Preview by Numbers: West Bromwich Albion v. Arsenal

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
Saturday, November 29
7:45 a.m. EST, 12:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Chris Foy
    • Assistants: Mike McDonough and Constantine Hatzidakis
    • 4th Official: Neil Swarbrick
  • This Match, Last Year: West Brom 1 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 66 Arsenal wins, 36 West Brom wins, 31 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-D-W-W-L-L
  • West Brom's League Form: L-D-D-W-L-L
Per Mertesacker hugging Yaya Sanogo is the tallest,
gangliest thing ever.
Just what the doctor ordered, eh?

Arsenal's performance against Dortmund on Wednesday ticked off a lot of boxes: clean sheet, composed attitude, and stout defending. They got an early goal from an unlikely source and never looked back. For their efforts, Arsenal are through to the knockout phase for the 15th consecutive year, which is not too shabby. Sure, it seems unlikely they'll win the group, but we all know that if Arsenal did finish first, they'd get drawn against whoever comes in second between PSG and Barcelona.

It's a quick switching of gears, however; Wednesday night Champions League into Saturday's early morning kick-off is the quickest turnaround possible. If this were a normal season, I'd spend this preview talking about rotation in the squad, especially with a midweek league fixture against Southampton on the horizon. But, with the club struggling for victories, you can't shake up too much.

It's also hard to rotate by choice when you've got...

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Arteta (calf,) Sanogo (hamstring,) Szczesny (dead leg,) Wilshere (ankle,) Ospina (thigh,) Ozil (knee,) Debuchy (ankle)
Doubts: Walcott (groin,) Welbeck (hamstring,) Koscielny (Achilles)

Arsenal lost Arteta and Sanogo through injury on Wednesday.
Maybe we could go a match without losing two players to
injury soon?
...all these injuries!

We learned yesterday that Jack Wilshere will be out for three months after ankle surgery. Mikel Arteta will be out for a while, probably into January, after the calf injury he picked up on Wednesday and super goal scorer Yaya Sanogo limped off with a hamstring problem of his own.

Up top, Olivier Giroud is available in this competition, though if Danny Welbeck is fit to start, I think he's the better bet; the Frenchman does not likely have the match fitness required yet. In the midfield, injuries have essentially forced Arsene Wenger's hand. Among the five, it looks like it'll have to be Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Santi Cazorla.

In the back line, Laurent Koscielny made the bench on Wednesday; is he ready to start yet? As for in between the posts, is Wojciech Szczesny ready to return from his hip/dead leg problem? I don't really have answers to these questions; so I'll go the safe route and assume they're both no.

Predicted XI: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini, Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis, Welbeck.

West Brom Squad News

Out: Olsson (ankle,) Varela (groin)
Doubts: Pocognoli (hamstring)
Suspended: Yacob (first of three, serious foul)

Yacob was shown his marching orders for being near Diego
Alan Irvine will be without holding midfielder Claudio Yacob after he was shown a straight red card against Chelsea last weekend; this works out to be good news for Arsenal, because Yacob was dominant in this fixture at the Hawthorns last year and had West Brom's goal. He'll likely be replaced in the starting lineup by James Morrison, which would mean only one change from the XI that started at Stamford Bridge.

The Baggies will also be without Jonas Olsson with an ankle injuree and Silvestre Varela, on loan from Porto, who has been out after groin surgery. Sebastien Pocognoli is a doubt at left back with a hamstring problem.

Predicted XI: Foster, Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Baird, Gardner, Morrison, Dorrans, Brunt, Sessegnon, Berahino.

League Form

Arsenal's 2-1 loss to Chelsea in the snow in 2013 was the
last time, before this month, that Arsenal lost two straight
in the Premier League.
Arsenal bounced back in Europe on Wednesday, but they still have lost consecutive league matches for the first time since January of 2013, when they lost to Manchester City and Chelsea. Arsenal finished fourth that season despite being as low as 10th in the table on December 1st (sounds like this year!) Arsenal have not lost three straight Premier League matches since January of 2012, when they lost to Fulham, Swansea, and Manchester United (some striking similarities to this streak, no?)

