Arsenal vs. West Brom
Saturday, December 8, 2012, 3PM London/10 AM ET/7AM PT
Emirates Stadium, Islington, London, England, UK
Form: ARS DWDDL | SWN WWLLL
TV: Fox Soccer
After a week in which Arsenal's youth emulated their elders and surrendered a 1-0 lead on the way to a loss, the big boys take the pitch again for a Premier League matchup against, and this is why I never pay attention to the tables this early, fifth-placed West Brom. WBA are currently five points above Arsenal, having scored the same number of goals (24) and conceded three more (19 to 16).
They have, however, lost two in a row to drop out of the top four, and Arsenal will hope that a fresh, rested Cazorla/Arteta-driven midfield will continue WBA's slide and kickstart Arsenal's December, which badly needs kickstarting. After a bright start, West Brom seem to be reverting to fairly mediocre form; their 1-0 loss to Stoke last week was, according to the WBA website, "A game that had 0-0 written all over it" until Stoke Stoked in a goal in the 75th minute to snatch all three points.
That game saw WBA field a side that was rather different than the one Arsenal will face tomorrow, with Romelu Lukaku, Peter Odemwinge, and Liam Ridgewell all being rested. They are expected to be starting tomorrow, as West Brom come to the Emirates with a full, healthy squad to choose from; only keeper Ben Foster is unavailable. The Baggies typically play a 4-2-3-1, with Shane Long typically up front; they play fairly quickly, they're direct, and....yep, they play like Arsenal.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are fairly banged up. No Kos, no Podolski, no Walcott, and Sagna faces a late fitness test on his foot. I hope he studied. The Arteta/Cazorla duo will be back, of course, after getting a much needed week's rest; I certainly hope they didn't do what I do when I have a week off, because heading to the bar at 4PM and then getting Mexican food after isn't exactly what a top-flight athlete should be doing.
It's safe to say that confidence is not at an all-time high 'round N5 these days; this will be a tricky fixture for Arsenal, but it's also the type of fixture Arsenal must win if they want to be taken seriously for the rest of 2012-13. This is a fixture Arsenal are capable of winning on paper; unfortunately, games aren't played on paper, they're played on grass. I'm out of pithy motivational slogans; I just want to see Arsenal play well and win. It's been a while.
POSSIBLE STARTING LINEUP: Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Wilshere, Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Giroud; Gervinho.