Preview by Numbers: West Bromwich Albion v. Arsenal

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
Sunday, October 6
11:00 a.m. EDT, 16:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Lee Mason
    • Assistants: Scott Ledger and Marc Perry
    • 4th Official: Jonathan Moss
  • This Match, Last Year: West Brom 1 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 65 Arsenal wins, 36 West Brom wins, 30 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-W-W-W-W
  • West Brom's League Form: L-D-L-D-W-W
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 18 C / 64 F
Presented without comment. Just bask in the glory.
Arsenal extended their unbeaten streak to 10 games on Tuesday (or winning streak, depending on how you consider penalty shootouts; this blog considers that match drawn.) Their 2-0 evisceration of Napoli was so one-sided through the first quarter of an hour, it was hard not to get carried away with thoughts of what this team could accomplish.

I hate to be the one to bring you back down to earth, but it's October 4 and there are 32 league games remaining. That said, I've mentioned many times that you can only play matches one at a time, and it's three more points up for grabs on Sunday at the Hawthorns, where Arsenal won on penalties just a week and a half ago.

This match will bring us to the international break. Last year, Arsenal went into the October break in fifth place, then won two of their next eight and fell to 10th. The year before, Arsenal was in 15th at the break, but then went unbeaten in seven afterwards. What I mean to say is that international breaks can be form disruptors. Then again, September's wasn't; Arsenal went into it on a high note and then got better from there.

Three points would guarantee Arsenal's place at the top of the table going into 12 days without a match. So, let's do it.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Sagna (hamstring,) Walcott (stomach,) Cazorla (ankle,) Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)

Sagna's out two weeks, so deal with it,
The only change to Arsenal's injury list is the inclusion of Bacary Sagna, who had a scan on his hamstring; Arsene Wenger called it "a little problem," which we all know by now could mean anything. Thursday's scan indicated that Sagna could miss two weeks, or Sunday plus international duty. Conveniently timed, Bacary. On a similar note, it appears that Santi Cazorla is still short (read: Wenger is making sure Spain doesn't use him during the break) and the long-term injured are still long-term injured.

As for the starters, well, why fix what isn't broken? The big questions surround the midfield five, of which there are now seven options: Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Tomas Rosicky, and Serge Gnabry. My guess (which will be wrong)? Keep Flamini and Arteta together in the holding roles, keep Rosicky and Gnabry on the bench, and play Wilshere wide left and Ramsey wide right with Ozil in the middle. *dusts off hands vigorously*

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Flamini, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Giroud.

West Brom Squad News

Out: Brunt (groin,) Gera (knee,) Thorne (knee,) Vydra (hamstring,) Foster (ankle)
Doubts: Anelka (ankle,) Sinclair (hamstring,) Morrison (knock,) Long (knee)

The only thing that would've made this picture better
would've been a sad Van Persie in the background.
Somehow, West Brom now leads the league in injuries over Arsenal, with nine names on their full list. Just like Arsenal, West Brom have been thriving anyway, especially since their switch in formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 last month. The Baggies were winless before the switch (aside from a win over Newport County) and are unbeaten in three since (remember, the match was drawn before the shootout.)

Scott Sinclair was forced out of action early in last week's match at Old Trafford, but his replacement, Saido Berahino, scored the winning goal; the Burundian also scored in the League Cup against Arsenal last week. With Sinclair a doubt, it's likely Berahino will start. Nicolas Anelka and James Morrison (not to be confused with Jim Morrison) missed last week's match entirely and are doubts for Sunday.

West Brom's forward line utilizes their two transfer deadline signings, with Victor Anichebe starting up top and Stephane Sessegnon behind him. Morgan Amalfitano, on loan from Marseille, starts on the right wing while, as mentioned above, Berahino may start on the left.

Predicted XI: Myhill, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Yacob, Mulumbu, Berahino, Amalfitano, Sessegnon, Anichebe.

Current Form

Arsenal's form is great! You know that; it doesn't really bear repeating. The more weeks I get to say this simple line, the better. Keep it up, please.

West Brom, as I mentioned before, have not lost (aside from penalties) since switching formations before their match with Sunderland last month. Before that win over Sunderland and aside from their League Cup win over Newport County, West Brom had not won at the Hawthorns since March 9. That unpleasant swing at home included a 2-1 loss to Arsenal, a 1-1 draw with Newcastle, a 3-2 loss to Wigan, and a preposterous 5-5 draw with Manchester United last season, as well as 1-0 and 2-0 losses to Southampton and Swansea, respectively, this year. West Brom were in 20th place after their loss to Swansea just before the September international break; they are now in 10th just three matches later.

Match Facts

Seriously, we just played this game...
Since Arsenal just played this fixture in the League Cup a week ago, I'm sure you won't mind if I just copy and paste what I said in this section at that time; it still applies and judging by our blog analytics, nobody read that preview anyway. If you did, feel free to skim on by:

In 2010/11, West Brom got away with facing Manuel Almunia twice and took four out of a possible six points from the Gunners. Since then, Arsenal have won all four league meetings. Last year, in the first meeting at the Emirates, Arsenal won 2-0 on the strength of two penalties; controversy surrounded Santi Cazorla's dive to win the first, but the Gunners still controlled the match from beginning to end and deserved the win. In the last meeting at the Hawthorns, Tomas Rosicky fired Arsenal to a 2-0 lead, but Per Mertesacker's red card set up James Morrison's penalty to make it 2-1 and 25 of the most nervous minutes of my life followed.

Of course, we can't talk about Arsenal at the Hawthorns and not mention the final day of the 2011/12 season, in which Marton Fulop's follies aided Arsenal to a 3-2 win and a third place finish. West Brom's last win over Arsenal at home came in October of 2005.

The Referee

Mark Noble begs Lee Mason not to be jealous of his hair.
The referee is Lancashire-based Lee Mason. I'm not particularly fond of Mason, but he's not as bad as the other Lee referee (Probert.) Mason did not work a match last weekend after being in charge of a 3-2 Everton win over West Ham the week prior, in which the tide of the match turned after Mason sent off West Ham's Mark Noble for a second bookable offense.

Arsenal saw Mason twice last season; both matches were on the road (Stoke City and Aston Villa) and both ended in 0-0 draws. Mason only showed three yellow cards between the two games combined, none to Arsenal players. Arsenal won both of their matches with Mason the year prior.

Mason worked two West Brom fixtures last season; incidentally, they were the Baggies' two league fixtures with Swansea. West Brom lost 3-1 at the Liberty last November and won 2-1 at the Hawthorns in March.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Manchester City v. Everton; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Cardiff City v. Newcastle United; Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
  • Saturday: Fulham v. Stoke City; Craven Cottage, London
  • Saturday: Hull City v. Aston Villa; The KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Crystal Palace; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday (late): Sunderland v. Manchester United; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday (early): Norwich City v. Chelsea; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Sunday (early): Southampton v. Swansea City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. West Ham United; White Hart Lane, London