Pre-Match Report

West Brom v Arsenal: The Inside Track

By Rob Kelly

THE QUOTE

“It is difficult but it’s a good opportunity to focus on something else and to get it out of your mind a little bit. For the players it’s also a way to get rid of some of the emotions, to do what they can do and to give pleasure to people by focusing on something else.” - Arsene Wenger

THE PREVIEW

There has been an understandably sombre mood at London Colney this week in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris.

While the world comes to terms with events in the French capital, the unifying power of sport was highlighted four days later on an emotional night at Wembley.

 

 

 

 

Arsene Wenger, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their English counterparts in a show of fraternité that left a huge impression on the Arsenal trio and the watching world.

 

 

 

 

“It was a very emotional experience because I was with French people and you could see that the shock inside the country is absolutely huge,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.

“It’s just that the target was our way of life, which means football, having a drink together, or music and theatre. That makes everybody feel vulnerable.

“It’s also a shock to discover how much they want to hurt and kill innocent people, so of course nobody can go through that without any emotion or shock.How do we respond to it? There’s obviously only one thing and that is to go on with your life by showing that life is stronger than fear.”

Team news:

West Brom: Brunt (groin - doubt), Foster (knee) Arsenal: Wilshere (ankle), Welbeck (knee), Rosicky (knee), Ramsey (hamstring), Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring), Walcott (calf)

While football feels insignificant at this time, Wenger believes that Saturday’s trip to the Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion could be just the distraction he and his players need.

“It is difficult but it’s a good opportunity to focus on something else and to get it out of your mind a little bit,” said the manager. “Sometimes the best way is to concentrate on something else.

“For the players it’s also a way to get rid of some of the emotions, to do what they can do and to give pleasure to people by focusing on something else.”

ONE TO WATCH

People react differently to tragedy, and Wenger will keep a close eye on Koscielny and Giroud in the run-up to Saturday’s match at West Brom.

Koscielny admitted that it had been difficult for him to focus entirely on football on Tuesday night as France lost to England, while Giroud said the French squad had struggled to play with “clear heads”.

It leaves Wenger with some tricky decisions to make as the Gunners look to maintain their excellent Premier League form.

 

 

 

 

Laurent Koscielny and the boss

Laurent Koscielny and the boss

 

 

 

 

“Koscielny is a good example,” he said. “He had a fantastic game against Germany and you could see that on Tuesday night he was not himself. It affected him deeply I think and I did not recognise the player I saw.

“I will look at how deeply [both players] are affected. Sometimes it hits you more two or three days later than on the night. On the night you try to protect yourself as you do not know what's going on.

“But slowly you realise the shock is always a bit after. They have gone through that game but I will talk to them to see how much they are up for it.”

DANGERMAN

West Brom may be the joint-lowest scorers in the Premier League, but in Salomon Rondon they have a major goal threat who is starting to find his feet in English football.

Opta Facts

Arsenal have only lost two of their 18 Premier League meetings with West Brom (W13 D3), and have not lost in the last nine top-flight clashes The Gunners have taken 31 points from a possible 36 in the last 12 Premier League matches on the road (W10 D1 L1)

The Venezuela international is a proven performer, having impressed during a four-year spell in Spain with Las Palmas and then Malaga, before three prolific years in Russia with Rubin Kazan and Zenit St Petersburg.

While South Americans often take some time to settle in English football, Rondon’s energy and strength suggest he is well suited to the league and two goals in his last three games highlights the danger he will pose.

“He’s a fighter,” Wenger said. “He has a physical ability to resist the challenges of the centre backs and he has a good nose in the box to be where you have to be.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES