Can the Gunners get back to winning ways against the Baggies

Arsenal host West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon (3.00pm kick-off UK time).

The Gunners go in today’s Boxing Day fixture in fourth place in the Premier League table.

After 14 Premier League games unbeaten, Arsenal have suffered back-to-back Premier League away defeats to Everton and Manchester City – both by a 2-1 scoreline.

It leaves the Gunners nine points behind leaders Chelsea, with Tottenham Hotspur now just one point back in fifth place in the race for Champions League football.

Arsenal 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.

The Gunners are unbeaten in their last seven Premier League home matches (W5, D2).

They will be looking to get back to winning ways against the eighth placed Baggies, who lost 2-0 to Manchester United at the Hawthorns in their last outing.

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.

West Brom have kept just one clean sheet in their last 14 top-flight games.

The Gunners’ 4-0 defeat by Southampton last season was their heaviest defeat on Boxing Day since 1910 against Manchester United.

The last time West Brom played Arsenal on Boxing Day was in 2002 – going 1-0 up before losing 2-1 to the Gunners.

West Brom have lost two consecutive league games played on December 26th; they’ve not lost three Boxing Day fixtures in a row since 1987.

Head-to-Head

Arsenal have won the last five matches against West Brom at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League games against West Brom, winning eight of them (D2). That defeat was on their visit to the Hawthorns last season, when they squandered a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1.

The Baggies’ only away Premier League win versus Arsenal came in September 2010, as they ran out 3-2 winners at the Emirates (D1 L8).

West Brom have beaten Arsenal only three times in the 20 Premier League meetings between the clubs.

The last time the teams met on Boxing Day was in 2002 – that time it was the Baggies who went 1-0 up before losing 2-1.

Arsenal have never failed to score against West Brom in their 20 Premier League meetings.

Key Men

Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 18 goals in 17 Premier League appearances this season (12 goals, six assists).

It’s an important match for Petr Cech after attracting criticism for his performance against Manchester City. Cech’s run of eight games without a clean sheet is the worst of his Premier League career.

Matt Phillips has had a hand in seven goals for West Brom in his last seven Premier League appearances (three goals, four assists).

Claudio Yacob has played a key role for the Baggies in shutting out the opposition. Since his move to The Hawthorns, Yacob has made 432 tackles in the Premier League, a club high.

The Managers

Arsene Wenger

On facing the Baggies, Wenger said.

“They are well organised, physically strong, they play good football and over the years he has improved their technical level.

They’re a dangerous side because they’ve mastered the technical aspect of the game much better, and they have not lost their threat from set-pieces and crosses. He has found a good combination.

West Brom are established in the Premier League because of good technical decisions – it’s as simple as that. The style of play that you master remains the same, you buy the right players for the style of play you want to have, and that’s the key to it. The quality of the work and the competence of people in the club is important too.

We are not in danger of underestimating them.”

On his long-term future after back-to-back defeats, Wenger added.

“Yes. I always said that I will judge where I stand in spring and make my decisions then.

And the club is free as well. It’s not because I am here a long time that I have any rights. We are both in the same boat.

There are plenty of managers who arrived at the end of their contract. It happened to me before.

I signed sometimes in March, April for longer contracts. So I don’t think it’s a problem.

I have worked everywhere I have been until the last day of my contract with total commitment. That’s why maybe I can go back everywhere I was, because people respect that.”

Tony Pulis

“Arsenal have got a wonderful squad and are capable of winning the title – and that has been the situation they have had for a number of years.

Sanchez has been absolutely fantastic this season, and they have players returning like Welbeck.

There is a difference playing against the top five or six teams.

It’s always a really tough test going down to Arsenal.

You have to be at your best and they must have an off day. Or you get a load of luck to get a result

They are great games. It’s wonderful going to play a club like Arsenal and it will be a fantastic atmosphere. We’ve sold our full away allocation of tickets too.

We’ll go there and give it our best shot and make sure that we are prepared properly.

We need things to go our way. Sometimes they do.”

Team News

Arsenal

Aaron Ramsey (toe) and Danny Welbeck (knee) are back in full training. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) is “days away” from a return, says Arsene Wenger. Skkodran Mustafi (hamstring) remains out.  As are Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy.

Provisional squad: Cech, Ospina, Martinez, Bellerin, Jenkinson, Holding, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Coquelin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Walcott, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Sanchez, Giroud.

West Brom

James Morrison (flu) is a doubt, while Jonny Evans (calf) is nearing a return.

Saido Berahino is returning to full fitness and played recently for West Brom’s Under 23 team. Today’s match might come to soon for him, as Tony Pulis believes he needs more match fitness before making a first team return.

Provisional squad: Foster, Myhill, Palmer, Dawson, Evans, Nyom, Olsson, McAuley, Galloway, Brunt, Fletcher, Yacob, Gardner, Morrison, McClean, Chadli, Phillips, Field, Rondon, Leko, Robson-Kanu.

Match Officials

Referee: Neil Swarbric
Assistants: S Child, C Hatzidakis
Fourth official: K Stroud

Prediction

Arsenal to get back to winning ways with a 2-0 win.

 

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