Arsenal FC v West Bromwich Albion
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: May 4, 2014 1:30 PM BST
Thanks to Manchester City’s victory over Everton our last home match of the season is going to be a dead-rubber contest. Our visitors won’t have too much to play for either – they already have all but secured another season in the Premiership. There is a slight possibility for them to get relegated but it would require losses in their remaining matches for the Baggies, not to mention beating Chelsea on Sunday and Arsenal on the last league day would be a tall order for Norwich.
Of course, there is a slight possibility for us to climb up to third place if Chelsea suffer a meltdown of biblical proportions and lose both remaining matches while we get all six points. That is a very, very, very distant possibility and we should accept the fact we are going to face a Champions’ League Play-Off this summer.
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Which is not such a bad thing given where we had been before Everton lost two matches at home and against Southampton away but also not the best thing we could have achieved given that we had spent 18 weeks on top – more than any of the potential champions (Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea). Injuries, referees’ decisions, string of horror-performances in away matches, lack of a world-class striker, lack of pace when Walcott is unavailable and poor handling of the January transfer window have been responsible for our decline in the second part of the season. But, it’s something that deserves a special piece after the end of the season.
It remains unknown whether we are going to field our best players available for the match against the Baggies. This is not just the last match of the season at home but also a match in which players like Lukasz Fabianski, Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna and Kim Kallstrom might play their last minutes at the Emirates in Arsenal colours. Fabianski has already declared his willingness to leave the club on Bosman ruling, Vermaelen can’t be happy with the fact he is probably the only club captain in the world that has started only a few matches this season and Sagna isn’t happy with our contract offer so this might be his last season with us.
Sagna’s appearance is questionable due to knee problems he suffered since the game against Newcastle so Wenger might opt for Carl Jenkinson instead.
Fabianski should be there too to get a warm farewell from the fans as the Pole has been one of the heroes for the last two seasons, a deus ex machina that has saved us in many crucial matches, especially in our run to the FA Cup final this season.
Vermaelen’s last appearance at the Emirates with an armband might be like killing two birds with one stone as it would also be an opportunity for Wenger to give a rest to Per Mertesacker. The Belgian hasn’t been in form this season and it’s very likely that he’ll ask for a transfer in the summer in order to get first-team football elsewhere. It might also be an opportunity for the unreliable Koscielny-Vermaelen partnership to shine for once.
Nacho Monreal – in the absence of Kieran Gibbs – should play at left full-back.
Aaron Ramsey has been excellent since returning from the injury but Wenger might feel that playing him in a dead-rubber contest is too much of a risk given that we have the most important match in years on 17th May. That might open an opportunity for Kim Kallstrom to show his abilities to the home crowd. Perhaps a goal from a free-kick wouldn’t be a bad sign off for the Swedish international. He might play next to Arteta or Flamini.
It’s hard to see beyond Cazorla on the right and Podolski on the left while Rosicky might get a nod so Wenger can preserve Özil for the final. The Czech international has been on the bench lately but he is the reliable one and will give a proper response if Wenger gives him a chance.
Yaya Sanogo should get a chance to get his first goal for Arsenal and a match against West Brom at home might be a good opportunity to offer Olivier Giroud a rest.
Our opponents have been a tough nut to crack in the reverse fixture – they had a one-goal-lead and a sitter for Anelka before Wilshere equalized. We have played twice at the Hawthorns this season and both matches ended 1:1 after 90 minutes with us winning a penalty-shootout in the Cup. Speaking of penalties, we needed two in this fixture last season to beat the Baggies. Santi Cazorla’s dive earned us the first penalty while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earned a chance for Mikel Arteta’s brace that the Spaniard accepted.
It would be a good thing to beat West Brom on Sunday in order to keep the good streak going and even with a point we will improve our points-tally from last season (73).
So, Gunners, let’s do it once more before bowing to the fans at the Emirates!
Arsenal: Sagna (doubt – knee), Wilshere (foot), Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin), Gibbs (hamstring), Walcott (knee)
West Brom: Reid (doubt – hip), Ridgewell (knee), Gera (hamstring)
Head to Head
Premier League (EPL) 6 Oct 2013 WBA 1 – Arsenal FC 1
Capital One Cup (CCUP) 25 Sep 2013 WBA 1 – Arsenal FC 1
Premier League (EPL) 6 Apr 2013 WBA 1 – Arsenal FC 2
Premier League (EPL) 8 Dec 2012 Arsenal FC 2 – WBA 0
Premier League (EPL) 13 May 2012 WBA 2 – Arsenal FC 3
28 Apr 2014 Arsenal FC 3 – Newcastle United 0 EPL
20 Apr 2014 Hull City 0 – Arsenal FC 3 EPL
15 Apr 2014 Arsenal FC 3 – West Ham 1 EPL
12 Apr 2014 Wigan Athletic 1 – Arsenal FC 1 FA (Pens: 2-4)
6 Apr 2014 Everton 3 – Arsenal FC 0 EPL
West Bromwich Albion
26 Apr 2014 WBA 1 – West Ham 0 EPL
21 Apr 2014 Manchester City 3 – WBA 1 EPL
12 Apr 2014 WBA 3 – Tottenham 3 EPL
5 Apr 2014 Norwich City 0 – WBA 1 EPL
29 Mar 2014 WBA 3 – Cardiff City 3 EPL
Jenkinson Koscielny Vermaelen (c) Monreal
Arsenal FC 5 – 2 West Bromwich Albion