The Breakdown: West Brom preview

Alexis in action against West Brom

We return to Premier League action against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, and ahead of the game Michael Cox and Adrian Clarke assess our opponents.



MC: Arsenal need little introduction to Tony Pulis, having encountered his Stoke, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion sides repeatedly over the past decade. This is a fairly typical Pulis side: West Brom defend narrow, are combative in the centre of the pitch, attack quickly down the flanks and have a big target man up front. They’re not as dependent upon long balls as his old Stoke side, but they’re among the Premier League’s most direct sides, and average the least possession in the league, 41 per cent.


MC: Pulis plays a 4-5-1 and heavily depends upon Salomon Rondon, his lone centre forward, for goals. That’s been something of a problem in recent weeks, though, as Rondon hasn’t score since mid-December, when he netted a hat-trick of headers against Everton – which rather underlined his style. Pulis tried Hal Robson-Kanu up front last weekend, coincidentally also against Everton, but is likely to return to Rondon.


MC: West Brom are the division’s most effective side at scoring goals from set-pieces – they’ve managed 16 this season, by far the most in the Premier League and more than twice as many as Arsenal. Veteran centre back Gareth McAuley is the man to watch out for – he’s scored six times this season, the most of any defender in the top-flight, which makes him the Baggies’ second top scorer.


MC: Nacer Chadli started the season in fine form following his move to Tottenham, and while his form has wavered since then, he’s ideal for Pulis’ system – a hard worker, a good counter-attacker from the flanks, and a big physical force too.
AC: My standout memory of the game at the Emirates earlier this season is Ben Foster because he was unbelievable. He’s having a fine season and he is the one player who can deny Arsenal three points in this game. He has that knack of just pulling out a wonderful performance. I hope he doesn’t do it in this game


MC: McAuley remains an excellent centre back but at the age of 37 lacks speed, while West Brom can be vulnerable to overloads down the flanks as their wide players tuck in. Arsenal will be allowed plenty of possession, but must ensure they switch play rapidly to exploit any gaps. 
AC: You’re probably looking at Foster against the rest. He’s not the biggest 'keeper but he’s a very good shotstopper. I actually think that whipping plenty of crosses into the box will serve us quite well in this game. For that reason, I have a hunch that Olivier Giroud might start this match. Foster is not brilliant at coming to claim crosses because he’s not the most decisive in that area of his game, so I think the whole Arsenal frontline against Foster will be the key duel.

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