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Arsenal at West Bromwich Albion match thread: starting 2021 off right

Can the Gunners make it three straight victories?

Arsenal Training Session Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal kick off 2021 with a trip to the West Midlands to take on Sam Allardyce’s West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies have turned in mixed performances under Big Sam in his three league matches in charge — they drew Liverpool but were smashed by Chelsea and Leeds. West Brom have the worst goal difference in the Premier League and are five points adrift of safety.

The Gunners have struggled on recent trips to the Hawthorns, earning just one win, two draws, and two losses. In each of those five matches, the Gunners scored just the one goal. Interestingly, in the 24 PL matches between the two clubs, Arsenal have managed to score in every game (stats from the incomparable @Orbinho).

Despite the recent struggles, this is a match that Arsenal should win, and one they have to win if they truly want to challenge the top half of the table. Today’s match, along with visits from Crystal Palace and Newcastle to the Emirates, make up a three match spell of “easier” fixtures between the difficult Christmas period and some tough matches on the horizon. Three wins would close the gap significantly on some of the other Big 6 clubs.

A win today would, shockingly, put Arsenal one point above their 17-match haul from last season. If two wins in a row takes you from big, flashing red lights and sirens about the relegation zone to “hey, it’s actually not that bad,” imagine what stacking up a few more W’s would do. That’s the nature of the table this year — only 10 points separate 3rd from 15th.

The Gunners injury list is mostly unchanged. Bukayo Saka faces a late fitness test after his knock against Brighton, and it might not be the worst thing if he sits this one out, even if he is fit. He’s played a lot of minutes and is critical to Arsenal’s overall chances this season. David Luiz and Willian both returned to training on Thursday and should be available for selection after missing time with illness. Reiss Nelson might be ready for a return to the matchday squad; Mikel Arteta revealed that his extended period out of the side was due to a niggling muscular injury and not to impending loan plans. Gabriel Magalhaes is still in COVID-19 isolation and cannot return until next week’s Newcastle match at the earliest. Thomas Partey is recovering well from his thigh injury but is not yet available.

The Baggies will be without defenders Conor Townsend and former Gunner Kieran Gibbs. Centerback Kyle Bartley is a doubt, as is attacker Hal Robson-Kanu.

WHAT: Arsenal at West Bromwich Albion
WHERE: The Hawthorns
WHEN: Saturday, January 2nd 2021 12 PM PT | 3 PM BT | 8 PM BT
US TV: Streaming on Peacock only.

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