This fixture is unlikely to decide anything this season, with both sides having relatively little to play for. Arsenal are all but ruled out of the title race, after a disappointing slump post Boxing Day. Meanwhile, West Brom have hit the forty points mark, and are almost guaranteed Premier League football next season. Tony Pulis has once again helped a side to avoid relegation, but his future isn’t clear.
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Arsenal need a strong finish to the season to get the fans back onside. Arsene Wenger is once again being criticised by some sections of the Arsenal support. The club should have been leading contenders for the title this season and it will sting that their rivals Tottenham and previous relegation candidates Leicester are fighting for the Premier League. Arsenal were in a good position at the end of 2015, and should have pushed on to win their first Premier League table for over a decade. They have continued to make the same errors they have made over the last few years and a managerial change may be beneficial in the next couple of years, but it would be a huge call to remove Wenger this summer.
Meanwhile, West Brom have achieved another mid table finish and are firmly established as a Premier League club. They have fallen off lately with some accusing them of already being on the beach, which is reflected by taking just one point from their last three matches. They have five matches to play before the end of the season and Tony Pulis will be wanting his side to put in maximum effort, but motivation is an important thing in football and that is why we see so many mid table clubs fall off at the end of a season.
In their previous meeting this season, West Brom shocked Arsenal and took the points with goals from James Morrison and Mikel Arteta (OG). Meanwhile Olivier Giroud had given Arsenal an early lead before the Baggies came back to win. In this fixture last season, Arsenal ran out comfortable winners thanks to a Theo Walcott hat-trick and a goal from Jack Wilshere. Gareth McAuley scored the consolation goal for West Brom.
Arsenal have only won five of their last 15 Premier League matches.
Only Aston Villa have scored fewer goals than West Brom in the league this season.
Alexis Sanchez hasn’t had as good a season as he did last year and Arsenal have suffered as a result. He will be key in ensuring they finish the season strongly, especially as he will want to be in top form before Chile defend the Copa America this summer. He has scored ten goals this season and contributed four assists in the league. This is a good return for most players in the league, but Sanchez will have wanted to contribute more and Arsenal have needed him to at times. The Gunners have drawn a lot of matches and have struggled to kill matches off when they are on top. They have needed Sanchez to be more clinical and create more in the final third. The last five matches are focused around securing a top four finish and Arsenal will need their talisman to play well to ensure they qualify for the Champions League once again. Sanchez will pose a threat for West Brom as he is dynamic and looks to beat players in the final third. His vision is incredible, while his movement often frees up space for him to test the goalkeeper.
Darren Fletcher has been excellent since signing for the club and has provided the squad with leadership. The former Manchester United player has been an ever present for West Brom this season and played a huge role in their survival push. His crucial goal against Newcastle over the Christmas period ensured they were never seriously in trouble of being dragged into the relegation fight. Fletcher is a battling midfielder, who is good in the tackle, while his ability to be calm on the ball has been an asset for Tony Pulis’ men. A lot of the work he does goes unnoticed, and he adds balance to the side, which is needed to ensure West Brom remain solid. He will be important in the midfield battle on Thursday and has the experience to come out on top against the Arsenal midfield.
Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be available once again at the weekend, but they are unlikely to play on Thursday. There is a chance that Jack Wilshere could make the matchday squad after a number of matches in the under 21s. Olivier Giroud is pushing for a recall with Danny Welbeck struggling against Crystal Palace.
Alex Pritchard, Chris Brunt and James Morrison are all missing for West Brom this week and are unlikely to feature again this season. Saido Berahino will be hopeful of keeping his place and make up for his two penalty misses at the weekend.
Arsenal didn’t play well against Palace and probably deserved to drop points. However I can’t see Arsenal not winning this one. West Brom will try to defend and be compact, but Arsenal will want to give their fans something to shout about. They will be too strong for the visitors and could end up winning by three or four goals, but it will be too little too late to save their title hopes.
Arsenal 3-0 West Brom