Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v West Brom: The Inside Track

By Rob Kelly


“You have to put the disappointments into perspective, analyse it in an objective way and look at what you have missed. Sometimes it is one or two per cent, but the top level is about small margins and they are very important.” - Arsene Wenger


There will always be peaks and troughs in a season, but it is during the latter that a manager really earns his corn.

When a team is riding high on a wave of confidence, the football can look effortless and positive results tend to stack up. A squad is almost self-governing at these times, each win helping to energise the group and propel them to new heights.






But it is when a sticky patch is encountered that a manager’s job really begins. During these periods the man at the top must take on the role of quasi-psychologist, helping his players maintain a sense of perspective.






After two frustrating draws that leave Arsenal’s title chances, if not quite dead, then on life support, Arsene Wenger is in the midst of that struggle right now.

There were genuine positives from the games against West Ham United and Crystal Palace, but they have been overshadowed after the wins that were needed passed Arsenal by.

For Wenger, approaching 20 years in the hotseat, this is not a new situation, and he knows the importance of helping those with less experience to rediscover their mojo.

Team news

Arsenal: Cazorla (knee), Oxlade-Chamberlain (leg)

West Brom: Pritchard (hip), Brunt (knee), Morrison (hamstring)

“When the team is frustrated, they focus only on their frustration rather than what they have done well,” the manager told Arsenal Player. “When you have done 95 per cent of the job well and you focus on the five per cent, you forget the other 95 per cent.

“Everyone invites the [players] to focus on what doesn’t work, so we swim against the stream a little bit. We have to examine everything - it is our job to analyse it all in a very objective way.

“You have to put the disappointments into perspective and look at what you have missed. Sometimes it is one or two per cent, but the top level is about small margins and they are very important.”

While Wenger was pleased with aspects of his side’s previous two matches, he accepts that dropping four points means they now must pick themselves up quickly if they are to maintain their top-four place.

“We played against teams who are highly focused - against West Ham and against Crystal Palace it was a real battle,” he said.

“I cannot fault the team on the quality of their displays, but when you don’t win and the teams behind you do, it is very quick [that you can be caught].”

That response is needed quickly - starting on Thursday night as West Bromwich Albion arrive in north London.


There was some good news for the Gunners this week as Jack Wilshere completed another 90-minute run-out for the under-21s - and scored his first goal in 11 months.

It has been a long road back for the England international, but the end is in sight - and there is an outside chance he could be involved against West Brom.

Wenger admits he has taken things slowly with the midfielder, and is hopeful that Wilshere could make a big impact in the final weeks of the campaign.








Jack Wilshere

Jack Wilshere







“I am very pleased that he is first of all improving step by step and that he has had no setbacks, so overall that is very positive for him, for us, and for England,” the manager said.

“I am a little bit more cautious because I want progression before he comes back. You can say after three games [for the under-21s] that he has made the first step, he looks much sharper and overall that is very important.

“That is usually a dangerous stage, and to absorb the 90 minutes now means he has gone over the first hurdle.

“We will see when he comes back how well we can integrate him into the team. There is a lot of competition there; Cazorla is back, Wilshere is back and there are also players who have integrated into the team like Iwobi, so there is a fierce competition for places. Now Ramsey is back as well, we have plenty of midfielders.”


Having been frustrated by Crystal Palace for long periods on Sunday, the Gunners can expect more of the same against West Brom.

Opta Facts

Alexis has scored or assisted seven goals in his last six Premier League games (four goals, three assists)

West Brom have won just one of their last 11 Premier League away games (W1 D5 L5)

The Baggies have kept a clean sheet in 21 of Tony Pulis' 51 Premier League games in charge of the club (41 per cent)

The Baggies have averaged less than a goal a game under Tony Pulis in the Premier League, but have kept a clean sheet in 21 of the manager’s 51 games in charge.

They also beat Arsenal 2-1 in the reverse fixture in November - ending their opponents’ nine-game unbeaten run - despite only having one shot on target.

Wenger knows what to expect on Thursday night, but says it is down to his side to come up with the solutions.

“It could be similar [to the Palace game],” he said. “They are very committed, very physical and we are up against a very organised side.

“The pace of our game will be very important, as will the pace of our passing and maybe we can add something in the incisiveness of our play.

“We had a lot of possession [against Palace] and we want to make more of it, but continue to play the way we play and focus on the quality of what we do.”


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