Preview by Numbers: West Bromwich Albion v. Arsenal

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
Saturday, November 21
10:00 a.m. EST, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Simon Beck and Jake Collin
    • 4th Official: Stuart Attwell
  • This Match, Last Year: West Brom 0 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 68 Arsenal wins, 36 West Brom wins, 31 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-W-W-D
  • West Brom's League Form: L-L-W-W-L-L
Arsenal Squad News

Out: Walcott (calf,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Koscielny (personal)

Hector Bellerin returns from the groin injury that kept him out against Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur; however, he is the only Arsenal player likely to return from the club's lengthy injury list for this match. Arsene Wenger confirmed yesterday that it is likely still too soon for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey to return.

Theo Walcott is not expected back until December, while the three long-term injured (Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, and Tomas Rosicky) are all still, presumably, on schedule.

There were rumors of a calf injury for Alexis Sanchez, so of course, he played anyway against Uruguay on Tuesday. The man needs a rest, let's face it, so perhaps derby goal scorer Kieran Gibbs will slip in on the left wing? Then again, starting a match with Joel Campbell and Kieran Gibbs as your attacking wingers can't fill you with much confidence, can it? I predict the Chilean will start.

Wenger has suggested that Laurent Koscielny might not be 100% mentally prepared to play after what took place in Paris last week. Center back, of course, might be Arsenal's deepest position right now, which would allow Wenger to keep Koscielny on the bench if he's not focused enough to play (which would, of course, be completely understandable.)

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Alexis, Campbell, Ozil, Giroud.

West Brom Squad News

Out: Foster (knee,) Gnabry (loan terms)
Suspended: McAuley (one match, denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity)
Doubts: Brunt (groin)

Linchpin center back Gareth McAuley was sent off in injury time of West Brom's 2-0 loss at Manchester United as he brought down Anthony Martial on an obvious goal scoring opportunity. McAuley's one match ban will force Tony Pulis to reshuffle his back line, with either Jonas Olsson or James Chester coming in to form a partnership with ex-United player Jonny Evans.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster remains sidelined as he recovers from ACL surgery; he has not played since March. Boaz Myhill has deputized all season. Elsewhere, Chris Brunt is a doubt with a groin strain, while Serge Gnabry is ineligible to play against his parent club.

Predicted XI: Myhill, Dawson, Olsson, Evans, Brunt, Morrison, Yacob, Fletcher, McClean, Rondon, Berahino.

Current Form

Arsenal wasted their opportunity to go top of the league with their 1-1 draw against Tottenham before the international break; they remain second on goal difference behind Manchester City. On the other hand, since Arsenal were outplayed for large swaths of the match, it still feels to me like one point gained rather than two points dropped.

Unfortunately, Arsenal have now only won one of their last four across all competitions, dating back to the League Cup loss to Sheffield Wednesday; this run followed a four match winning streak, which had been their longest of the season. Still, they are unbeaten in the league since falling to Chelsea, and their favorable league schedule over the next few weeks (West Brom, Norwich, Sunderland, and Aston Villa) should leave them in a decent position before they host Manchester City on Monday, December 21.

Meanwhile, if you looked up the phrase "mid-table" in the dictionary, you might find a picture of West Bromwich Albion this season. Their results have basically gone exactly as you would expect. They've beaten the likes of Aston Villa, Sunderland, and Norwich, as well as beating Stoke City at the Britannia in the Tony Pulis derby. They have earned scoreless draws against Watford and Southampton. They have lost to Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, and Manchester United. They were eliminated from the League Cup by Norwich. There's not really a single surprise in there, unless you include losing to Chelsea as a surprise this season.

Match Facts

Arsenal won both matches against West Bromwich Albion last season, winning 1-0 at the Hawthorns and 4-1 at the Emirates.

In West Bromwich late last November, Arsenal escaped with a 1-0 victory to snap a two-match losing streak in league play; Danny Welbeck (remember him?) had the game's only goal on the hour mark. Arsenal controlled most of the proceedings, but Saido Berahino rattled the woodwork with 10 minutes to play just to make everything nervous enough. At the time, Emiliano Martinez earned his second clean sheet in four days, having beaten Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in the Champions League earlier in the week.

In London on the final matchday of the Premier League season last year, Theo Walcott nabbed a first half hat trick and Jack Wilshere scored a wondergoal as Arsenal jumped out to a 4-0 halftime lead. Gareth McAuley scored a consolation goal for the visitors on 57 minutes just to make everyone think "they couldn't possibly blow this, right?"

Arsenal have won seven of their last eight league meetings against West Brom and are unbeaten in their last nine league games against the Baggies. That dates back to the 2010/11 season, when West Brom took four of a possible six points from Arsenal; you can thank Manuel Almunia for that.

The Referee

The referee is County Durham-based Mark Clattenburg. This will be the first time Arsenal have seen Clattenburg this season; the Gunners had a record of one win and one draw with Clattenburg in the middle last year, winning at Crystal Palace and drawing with Manchester City at the Emirates. Arsenal are unbeaten in their last seven matches with Clattenburg as the referee, dating back to a 2-1 loss to Tottenham on March 3, 2013.

The Baggies have already seen Clattenburg once so far this season, for their possibly surprising 3-2 loss to Chelsea in August. Up 3-1, Chelsea saw John Terry sent off on 54 minutes. James Morrison pulled a goal back five minutes later to pick up a brace, but the Baggies could not find an equalizer over the remaining half hour. West Brom's only win with Clattenburg last season (over a total of three matches) came 2-1 in the FA Cup over Birmingham City, in what has been voted the least hostile of the West Midlands derbies.

Incidentally, Mark Clattenburg was supposed to take charge of the meeting between these teams at the end of last season, but was replaced by Robert Madley after suffering a slight injury.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Watford v. Manchester United; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. Norwich City; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Everton v. Aston Villa; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Leicester City; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Stoke City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Bournemouth; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Manchester City v. Liverpool; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. West Ham United; White Hart Lane, London
  • Monday (night): Crystal Palace v. Sunderland; Selhurst Park, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat.