on the left and Sanchez and Debuchy on the right to deliver accurate crosses for Giroud to attack.

  7. TotalArsenal says:

    the rest of Arsenal’s life starts today, and the same will happen tomorrow. A beautiful battle awaits us and I for one am just looking fwd to living in the moment of the game.

    Agreed with the line up, Seventeenho, even though I am desperate to see Perez getting a run, who is more versatile/ complete than Theo.

  8. allezkev says:

    Hey Total, have you been keeping an eye on the Dutch elections?

  9. TotalArsenal says:

    Yes Kev, I am relieved but also saddened by the big loss of the Dutch traditional Labour Party.

  10. TotalArsenal says:

    West Brom (4-2-3-1) Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Nyom; Fletcher, Livermore; Brunt, Chadli, McClean; Rondon.
    Substitutes: Myhill, Wilson, Olsson, Yacob, Leko, Field, Robson-Kanu.

    Arsenal (4-2-3-1) Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka; Walcott, Ramsey, Welbeck; Sanchez.
    Substitutes: Ospina, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Iwobi, Elneny, Coquelin, Giroud.

  11. allezkev says:

    It seem TA, that European politics is becoming more extreme at both ends of the spectrum, I read that the Greens won a lot of the left vote in Holland.

  12. allezkev says:

    Why no Perez on the bench, what the hell is that all about?

  13. TotalArsenal says:

    Yes they won almost ten percent of all the seats, Kev, with a lot of support among the younger voters. They have a charismatic leader the Dutch LP is simply missing. No Perez is a mistery to me too.

  14. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey fellas… Perez? Where’s Ozil?…

    Uh Oh, WBA score from a corner… Big trouble here…

  15. 17highburyterrace says:

    1-1 Alexis… Who took down a fine ball from Xhaka… Back level quickly…

  16. 17highburyterrace says:

    The weather seems good enough for the planes (and banners) to fly… Both Wenger out and In Wenger we trust…

    No Ozil due to flu or something else?…

  17. 17highburyterrace says:

    Outstanding saves at both ends… Foster from Rambo’s left footer then Cech–even better–from Fletcher. And we survive their corner kick too…

    Cech hurt now… Ospina will have to come on…

  18. allezkev says:

    Total, the British Labour Party is in flux as well as those in the Nederlands.
    Scotland and Wales have big nationalist parties, Labour lost the northern working class in the Brexit vote.
    It’s the uncertainty over jobs, housing etc and the fact that the left is splintering.

  19. allezkev says:

    17tino I heard that Ozil had a hamstring issue

  20. 17highburyterrace says:

    Cheers Kev for the info…

    Alexis taken out with a heavy challenge and still down holding his leg…

    They’re giving us plenty of the ball in MF but both DW and Theo can’t get too many touches near their back line. The WBA counter looks dangerous when we lose the ball and, obviously, they look dangerous at set pieces.

    Alexis back on but moving gingerly…

  21. 17highburyterrace says:

    HT…

    Alexis looked bright even after the take down… Gotta get DW into the match somehow…

  22. retsub1 says:

    Kick Alexis Albion 1 the good guys 1.
    All of our good stuff is coming down the left. Danny looks very lightweight / lacking match fitness at the moment. I would get Giroud on, as he will also help defensively.

    Frustrating to have all that possession, but they look just as likely to score as we do

    COYG

  23. TotalArsenal says:

    Kev, the big cities in the North voted mostly for remain, but yes the LP is losing the working class voters more and more. Fact is that Corbyn is quite happy with Brexit and that has split the party a lot.

  24. TotalArsenal says:

    Interesting team formation and style of play. Xhaka is playing very well and is organising our attacking play. Ox and Rambo and also Welbeck and Theo are all over the place but poor on the ball mostly. Ox had some fine passes to be fair, but I am not sure what his role is at the moment. Alexis is being kicked to bits and the referee is to blame – what a twit.

  25. 17highburyterrace says:

    The ball is in our goal…Refs conferring… It stands… Seems like Ospina could’ve grabbed the ball…

    Down again but 35 mins to go…

  26. 17highburyterrace says:

    Theo out for Giroud… DW has been able to get a touch so I thought he might be the one to go…

    Welbeck header from a Xhaka corner is off the bar!

    Ospina in no man’s land but we’re spared a 3rd WBA goal…

  27. 17highburyterrace says:

    hasn’t been able to get a touch, I meant… Doing better now with the header and now a FK outside the box. DW that is…

    Xhaka kicks straight into the wall…

  28. 17highburyterrace says:

    A Rambo cross finds Giroud’s foot but nothing more…Alexis’ chip is over the big guy and easy for Foster… WBA still dangerous on the break and win another corner…

    And they score from it…

    This one’s over, folks…

  29. D-Money says:

    #InArseneWeTrust right?

