The Baggies visit the Emirates on Thursday evening seeking their first league double over Arsenal for more than half a century. This match is the first of back-to-back games against the two North London giants with Albion facing Spurs at White Hart Lane just four days later.
The game was originally scheduled last month but was re-arranged due to Arsenal’s FA Cup quarter final which they lost to Watford, who were also victorious against the Baggies last weekend. The Hornets can count themselves fortunate to have taken all three points with Saido Berahino having failed to convert both penalty kicks that Albion were awarded. It was an intensely frustrating watch for Baggies fans, not because of Pulis’s tactics on this occasion, but because of the number of below-par performances amongst the Albion players.
Berahino was not the only one to have had an off-day. While Albion dominated possession and created more chances than they have done in most games this season, I was left with the feeling that far too many simple passes had gone astray and far too many good opportunities had been squandered. It was, perhaps, the best opportunity of getting three points for Albion in their remaining games, but that doesn’t necessarily hold true. Having lost to relegation strugglers QPR and Leicester in April last season (still hard to believe how far the Foxes have come), Albion went on to win away at Man Utd and at home to champions Chelsea. So perhaps there is still some hope of breaking that points record despite the tricky run-in.
It was good to see Callum McManaman on the pitch again on Saturday, although he didn’t really have as much impact as he would’ve liked. The game against Watford did highlight how much Albion are missing the other injured players, James Morrison and Chris Brunt. Mozza has always made Albion tick and, while Pulis might struggle to accommodate Sessègnon, Fletcher, Morrison, Berahino and Rondón in the same eleven, he offers something that none of our other central midfielders do.
Albion’s last league double over Arsenal was back in 1961/62. At the Hawthorns, Kevan, Burnside, Clark and Jackson were all on target as the Baggies won 4-0 in September 1961, and they followed that up at Highbury the following February with Chippy Clark on the mark again scoring the only goal of the game.
Since then, Albion have won just five of the thirty league visits to Arsenal, the last of which was almost six years ago when goals from Odemwingie, Jara and Thomas put Albion 3-0 up and, while an Arteta brace made it nervy late on, the visitors held on for the three points. Albion have scored just once in their four trips to the Emirates since then, a consolation goal from Gareth McAuely last season.
In 1978, another impressive win at Arsenal, a 2-1 triumph thanks to goals from Ally Brown and Bryan Robson on Boxing Day, was somewhat overshadowed by the result two days later – that 5-3 win at Old Trafford.
Albion’s biggest win at Arsenal came in November 1959 when Ronnie Allen (2), Bobby Robson and Derek Kevan all scored in a 4-2 win, while the Gunners’ record win came just a month or so after I was born, a 6-2 win in September 1970 when goals from Hugh Reed and Tony Brown for Albion were outdone by braces for Ray Kennedy and George Graham, and own goal from Cantello and another from George Armstrong for the side that went on to win the title that season.
Albion will be without their longest serving duo of Chris Brunt and James Morrison, while loanee Alex Pritchard is also likely to miss out with a hip injury.
Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have recently returned to training joining Jack Wilshere and Tomáš Rosický on the road to recovery. There is the possibility that any of these four could feature, although none are expected to start.
It is difficult to look beyond a home victory although, with Arsenal, you can never be sure. They were below par when Albion beat them at the Hawthorns in November, as they were for the 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace at the weekend but, then again, Albion have taken just four points from a possible twenty-seven at Arsenal in the Premier League.
Arsenal have won just one of their last six at home in all competitions and I fancy Albion to extend the Gunners’ poor run and come away with a point.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
21 Nov 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Morrison, Arteta (o.g.))
Arsenal 1 (Giroud)
Last meeting at Arsenal
24 May 2015 – Premier League
Arsenal 4 (Walcott (3), Wilshere)
West Brom 1 (McAuley)
Last win at Arsenal
25 Sep 2010 – Premier League
Arsenal 2 (Nasri (2))
West Brom 3 (Odemwingie, Jara, Thomas)
Albion’s Record against Arsenal
|Premier League Record|