Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side travel to West Brom for their Premier League on Saturday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
In Tony Pulis’ first full season with West Bromwich Albion, the statistics suggest he’s implemented the approach he became renowned for at both Stoke City and Crystal Palace.
So far this season, West Brom are averaging the least possession in the league (43.5 per cent) and the fewest shots per game (9.5). This is a very defensive side that concentrates on sporadic, quick attacking through the wide players, and direct passes to centre forward Salomon Rondon.
"Pulis’ previous sides have been accused of tough tackling"
Boaz Myhill will keep goal in the continued absence of Ben Foster, and he’s protected by a four-man defence which stays deep and narrow. Gareth McAuley was dismissed against Manchester United last weekend, which means Jonny Evans will be joined by either Jonas Olsson or James Chester.
They’ll be helped by the fact right back Craig Dawson is essentially a converted centre back, although peculiarly left back Chris Brunt is more of a natural winger, and in the side primarily because of his exceptional delivery from crosses and set-pieces.
Pulis has used both a 4-4-2 and a 4-5-1 system so far this season. The shape of the central midfield combination will vary accordingly, but either way Claudio Yacob will perform a solid holding role, with Darren Fletcher playing slightly ahead, albeit in a less energetic role than in his peak Manchester United days.
James Morrison is the main creator from central positions, can spread play nicely and is a long-range goalscoring threat, as he showed at the Emirates on the final day of last season.
Out wide, Pulis has used a host of players - James McClean, Craig Gardner, Callum McManman, Stephane Sessegnon and Saido Berahino. McClean and Sessegnon have been the favoured combination in recent weeks, because both are excellent at running with the ball, though Pulis is always tempted to use Berahino, essentially a second striker, to support the target man Rondon.
While Pulis’ previous sides have been accused of tough tackling, West Brom are the only side in the league who commit fewer fouls than Arsenal - evidence of the fact they stay extremely deep and only attempt to win possession inside their own third of the pitch.
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