West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal
The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, the West Midlands, England
Sunday October 6 2013, 11:00 am ET
TV: NBC Sports Network
One of the fun things about being in a ton of competitions all at once is that sometimes, you end up playing a team twice in about two weeks. Of course, it's nearly guaranteed to be a different game - more is at stake in the league than the Capital One Cup, and both teams will make changes. But on the run they're on, Arsenal should be looking to take the full three points from the fixture.
West Brom will be missing several (relatively) big-name players to injury. Victor Anichebe, Shane Long, and Nicolas Anelka could all be absent up front, while Scott Sinclair will be unavailable in midfield. Morgan Amalfitano could come in after facing Arsenal in the League Cup, while Stéphane Sessègnon is also a likely starter.
For Arsenal, the only difference from the demolition of Napoli at midweek is at right back. Bacary Sagna is injured, forced out three weeks or so with a hamstring problem. Expect to see Carl Jenkinson deputize until Sagna returns, as he did so well the last time these teams faced each other. With a relatively long rest since Napoli and an international break coming, expect Arsenal's top XI to play.
Who is Arsenal's top XI? That's a damn good question. If Arsene Wenger chooses to go with a more "traditional" setup, it will probably look something like it did at Swansea last weekend. Along the lines of:
Jenkinson - Mertesacker - Koscielny - Gibbs
Flamini - Ramsey
Gnabry - Ozil - Wilshere
Mikel Arteta could replace Mathieu Flamini in the starting lineup, or he could replace him as a substitute to help keep the ball late, or something entirely different could happen. On the other hand, the lineup against Napoli was exceedingly effective, playing essentially with a five-man fluid midfield, so Wenger could look to replicate that. The back five is essentially set, with the following in front of them:
Flamini - Arteta
Ramsey - Rosicky - Ozil
The front four would likely be very fluid as against Napoli, with a lot of position-switching. If I had to guess - and I suppose I do, don't I? - I would tend to think something more like the first lineup would be likely. But if Tomas Rosicky and Arteta are both fully fit, either one could slot in, possibly replacing Gnabry or Wilshere (in Rosicky's case), or Flamini (in Arteta's). In short, I have no goddamn clue. We'll see. But either way, the bench is starting to shape up a little bit.
Prediction: Deciding they want to one-up the Napoli performance, Arsenal implement totaalvoetbal in full, shifting positions in two minute intervals. Kieran Gibbs scores a goal as striker, and Wojciech Szczesny does an indoor-soccer-type run from the back to score the second. Lukas Podolski stands on the endline for the entire match shouting "A-HA" into a rolled-up newspaper he's using as a megaphone.
West Brom 0-3 Arsenal