Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. West Bromwich Albion

Emirates Stadium, London
Monday, September 25
3:00 p.m. EDT, 20:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Robert Madley
    • Assistants: Lee Betts and Marc Perry
    • 4th Official: Stuart Attwell
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 0 West Brom
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 70 Arsenal wins, 38 West Brom wins, 31 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W // W-L-L-W-D
  • West Brom's League Form: L // W-W-D-L-D
We're in the middle of a heavy run of fixtures right now, which is what happens when you're competing on three fronts. Since coming out of the last international break, Arsenal's fixture list placed matches on Saturday, Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, Monday, Thursday, Sunday, a list we are currently halfway through. Arsenal's regulars will have had a good amount of rest between last week's trip to Stamford Bridge and this week's Monday night home game against West Brom. From there, they'll travel to Belarus on Thursday before a trip to Brighton at noon on Sunday (that's at something like negative 2 a.m. in New York, FYI.) That takes us into another international break.

Arsenal have climbed from 16th in the table to 12th since their loss at Anfield, but they are only three points back of Chelsea for third place.While the table has made for some bleak reading so far this year, I've been encouraged by other results. Arsenal were in with a shout to take a win from Stamford Bridge for the first time since the Mesozoic Era; that's enough to convince me that Arsenal are still in contention to be a top four club, regardless of what the media's #narrative will try to tell you.

But, to finish in the top four, you have to win the games you are supposed to win. West Brom at home is one of those fixtures, where nothing less than three points will suffice.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Chambers (hip,) Welbeck (groin,) Coquelin (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)
Doubts: Walcott (knee,) Özil (knee)

Jack Wilshere completed 90 for the first time since... well, maybe the later part of the Mesozoic Era? Or the early part of the Cenozoic? It's been a while. That's really it for the "good news," though.

Calum Chambers came off against Doncaster with a hip injury that will keep him out for a week or two. Elsewhere, from the weekend, Danny Welbeck hurt his groin against Chelsea. Arsène Wenger has said, "his target is Watford," which means Arsenal will be without him through the next international break and it appears England will be without him as well.

Theo Walcott has some concerns over a knee injury, but was not likely to start the league fixture anyway. Mesut Özil is back in full training from his knee problem and should be ready to feature by Monday.

Predicted XI: Čech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Alexis, Lacazette.

West Brom Squad News

Out: None
Doubts: Chadli (thigh,) Burke (thigh,) Livermore (personal,) Brunt (calf)

A lot of doubts in West Brom's injury list, as they have no players ruled completely out, but four who about 50/50. Jake Livermore could return after he was given an extended break by Tony Pulis after the last international break, with Pulis saying, "physically he is fine but mentally, he just feels a little bit tired." It's been a difficult few years for Livermore, who tested positive for cocaine in 2015, which he had begun using to cope after his newborn son died during birth the day after he started for Hull City in their FA Cup Final loss.

Oliver Burke, Nacer Chadli and Chris Brunt are all doubts for this match, though Gareth McAuley has returned to West Brom's XI. Kieran Gibbs will be given a start against his former club in this one, while Gareth Barry is expected to break the Premier League record for appearances when he starts in this one.

Predicted XI: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Gibbs, Krychowiak, Barry, Phillips, Rodriguez, Livermore, Rondón.

Current Form

Arsenal have responded decently well after the international break, following that 4-0 thumping at Anfield. Since then, the Gunners have racked up a 3-0 win over Bournemouth, a 3-1 win over Köln, a 0-0 draw at Chelsea, and a 1-0 win over Doncaster in the League Cup. There have been positives in the league fixtures, but the midweek cup ties featuring heavy squad rotation have left quite a bit to be desired, even though they both ended in victories. It feels like Arsenal are currently doing just enough to keep their heads above water, even though their performance at Stamford Bridge was better than our admittedly low expectations. On the bright side, since shipping four at Anfield, the only goal Arsenal have conceded was David Ospina's first half adventure against Köln.

In the league, West Bromwich Albion are ahead of Arsenal in the table by two positions and a single point. Their League Cup campaign ended on Wednesday night at home, at the hands of Manchester City, but they did open their Premier League schedule with two straight victories, over Bournemouth and Burnley. The Baggies are winless since then, however, with draws against Stoke and West Ham as well as a loss to Brighton; that was the Seagulls' first top flight win since their last relegation in 1983.

Match Facts

Both sides split the two league meetings between them last season, with both clubs winning at home. The sides met at the Emirates on Boxing Day and Arsenal left it late before winning 1-0. Olivier Giroud, making his first league start of the season, nodded a Mesut Özil cross past Ben Foster in the 86th minute to give the Gunners a very difficult three points. Ben Foster made 10 saves in the loss.

The reverse fixture at the Hawthorns was one of Arsenal's low points of the season (they proceeded to get lower at Crystal Palace, however.) Arsenal seemed completely unprepared for how West Brom came to play, despite the fact that they've been facing Tony Pulis for years across a variety of teams. You'll recall that this was the game where the Wenger Out airplane banner was followed by the Wenger In airplane banner. Craig Dawson scored twice from corners as the Baggies won 3-1. It was Arsenal's fourth defeat in five league games.

Arsenal have won seven straight at home against West Brom, dating back to September of 2010, when Manuel Almunia injured himself saving a penalty, stayed in the game anyway, then conceded three goals.

The Referee

The referee is West Yorkshire-based Robert Madley. Arsenal have already seen Madley once so far this season, for their Community Shield win over Chelsea. On that day, Madley showed a red card to Pedro in the 80th minute. Madley has already shown four red cards in five matches so far this season, two more than any other Select Group officials.

