Premier League returns again. West Brom are the opponents for today and it will be the last one before yet another international break. The last break was something that we looked forward too, having only just lost in the local derby. This time however, the break couldn’t come at a more inopportune time. We’re practically flying at the moment, I’m sure the team just want the matches to come thick and fast.
Today’s game is against a team that we dropped 5 points last season. Points that could’ve elevated us to third position finish in last season’s league standings. That WBA were only promoted last season, showed how badly we fared in those 2 fixtures. Yet, those were not the only points we dropped against promoted sides last season.
The 3-2 home reverse last season saw the rise and demotion of one position, the goalkeeping slot. Manuel Almunia fluffed his lines in the corresponding fixture last season which lead to him being dropped and Lukasz Fabianski being installed as the number 1. Unfortunately for the Pole, injury prevented him from cementing a place in the first team. The other Pole, Wojciech Szczesny took the opportunity with both hands and has not looked back since.
Roy Hodgson takes his side to the Grove standing in the 13th position, having won more games on the road than at the Hawthorns this season. I used to remember a time when WBA was just a team that kept coming in and out of the Premiership. Too good for the Championship but flatter to deceive in the top division. Hodgson has done well to steady that ship and WBA can now be considered part of those mid table teams.
I don’t think there’s much more that needs to be said about the opponent. We are in good form and if complacency doesn’t set in, we should have enough in us to win games such as this. If the team plays to their potential, any other result than a home win would be remarkable. No player should look at the opponent and think that they can have an easy ride today. Because form is a fickle thing. The moment things start to work against you, you’ll suddenly find it hard to rediscover the confidence.
I’m hoping the team can be patient today. That’s not to say we shouldn’t start with all guns blazing and lay siege at WBA’s defence. It’s just that the team should realise their attacking quality and sometimes, even that can be negated by a disciplined defence. I’ll be more than happy with if “1 nil to the Arsenal” is the only song the fans sing today.
Arsene Wenger goes into this game with no fresh injury from the midweek draw against Marseille. Thomas Vermaelen seemed to have suffered no ill effect from his first 90 minutes since coming from injury and should be a likely starter for today. Like I mentioned on the blog yesterday, the bigger question arises as to who is chosen to partner him in the centre of defence. The rest of the team should pick itself out.
Robin Van Persie picked up the league’s player of the month award for October and will once again be our main attacking threat today. It’s an impressive return from the Dutchman since the start of this calendar year and goal(s) will be expected of him. That said, he can’t do it alone. He needs others to support and make the passes for him.
While they failed to hit the heights of recent weeks in that Champions League tie, much will be expected of Theo Walcott and Gervinho. The wide men has played a crucial role in RvP becoming the top scorer in the league. Both, has already contributed numerous assists to the club captain. There are signs that the front 3 are beginning to click into gear and that could only mean well for us. They are not rigid in their respective positions of course. Quite often, you’ll see the 3 of them interchanging positions.
However, the creative fulcrum of the side now, has to be Aaron Ramsey. The way he ran the game at Stamford Bridge was mightily impressive to say the least. His fitness levels seemed to be much better now. In the earlier games this season, his contribution could found wanting in the last quarter of the game. Lately, you can see that his influence is still there even right up to the 90th minute. Obviously, some of his passes can be frustrating but just like Andrey Arshavin, Ramsey is the type of player that makes those tight passes. When it works, it’s brilliant.
Like Wenger said, there’s no point looking too far ahead. We have to take each game at one time. The immediate target for the team is surely 4th place where Chelsea are sitting, 3 points ahead of us. Once we achieved that, then we can start to look further upwards. Until then, it’s better not to over complicate things and apply unnecessary pressure on the team.
Here’s to another 3 points. Up The Arsenal!!!