  30. 17highburyterrace says:

    Alexis off, Iwobi on…

    Hey D-Money… Nice timing…

  31. retsub1 says:

    Rambo doesn’t seem to move at either of Dawson’s goals and is rightly getting flak. But why the hell would he be assigned to mark him anyway? The 3rd goal there were three WBA players queuing up to score

  32. Admir says:

    I just hope Arsene will get 10 millions per year except that wage should come out of other clubs’ pockets.

    At least we should not worry about Moyes v2.0 coming in for Wenger. We already have one.

  33. 17highburyterrace says:

    Ox to nobody… Sums it up, I fear…

  34. D-Money says:

    Bellerin and Mustafi been awful all year, but expecting the manager to switch them out is asking too much…literally losing the exact wa we lost to them last season and everyone was expecting us to lose.

  35. D-Money says:

    Last 2 months the only teams we have beaten are non league teams…

  36. 17highburyterrace says:

    Wow…This is quite ugly… Good times, however, for those already off the ship…

    If only the Int’l break could last forever…

  37. allezkev says:

    At this rate we’ll be lucky to finish in the top 6, nevermind the top 4…

  38. Admir says:

    @17

    I think these times are not good for anyone (aside from clubs that play against us). We are in a deep mess and next season The Selfish One won’t be able to play a RvP-card to get us out of trouble.

    Stupid planes aside, excuses for The Selfish One are out and if Arsenal had an owner that cares a bit about the club, Wenger would have selling his crap in China/MLS. He spent around 100 millions last summer to make us looking much worse that we were last season. So it’s not about money any more. It’s not about playing a beautiful football either unless this sh!t on a stick we’ve been sold this season is a beautiful football.

  39. D-Money says:

    Taking into account how awful and incompetent a manager he has become, I genuinely feel sorry for Wenger…I get the feeling the players are deliberately trying to get him sacked.

  40. TotalArsenal says:

    Well if Arsene finally was to finish with Arsenal outside of the top four… then there is always next season. With or without him, we will have a go again.

  41. Admir says:

    @D-Money

    I don’t think so. Most of them wouldn’t find another manager who would be crazy enough to give some of them 140k per week or any type of a contract with Arsenal.

    Arsenal need Usmanov, a new manager and six-seven new players to replace heartless, spineless and gutless players we have in our squad. All new players would have to be tall and physically strong enough to win 50-50s with ease. A goalkeeper (Perrin, Oblak, Donnaruma), a central defender (Van Dijk), a left full-back (Mendy or Rodriguez), a defensive midfielder (Krychowiak), a new striker (Lukaku) and a winger (Pulisic). Jardim, Allegri or Simeone on the bench.

    We won’t get it as we are stuck with Kroenke and that’s how it is.

  42. retsub1 says:

    Sadly its looking more and more like Wenger has lost the support of the players. Very few players can claim to have played well today and the communication on he pitch looks abysmal.

    We saw it with Chelsea under Mourinho, quite possibly it happened at Leicester and Swansea. I wish he could do it, but the only way I can see this season being turned around (saved is a strong word) is by a change of direction.

    As each game goes by he is tarnishing a fantastic record. He deserves better than this. At the moment it appears that all decisions are his and that can’t be right

  43. retsub1 says:

    I have always liked Theo and I may be wrong here, but the only time he looked interested was when he knew he was going to be subbed. Suddenly he changed gears got stuck in and won a corner

  44. retsub1 says:

    And finally give the players an extra weetabix, they can barely muster a decent cross between them. Its a little unfair on Giroud if you don’t give him any ammunition. Bellerin is pretty poor in this respect.

  45. TotalArsenal says:

    Anybody lives in south east Essex? This may interest you…

    http://www.seegunners.co.uk

  46. Goonereris says:

    That was a chastening defeat, given what we have around us in terms of the chasing pack. Easy to look at the manager, who persists with these players, but they have not covered themselves in glory with that hapless performance. What’s funny is that Wenger doesn’t see what everyone can see, that they are a gutless bunch but rather he insists they have the right attitude in these games; maybe, he has little choice but to do so. However, 4 losses in 5 premiership games is relegation form.
    I disagree that the players want to get him sacked. No way, because they should know, as we all do, that he won’t be sacked till the end of the season, anyway. So, why can’t we see a bit more fight and determination to cut out silly errors. Everton has levelled up with us on 50 points and now, those games in hand don’t look like sure bankers.