Madley took charge of three Arsenal matches last season: the 2-1 win over Southampton (aided by a late Arsenal penalty,) the 2-1 FA Cup win over Preston North End (aided by another late Arsenal goal, though not a penalty,) and the 3-1 loss at Anfield (aided by nothing.)

West Brom have also already seen Madley once this season, for their season opening 1-0 win over Bournemouth at the Hawthorns. However, West Brom did not see Madley for a single match at all last season. Prior to the season opener, Madley had not worked a West Brom match since a 1-1 draw with Liverpool on the final day of the 2015/16 season.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): West Ham United v. Tottenham Hotspur; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Huddersfield Town; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Everton v. Bournemouth; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester City v. Crystal Palace; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Manchester United; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Chelsea; Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Watford; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Leicester City v. Liverpool; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Sunday (late): Brighton & Hove Albion v. Newcastle United; American Express Community Stadium, Falmer
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a four-act play. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for the dramatic conclusion.

Five Thoughts: Arsenal 1-0 Doncaster Rovers

This is, err, not going to be super in-depth. If we're being honest here, I've already forgotten 99% of what happened in that match. Who'd we play again, anyway?

1. I didn't get to the pub until about 10 minutes into the first half - enough to miss Olivier Giroud's wonderful scissors-volley that smashed against the crossbar at any rate - and then was distracted for much of the second half, as well. In other words, I'm not going to have much in the way of in-depth analysis this time around.

Thing is, an old mate from the Nevada's days and on through until a year or two ago was back up around these parts from North Carolina, and he happened to pop into O'Hanlon's to see if anyone was around. Truth be told, I missed large swathes of the second half catching up with him, meeting his new fiancee, etc.

It's a bit cliche to say it perhaps, but it is a reminder that some things are more important than a game of football. Having been in and around the Arsenal NYC setup since the beginning (and before that, to be fair), I can say with confidence that the friends that I've made and the moments shared with them far, far, far outweigh what happens in any one given game.

2. That said, what a starting XI this was, eh? If we thought the Koln game was darts-at-a-dartboard, this was more throwing the names of the squad into a blender and hitting "puree".

I literally had no idea that Calum Chambers played in this one, though unfortunately for him this is the last we'll see of him in a while, as he aggravated an injury somewhere in this one. Meanwhile, Rob Holding got though this one without calamity, as did David Ospina.

Meanwhile, those clamoring for Reiss Nelson to be more involved were granted their wish, though he didn't make much of an impact on the proceedings. There'll be better days for him, I'm sure.

The main headline, though, is that Jack Wilshere made it through 90 minutes and looked generally pretty good in doing so. He's been remarkably patient in waiting for his chance, especially given that even his loan spell at Bournemouth last season wasn't especially fruitful for him. There's still the makings of a truly great player in there, and it's not like our central midfield positions are locked in by players in mega-awesome form. All he can do is take his chances while they come, and you have to think this one was mission accomplished.

Consistency is now going to be the key for him.

3. On the other hand, Alexis playing in this thing was more than a little weird, especially as he's only been a sub in the Premier League games. The journos are already having a field day with this whole thing, too.

Typically, when Arsene goes to great pains to say that Thing X isn't true, then usually it means Thing X is *absolutely* the case. If so, honestly, I'm not as bothered about it as you might think I'd be. Competing on all fronts is going to be difficult in any case for us, but even assuming this is only a temporary demotion, the Chelsea match showed that some of our depth players are better than the more hysterical of us have given them credit for. And, if it means we have a world-class player to help us through the early rounds of the cups, then even better.

Really, the main goal was keeping him out of the clutches of an already-rampant Manchester City, anyway.

4. The first half was largely tolerable, and the goal was well-taken once it happened. Alexis crossed one in to Theo Walcott on the back post, who then dribbled past a few dudes and dinked it over the onrushing keeper. Easy peasy. Watching their # 8 go utterly into screensaver mode was especially enjoyable. Poor lad's brain was broken. But, and maybe I'm wrong here, we didn't really create a whole hell of a lot else against a club struggling in League One, and that was honestly kind of annoying.

If the first half was annoying, the second was downright problematic. I know we ended up throwing on Alex Iwobi and Chris Willock at one point, but I don't think either managed to pull up any trees, to put it diplomatically. Meanwhile, they saw a lot more of the ball, and I did see one bit where one of their lads either hit the crossbar, or Ospina had to tip it onto there. My god, can you imagine the Twitter meltdown if this thing had to go to extra time?

Hell, that goes double given that Man City, Man United and Chelsea all had easy wins. But, let's give ourselves a little credit here - we played an "experimental" line-up here, but take a look at how...regular-ish...these are:

City: Bravo - Danilo, Stones, Mangala - Delph, Yaya Toure, Gundogan, Sterling, Bernado Silva - Sane, Jesus

United: Romero - Darmian, Smalling, Lindelof, Blind - Herrera, Carrick, Lingard, Mata - Martial, Rashford

Chelsea: Caballero - Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill, Zappacosta - Fabregas, Bakayoko, Kenedy, Musonda - Batshuayi, Hazard

It's bizarre how seriously they're taking this, aren't they?

5. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't fun to watch, but we're through to the next round of the League Cup and we gave some players some minutes. I think we learned that Jack is starting to get more ready for prime time, whereas perhaps Nelson might need a bit more seasoning first.

Other than that, don't sweat this one. It's the League Cup, and if the other big teams want to throw strong lineups at it, that's their prerogative. Us, we'll take three points on Monday against West Brom and then worry about bigger things as they come. That's all.