Arsenal will be trying to regain first place in the Premier League table on Sunday when they head back to Birmingham for another encounter with West Bromwich Albion. The two sides met there recently with Arsenal edging them on a penalty shootout in a Capital One Cup fixture. That match ended in a 1-1 draw and remained the same after 30 minutes of extra time. The Gunners then sank four of their penalty kicks with West Brom converting just three of theirs.
Arsene Wenger’s squad heads into the match with 15 points, just one behind Liverpool and Man City as they laid beatings on Crystal Palace and Everton respectively on Saturday. Arsenal is hoping to make it nine straight away wins in the Premier League dating back to last season and a win at the Hawthorns would be their 11th consecutive victory in all competitions this season. The Gunners certainly don’t mind away fixtures against West Brom since they’ve lost just once in their past 20 visits to the Hawthorns.
Wenger is obviously pleased with his team’s hot streak, but still feels there’s a bit of room for improvement. He stated, “I believe we can still do better, that there is more to come from us, but that will depend now on how much we want it and how hungry we are to improve.”
Amazingly, the Gunners have been on fire ever since opening day of the season even though they’ve been hit with a rash of injuries to some of their key performers. However, everybody else is stepping up their game and putting in an extra effort to make up for the absences. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud have all been leading the way offensively while the back four and goaltending has been as steady as can be.
Unfortunately for Wenger, the injury list grew by another player this week as it was announced that defender Bacary Sagna will be missing from action for about three weeks due to a hamstring injury. He will join Lukas Podolski, Abou Diaby, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Yaya Sanogo and Theo Walcott in the infirmary.
West Brom started the weekend in 10th place in the Premier League with eight points and should be full of confidence following their 2-1 win over reigning champions Man United at Old Trafford last weekend. It was their first victory against United since way back in March of 1984. Manager Steve Clarke’s squad got off to a rocky start this season with a draw and pair of losses in their first three matches, but they have two wins and a draw in their last three outings.
Clarke was over the moon with his players’ performance against Man United last weekend, but said they have to realize that result is in the past and they can’t live off of it for the rest of the season. He said the team has to play the same way every week if they hope to have success against the league’s top-10 clubs. Clarke remarked, “We have three points for our efforts and now we have to do it again this week.”
West Brom will enter the match without the services of Scott Sinclair with a hamstring problem and goalkeeper Ben Foster is out of action with a foot injury. Clarke will make a decision on forward Victor Anichebe closer to game time as he’s suffering from a groin injury. The good news for Clarke is that James Morrison, Matej Vydra, Stephane Sessegnon, Shane Long, Chris Brunt and Nicolas Anelka may all be ready to return to the lineup after suffering a variety of injuries.
Arsenal and West Brom have met a total of 122 times in the past with the Gunners winning 62 of the games, losing 32 and drawing the other 28. They’ve outscored the opposition 216 to 156 over those contests. At West Brom, Arsenal has left there with 26 wins and 14 draws while losing on 22 occasions. They’ve been outscored by West Brom 86 to 85 in those matches.