Preview by Numbers: West Bromwich Albion v. Arsenal

I'm pretty sure our dinosaur can kick this bird's ass.
Photo: The Treble.

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
Saturday, March 19
11:00 a.m. EDT, 3:00 p.m. GMT
Note the different time in the U.S. England has
not yet changed their clocks to daylight time.
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Stuart Attwell
    • Assistants: Peter Kirkup and Martin Yerby
    • 4th Official: Tony Bates
  • This Match, Last Time: West Brom 1 - 3 Arsenal (March 3, 2009)
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 3 West Brom
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 61 Arsenal wins, 36 West Brom wins, 28 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-D-W-W-D
  • West Brom's League Form: D-L-D-D-D-W
Arsenal Squad News

Jens Lehmann is back? Have I somehow traveled
backwards through time? That's awesome.
Photo: Daily Mail.
Injured: Djourou (shoulder), Diaby (groin), Szczesny (finger), Fabregas (hamstring), Song (knee), Walcott (ankle), Fabianski (shoulder), Vermaelen (Achilles)

So, hey. That's a lot of injuries right there.

When Arsene Wenger spoke of bringing in an emergency goalkeeper after the injuries to Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski, did anyone actually expect it would be Jens Lehmann? Lehmann will add much needed experience to a side that is teetering on the edge a bit, especially mentally, after crashing out of three competitions in two weeks. I'm well aware that bringing in Jens Lehmann to help the team keep its mental composure might be a bit oxymoronic. Manuel Almunia should still start and he has been solid since Szczesny's injury.

In the heart of the defense, it's fairly bad news all around. Yesterday, Wenger announced that Thomas Vermaelen's season is done because the stars didn't align properly for him to heal and there's nothing that supermoon thing can do about it, or something. The news on Johan Djourou's separated shoulder is that he is not done for the season, but rather, just six weeks. Which is almost the rest of the season. So, welcome back to the side, Sebastien Squillaci! Ignasi Miquel might also get more of an opportunity to break into the first team.

Apparently, Abou Diaby is hurt again too and Alex Song is still out with his knee injury, so Jack Wilshere is going to have to drop back into his more standard holding role. I'd like to see Aaron Ramsey get a start, but I'm not sure how much Arsene Wenger will be easing him back into the squad, so we might just as likely see a lot of Denilson passing backwards tomorrow.

Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) and Theo Walcott (ankle) are still out, which will mean a return to the side for either Tomas Rosicky or Nicklas Bendtner. My preference would be to see Samir Nasri in the middle, box-to-box role, but I keep saying that and then it doesn't happen. At least Robin van Persie will start up front.

Predicted starting XI: Almunia - Sagna - Koscielny - Squillaci - Clichy - Denilson - Wilshere - Nasri - Rosicky - Arshavin - van Persie

West Brom Squad News

Injured: Dorrans (ankle), Ibanez (hamstring)

Having crashed out of the FA Cup in the third round, West Bromwich Albion had last weekend off and so by tomorrow, it will have been two weeks since they played. Well rested, the Baggies have few injuries in their squad. However, winger Graham Dorrans, a key component of West Brom's attack, injured his ankle in training last week and cannot put any weight on it. He's unavailable.

Midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu is a doubt with a muscle injury, having just returned to action from a hamstring problem. Pablo Ibanez, struggling for selection since coming to the Hawthorns from Atletico Madrid on a free this summer, is out with a hamstring injury. And unless the ever confusing rules have changed again, I'm certain Carlos Vela is unavailable to play against his parent club.

Current Form

"Wait, this isn't Liverpool..." Photo: Telegraph.
The Gunners are winless in their last three competitive fixtures for only the second time this season (there were also two draws and a loss in early January.) Arsenal have not gone winless in four matches since the end of last season, which included losses at Spurs, Wigan, and Blackburn and a draw against City. Arsenal have also lost two straight to crash out of the Champions League and FA Cup; Arsenal have not lost three straight since... well, those aforementioned losses to Spurs and Wigan were preceded by crashing out of the Champions League at Camp Nou last year. On the plus side, Arsenal are unbeaten in league play since December 13, a run of 11 matches without a loss. They still, however, have not won away from the Emirates in two months (January 18 at Leeds.)

West Brom were flying high when they won at the Emirates in September. That win moved them into fifth place in the league. As recently as December 5th, the Baggies sat in eighth place. Then, they lost five straight in the league and crashed out of the FA Cup before beating Blackpool. After that, they went winless in six more (with four draws) before winning their last match, 3-1 at Birmingham City.

Match Facts

Arsenal had won five straight matches against West Brom before September happened. At the Emirates, Arsenal attempted to sleepwalk their way to three points and the Baggies took advantage. Manuel Almunia conceded but stopped a penalty in the first half and injured his elbow in the process. After a scoreless first half, West Brom struck for a shocking three goals in first half hour after the restart. Samir Nasri got two back, but Tomas Rosicky fired just high late in injury time and Arsenal could not scrape a point.

West Brom spent last season in the Championship, though the two sides met in the third round of the Carling Cup, a 2-0 Arsenal win at the Emirates. Sanchez Watt and Carlos Vela had the goals for the Gunners, the latter of whom is currently on loan at West Brom.

The Baggies' last win over Arsenal at The Hawthorns was on October 15, 2005 by a 2-1 scoreline. Jens Lehmann was in goal for Arsenal.

The Referee

Attwell guesses that a red card might be the correct
decision. Photo: Daily Mail.
It's a young officiating crew for the match this week and you know what that means. Mistakes, probably!

The referee is Warwickshire-based Stuart Attwell, who in 2008 became the youngest referee in Premier League history. He has only taken charge of one Arsenal match in his career: the 4-1 win over Bolton in September, in which he probably could have shown about three red cards but only showed one. Really, Attwell never had control of that match. He missed a number of obvious penalties, booked players at random times, failed to send off players guilty of violent conduct, then did show a red card to Bolton on a harsh call.

He has only taken charge of one West Brom match this season: their 3-2 win over Blackpool in January. Before the start of this month, that was the Baggies' most recent win. He worked two West Brom matches last year in the Championship: a 1-1 draw at Ipswich and a 3-1 loss at QPR.

Around the League

Despite all of the doom and gloom surrounding the last fortnight of Arsenal's season, recall that Arsenal is still only three points out of first place with a game in hand on Manchester United. Stranger things have happened! Optimism! Woo! Speaking of United, they host Bolton Wanderers at the same time as Arsenal's match tomorrow.

Tottenham Hotspur hosts the early match, a London derby against West Ham United, who beat Spurs at Upton Park in the reverse fixture, which helped slightly numb the pain of Arsenal's loss that day. The other 3:00 p.m. English time kick-offs include a West Midlands derby as Aston Villa hosts Wolves, Blackburn hosts Blackpool, Newcastle travels to Stoke, and Birmingham travels to Wigan. In the late match, Fulham heads to Merseyside to play Everton.

On Sunday, Sunderland hosts Liverpool at the Stadium of Light before the weekend's marquee match-up, as Manchester City travels to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea.


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