Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v West Brom - Match Preview

Mesut Ozil

“The fans at Emirates have been great the whole season and, of course, I would like to thank them. We started with a big disappointment by losing to Aston Villa at home but since then we have been strong at our ground.

“Overall we have missed one or two wins at home that would have put us really playing for the Premier League title. But now we have to get the team over the line [to qualify for the top four] and that's always the most difficult thing.”

Arsenal need just one more result to unlock the door to next season’s Champions League.

"The team needs the stability of knowing each other from year to year. It makes the understanding stronger"

Arsene Wenger

Three points at home to West Brom on Sunday will make sure but, in reality, they merely have to match Everton, who entertain title-chasing Manchester City the day before. Should they fail this weekend, there will be another opportunity on the final day at Norwich.

As Wenger points out, a couple of key results cost Arsenal a place in the title shake-up. But this side has greater powers of recovery than some of those that have gone before. If you count the FA Cup semi-final as a victory (even though it was drawn over 120 minutes) then the span of the season has been interesting.

Over 53 games in all competitions, they have had two spells going four games without a win (December and March) plus another two-game stint. Apart from that they have always returned with a victory after dropping points.

Also, at 128 days Arsenal have led the Premier League longer than any other club this season.

Before anyone jumps on the offensive, opportunities have been missed and avoidable points have been dropped. Leading the league on the final day is the only ambition.

But if you can somehow dredge up your feelings after that Aston Villa defeat on the opening day then you should notice a difference.

The side seem to have found form ever since Santi Cazorla planted home the conclusive penalty at Wembley at few weeks ago. The subsequent 3-0 defeats of Hull and Newcastle were driven by a couple of key comebacks – Aaron Ramsey and then Mesut Ozil.


Wenger feels that the German is refreshed after a demanding first season in the Premier League.

“He's an exceptional football player who has gone through a little period where he was injured for six weeks,” said the manager. “Just before that you could see the physical aspect of the league had got to him and certainly he was a bit jaded physically. It's been an adaptation period but overall he's a fantastic player and I'm sure he will have an even bigger impact next season.

“The team needs the stability of knowing each other from year to year. It makes the understanding stronger and next year I think he will fit in the team much quicker.”

"Pepe Mel has done his job in a quiet way and doesn't speak too much but his team plays well"

Arsene Wenger

Two wins and a draw from four games in April have pulled West Brom clear of the drop zone just in time. With 36 points, they should be just about safe but Pepe Mel surely will not take any chances on Sunday.

“I think they will stay up because I wouldn't imagine that anybody would take four points back on them,” said Wenger. “When you look at the schedule, everybody has difficult games. Normally they should be safe, not mathematically yet but realistically.

“Pepe Mel has done his job in a quiet way and doesn't speak too much but his team plays well. I think the last result against West Ham got them over the line and that was their target.”

So both sides on Sunday are looking to rubber-stamp the achievement of their minimum requirement in the Premier League.

For Arsenal, however, there is a chance a silverware a fortnight later. Something that seemed so far away amid the rancor of the defeat to Villa on the opening day at the Emirates.

Yet after the gates close on Sunday evening with hopefully a top-four place assured, we will still be looking forward to Wembley.

Team news:

Arsenal: Sagna (doubt – knee), Wilshere (foot), Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin), Gibbs (hamstring), Walcott (knee)

West Brom: Reid (doubt - hip), Ridgewell (knee), Gera (hamstring),

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