An unsure Arsenal side will face Tony Pulis’ high flying West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day in what is definitely one of the biggest fixtures that the Gunners will play at this stage of the campaign.
Arsenal are back in familiar territory again. Seven days ago, Arsene Wenger’s side had put Stoke City to the sword at home, a 3-1 victory after an early wobble to see his side at the top of the table even though it only lasted for a short period. On Monday though, they will welcome West Bromwich Albion, a remarkable 9 points off the pace following two successive defeats on the road – two very similar performances and results in the North West of the country at Goodison Park and the Etihad. With the knives already out, Arsenal simply cannot afford any more slip ups in 2016, if they were to compete for that league title that has been eluding them for the last 12 years.
West Bromwich Albion have been in great form themselves, especially at the Hawthorns, until their recent defeat to Manchester United last week. The Baggies sit eighth on the league table with only 5 losses in 17 games and in good goal-scoring form. Tony Pulis should be fancying his side to get something out of the trip to Arsenal given the pressure that will be building up in the Arsenal camp with their recent slump and a good start at the Emirates could prove really vital for him to do the same. Their away form in the league needs some improvement having won only twice in 8 outings and they could not face Arsenal at a better time to come away with a good result which will provide a massive boost to their ambitions of finishing as high as they can.
Aaron Ramsey (toe) and Danny Welbeck (knee) are back in full training for Arsenal, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) is “days away” from a return, says Arsene Wenger. Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring) and Santi Cazorla remain out.
James Morrison (flu) is a doubt for West Bromwich Albion, while Jonny Evans (calf) is nearing a return but the Boxing Day encounter may have come soon for him to make himself available for selection.
- The Gunners have not lost three successive league matches since January 2012. This is also the last time that they suffered three league defeats in the same month.
- West Brom have won two and lost two of their four matches so far in December. The Baggies have not won three Premier League matches in the same month since November 2012.
Theo Walcott – Arsenal
Theo Walcott has been quietly doing the business at Arsenal – rightly overshadowed by Alexis Sanchez but his form has been one of the many upsides going forward for Arsene Wenger this season. The 27-year old has reached double figures in all competitions including 8 goals (and 2 assists) in 16 appearances in the league with a shot accuracy of 55%. His pace on and off the ball and directness has been well documented but he is at the stage of his career now where he should be delivering week in week out as one of Arsenal’s most senior players despite the age and guide them through this difficult period starting this Monday.
Salomón Rondón – West Bromwich Albion
Rondón has been integral to the success of Tony Pulis’ style of play at West Bromwich Albion. He has been phenomenal, especially in recent weeks, being that physical, focal point, giving the Baggies an edge in set pieces in and around the box. He is enjoying a great season for Albion, scoring 7 times in 17 appearances – from as little as 15 shots on target. His ability to out-muscle defenders and aerial duels will come in handy particularly when Arsenal seem to be missing one of their stronger central defenders in Mustafi.
Arsenal have had a little setback which was always going to happen after an incredible run that they had until the defeat at Everton. I expect them to put a few goals past West Bromwich Albion in a typical Arsenal fashion to sustain their position in the top four going into 2017.
Arsenal 3-1 West Bromwich Albion