The Big Match Tactical View: West Brom v Arsenal

Alexis Sanchez is in superb goalscoring form
Alexis Sanchez is in superb goalscoring form
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Saturday's early kick-off sees a meeting between West Brom and Arsenal, who have both lost their last two Premier League games. Michael Cox looks at the tactics, while Alan Thompson has the lowdown on the best bets...

"West Brom's lack of pace at centre-back is worrying against the likes of Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez."

Back Arsenal to score in both halves at 2.915/8

West Brom v Arsenal
Saturday 12:45, BT Sport 1.
Match Odds: West Brom 4.67/2, Arsenal 1.910/11, The Draw 3.814/5.

Arsenal have received plenty of criticism in recent weeks, and come into this fixture on the back of two consecutive league defeats. However, West Bromwich Albion have also lost their last two matches, against Newcastle and Chelsea, so both will be lacking confidence.

Arsenal have a decent record against West Brom in terms of picking up victories, but they never seem to perform particularly well against the Baggies. There's also a concern they struggle with early kick-offs on Saturday, although many of these defeats have been against the Premier League's biggest sides.

Alan Irvine has often named an unchanged team throughout this season, although he made four changes ahead of the game against Chelsea last weekend, a 2-0 defeat.

Claudio Yacob was sent off against Chelsea, which means Irvine will be forced to change his midfield, although Yacob was making his first start of the season anyway, and Craig Gardner and James Morrison have brought more guile to West Brom's midfield. Alternatively, there's a chance Youssouf Mulumbu could be recalled to give the defence protection against Arsenal's midfield.

This selection decision is probably Irvine's main dilemma. At the back, West Brom haven't been particularly secure this season, but there aren't many options to change things. Chris Baird played ahead of Sebastian Pocognoli at left-back last weekend, but this altered little.

Going forward, there shouldn't be many surprises for the home side. Chris Brunt and Graham Dorrans should start in the wide positions, and the former's set-pieces could be particularly useful. West Brom have scored 13 goals this season, but only five have been netted by Baggies players in open play. Four have come from set-pieces, three have been penalties, and one has been an own goal.

Arsenal have defended corners poorly this season, so it could be worth backing a West Brom centre-back - either Craig Dawson or Joleon Lescott - to open the scoring. In this fixture last season, Yacob headed the opener in the aftermath of a corner.

Arsene Wenger continues to suffer from significant injury problems. Although Laurent Koscielny has returned to full training, he might not be risked from the outset. Arsenal have also suffered injuries to Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta in the last two games, which leaves Wenger with few midfield options. Mathieu Flamini should be recalled. 

Arsenal's formation this season has been unpredictable. Sometimes they play three midfielders in a 4-3-3 formation, however on other occasions it's more like 4-2-3-1 or even 4-4-1-1. 

For this game, there is no reason to diverge significantly from the shape which defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-0 on Wednesday evening. That was a return to the 4-2-3-1 system, with Santi Cazorla playing centrally and creating both goals.

With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain motoring up and down the right, and Alexis Sanchez cutting inside dangerously from the left, Arsenal had plenty of attacking options. Yaya Sanogo started upfront in midweek, although Olivier Giroud or Danny Welbeck should play at the Hawthorns.

Arsenal should try to attack quickly: West Brom can be very well organised when their midfield protects the back four, although the lack of pace at centre-back could be worrying for Irvine's side against the likes of Welbeck, Sanchez and maybe even Theo Walcott.

I'm not convinced Arsenal will keep a clean sheet here, so they could be in for a difficult test, but West Brom tend to concede lots of goals themselves, and could struggle against Arsenal's pace. I like the sound of Arsenal to score in both halves, and will back that at 2.915/8.

Recommended Bet
Back Arsenal to score in both halves at 2.915/8

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Over the previous two seasons Arsenal have lost just once in 20 games away from home against bottom half sides (the defeat coming at Norwich in October of 2010). On the road this season against sides I expect to be bottom half they have won at Sunderland (0-2), Aston Villa (0-3) drawn at Leicester (1-1) and I am undecided if their defeat at Swansea (2-1) will yet prove to be a second defeat in 24 starts against a bottom half side.

From their six away games to date only Southampton (5) have conceded fewer goals on the road than Arsenal (7) and they have only failed to score at Stamford Bridge.

Alan Irvine’s men are having a tough time with only one win (Leicester 1-0) in their last seven starts in all competitions and their only home clean sheet coming against Burnley (4-0).

In their other five home games they have conceded 10 goals (exactly two in each game) – only Everton (12) have conceded more home goals so far this campaign. Last season though at home against the top six sides they performed exceptionally well only losing to Man City (2-3). The other five games were all score draws.

With Saido Berahino in the side they certainly have someone who can trouble the Gunners, he is responsible for seven of their 13 goals this season. However, WBA have failed to score in their last three starts.

You have to go back to January 2012 to find the last time that Arsene Wenger’s men lost three consecutive Premier League games and I can’t see that happening here. I think there is value in backing Arsenal to win at anything over 1.9 but it’s also worth just having a cheap saver on 1-1 @ 8.4 in the Correct Score market.

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