    Still, just because he has pulled it off many a time in the past, I’ll have to trust Arsene Wenger to change things for the run-in.

  47. Waldo says:

    Another disappointing performance from Arsenal. Put simply, Arsenal’s system of play is fundamentally flaw. Wenger’ evident instructions for his players to patiently monopolise possession of the ball in the opponent’s half through the fluid movement of player:

    – is aimless
    – results in a highly congested space for Arsenal to attempt to create clear cut goal scoring chances
    – unnecessarily exposes Arsenal to counterattacks from opponents in which they are able to create clear cut goal soring opportunities because of the space Arsenal’s system of play affords the opponent’s attackers.

    It’s very much Groundhog Day watching Arsenal play and to be honest, but for some late scrappy goals from Giroud this season, Arsenal would currently be in mid table.

    A change of manager, a change in Arsenal’s style and system of play and the recruitment of players which compliment that style and system, is very much needed. The sooner the better in my opinion.

  48. Pony Eye says:

    West Brom:- the worst possession (PTB) stats in the league, the best set piece stats. It was a game crying out for Giroud. The next match against Man c, where we won’t enjoy plenty presence in their defensive third and where we would have spaces for counters I bet we would see Giroud as 1st name on the sheet. I must be thinking upside down!

  49. Pony Eye says:

    TA, sent a post to your box.

  50. njk84sg says:

    It is disappointing to see us winning against lowly teams and and losing against teams in the league.

    Players talking about apologies and still defended poorly is not walking the talk. We should do that instead of apologising. Not learning from the mistakes made game in and out is worse than the mistakes itself.

  51. njk84sg says:

    And how many games does Wenger need to analyse before he gets it right? During set pieces yesterday the players were all over the place. Who is supposed to position the players at the intended location in front of goal?

    For now, apologies and reasoning are all air to me. If we do not ensure that we have a proper tactic for different scenarios I am growing tired of this. Maybe we play Championship footy is a better idea next season.

  52. Waldo says:

    The West Brom match has solidified my belief that Arsenal need to establish a solid deeplying defensive platform in central midfield if they are to genuinely mount a title challenge. By that I mean Arsenal need to deploy three geunuinely defensive CDMs who are naturally inclined to sit deep, have the tackling and interception skills to protect the back four and possess the transitional passing skills to move the ball forward through long range passes (as opposed to forward dribbles) so as not to compromise Arsenal’s defensive structure.

    If that sort of defensive platform was in place I think Arsenal could successfully deploy any of the following attacking trio and give them the space they need to turn Arsenal’s current offensive threat into an avalanche of goals.

    CAM: Ozil
    LS: Alexis / Walcott
    RS: Perez

    or

    LW: Ozil
    CF: Perez / Walcott
    RW: Alexis

    or

    LW: Ozil
    CF: Giroud
    RW: Alexis / Ox

    That said, i don’t think that central midfield setup is possible with Arsenal’s current midfield cohort (i.e. Xhaka, Coquelin, Ramsey, Elneny, Cazorla, Wilshire, Ox). With the possible exception of Xhaka, Arsenal simply don’t have the midfielders with a natural combination of strong defensive and transitional passing skills and positional awareness and Wenger is not the sort of coach to drill that sort of discipline into his existing midfield options.

    Between now and the end of the season I fear Arsenal’s performances will continue to be fragmented and impotent. Hopefully in the offseason Arsenal, with or without Wenger, will target the likes of Gonalons, Demme and Illarramendi to provide that strong central defensive midfield platform Arsenal desperately need for their attacking players to flourish and ultimately to bring Arsenal success.

  53. allezkev says:

    Interesting to see that the ‘other’ plane flying over the Hawthorns yesterday was paid for a Hong Kong based company with family connections to Keswick…

  54. allezkev says:

    Total, that Essex supporters club looks a good thing, the club needs to urgently seek out a future generation of fans as the average age at the ground is getting quite advanced, not as old as our Board, but not far off of it.
    Due to the inflated admission prices, young fans are priced out.
    There’s also a significant group of younger fans who only travel to away game.

    Personally, I’m a member of the original Arsenal Supporters Club, who were once shunned by the club, but fortunately have retained their independence and will always go the extra mile to assist fans in away travel and tickets to both home and away fixtures. They are a great bunch and true fans to a man (and woman)…

  55. TotalArsenal says:

    Thank you, PE.

    New Post.

  56. TotalArsenal says:

    All agreed Kev.

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