West Bromwich Albion travel to the Emirates this Sunday to take on Arsenal in a game that will have consequences at both ends of the table. The Gunners need three points to ensure their qualification for the Champions League ahead of Everton. Any slip ups by Arsenal would mean that Everton still have a chance going into the final day, so the Gunners will want to win here to release that burden and start to prepare for the FA Cup final. West Brom have three league games remaining, but if a results go their way, even a loss could see them survive on Sunday. However, the Baggies will want to get something out of the fixture in order to make sure of survival.
Arsenal still have one of the biggest injury lists in the Premier League going into the fixture. The Gunners will be without Kieran Gibbs (Ankle), Jack Wilshere (Foot), Theo Walcott (Knee), Ryo Miyachi (Hamstring), Serge Gnabry (Knee), Abou Diaby (Groin) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Groin). Defender Bacary Sagna faces a late fitness test to recover from a knee injury. Carl Jenkinson will deputise if he is not fit in time.
West Brom have a smaller injury list than the Gunners. They will be without Steven Reid (Thigh), Zoltan Gera (Hamstring) and Liam Ridgewell (Knee). Defender Gareth McAuley could return to the squad in time for the game.
When the two teams met earlier in the season, the game ended 1-1 after a hard fought draw. Jack Wilshere scored an equaliser that day in response to a rare Claudio Yacob goal. This is the second time in three years that an Arsenal win in this fixture will secure their participation in the following season’s Champions League. On the last occasion Arsenal won 3-2 thanks to a Laurent Koscielny winner. Interestingly, Koscielny also scored in the final game of last season to secure qualification at Newcastle for the Gunners too. Arsenal have scored in all 15 of their previous Premier League games against West Brom. West Brom have taken eight of a possible 45 points against the Gunners in the Premier League. Of those eight points, only three have come at the Emirates. The Baggies have only managed to score in one of their four games at the Emirates.
Mesut Özil has return from injury in recent weeks and put in some good performances for the Gunners. Since his return, the Gunners have won both league games 3-0 against Hull City and Newcastle United. In those two games, Özil has shown a great understand with Aaron Ramsey and Arsenal’s other attacking players. On Monday night against Newcastle he managed a goal and an assist which means he has scored five and assisted nine goals this season. Some have claimed that Özil has had a poor first season, but he has still created chances in abundance. He has created a chance every 29 minutes for the Gunners, creating 69 chances in total.
Arsene Wenger has remarked that Özil will be one of the players of the year next season. He has shown some of that potential this season and Arsenal fans will be glad that he has a season of Premier League football under his belt. A good World Cup and preseason will put Özil in a good position to achieve what Wenger has heralded him for next year.
Saido Berahino has had an eventful first season in the Baggies first team. The England U-21 international is the Baggies top scorer with five goals this season. That is a great achievement for him, but also speaks of how difficult this season has been as nobody has been able to replace the goals that Romelu Luakaku scored last term. Nevertheless, Berahino’s goals have been very important for West Brom. Of his five goals, three have been winners, including a goal against Manchester United in a famous win at Old Trafford. Berahino’s goal against West Ham last weekend was vital as it gave the Baggies some breathing space on the relegation zone. Although he has mainly featured wide this season, it is the games where he has started as a central striker where he has done well.
Berahino has been involved in every single West Brom squad this season. Still only 20, he has a bright future ahead of him if he continues to improve as a player. Scoring the goals to keep West Brom up could help to do this and he will look to cause Arsenal problems on Sunday.
Despite their 1-1 draw earlier in the season, the two teams are at very different places now. West Brom have done well in recent weeks to move themselves out of danger. The Gunners are looking to finish their league campaign strong and qualify for the Champions League before their FA Cup final. They have looked good since Özil and Ramsey have returned to the line-up, and it is hard to see them losing on Sunday. I predict a 2-0 Arsenal win for this game.