West Brom have won just once in their last seven matches and crashed out of the League Cup to AFC Bournemouth in the meantime. Things were looking good for the Baggies for a while; they were 10th at the end of September, then lost 2-1 at Anfield. They followed that up with draws against Manchester United and Crystal Palace. A 1-0 win over Leicester brought West Brom back up to 10th. They have since lost two matches by 2-0 margins, to Newcastle United and Chelsea. The Baggies have gone three home games since winning, as well, since a 4-0 win over Burnley. They are now just three points clear of the relegation zone, despite a seemingly safe positioning of 13th in the table.

Match Facts

Both goal scorers from this match last year will be
unavailable in tomorrow's match.
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 five of their six league meetings and the Gunners are unbeaten in their last seven league games against the Baggies. This fixture last year, however, ended level at 1-1 with Jack Wilshere equalizing after Claudio Yacob's opener. They won the reverse fixture at the Emirates 1-0 in May, which was a thoroughly boring encounter. Arsenal also knocked West Brom out of last year's League Cup on penalties.

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

I'm sure I've used this photo before...
The referee is Merseyside-based Chris Foy. Arsenal have not seen Foy since last October, when he sent off Mikel Arteta for a questionable last man foul closer to the halfway line. I'm not sure, at that distance, how you're denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity when it's Marouane Chamakh with the ball. Arsenal won that match anyway, by a 2-0 margin.

West Brom have not seen Foy yet this season either; they lost all three matches with Foy in the middle last year. They lost 3-2 to Manchester City in December, 3-1 to Crystal Palace in February, and 2-0 to Hull City in March. You would have to go back to Boxing Day of 2012 to find West Brom's last win with Chris Foy, but that fact was also true of Manchester United and last week's referee Mike Dean and we all remember how that turned out.

Foy has shown four red cards in just nine matches this season, tying him with Jonathan Moss for most reds per game.

Around the League

Here's a photo from the last Burnley v. Aston Villa match.
Saturday: Burnley v. Aston Villa (Turf Moor, Burnley)
Claret and blue alert! Aston Villa are coming off stealing a point from Southampton, while Burnley have won two straight. Seriously, Burnley have won two straight, I'm not kidding. Look it up.

Saturday: Liverpool v. Stoke City (Anfield, Liverpool)
12th place Liverpool hosts 11th place Stoke at Anfield. The Reds had lost four straight across all competitions, then drew in Bulgaria on Wednesday. They've lost three straight in the league. Stoke, on the other hand, are coming off a loss to Burnley at home.

Saturday: Manchester United v. Hull City (Old Trafford, Manchester)
Manchester United believe they can win the league now, after winning at the Emirates last weekend. This week, they host a Hull side that has gone five matches without a win, losing three since drawing Arsenal and Liverpool.

Saturday: Queens Park Rangers v. Leicester City (Loftus Road, London)
Six-pointer! Last place QPR hosts 18th place Leicester in a game that can only be described as "on this Saturday."

Saturday: Swansea City v. Crystal Palace (Liberty Stadium, Swansea)
Swansea's loss to Manchester City last weekend has dropped them to 7th in the table. They'll host a Crystal Palace side that beat Liverpool at Selhurst Park on Sunday, helping them to climb to 15th.

Saturday: West Ham United v. Newcastle United (Boleyn Ground, London)
It's sixth place West Ham hosting fifth place Newcastle! The Toon have won five straight after not winning any of their first seven. The Hammers have hit a bump in the road, however. They are now three without a win, though last week's loss at Everton was their first league loss since September.

Is it too much to ask Sunderland to snap another annoying
Chelsea unbeaten run?
Saturday (late): Sunderland v. Chelsea (Stadium of Light, Sunderland)
Sunderland are the last Premier League team to experience victory over Chelsea, after they snapped Jose Mourinho's home unbeaten streak on April 19. I think it would be delightful if the Black Cats could do it again; they're unbeaten in three themselves. Remember when United went unbeaten into February in 2010/11? Their first loss was at Wolves.

Sunday (early): Southampton v. Manchester City (St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton)
Southampton rescued a point from a trap game at Aston Villa on Monday; they had won eight of their last nine before that. The Saints are now just two points clear of second place Manchester City. This period marks a stern test for the Saints: they face Arsenal on Wednesday, then Manchester United the following weekend.

Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Everton (White Hart Lane, London)
Spurs found a way to win late against Hull last weekend, but it was another match where they benefited from an opponent's red card. Spurs, Everton, and Arsenal are now all even at 17 points.

John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and not at all a shape-shifting space lizard. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat, which he'd appreciate, because today is his birthday.