05 October 2013

Match Preview: West Bromwich Albion v. Arsenal, The Hawthorns, October 6 (11 a.m. EST)

Ah, West Brom. Remember when you were one of those teams that we could afford to know nothing about? A Championship yo-yo team for most of the last few years, you were just part of the background noise for a while there, like Norwich or Darby County.
Mesut Özil looks hungrily at goal.
CC License: Ronnie MacDonald

Those days, however, are over. The last time you came back up, in 2010/2011, you came back up to stay.

The story of the Albion's last three seasons has been one of steadily solidifying mid-table success, and this year, the Baggies look to have taken another step forward.

We've already heard about West Brom's thirst for managerial blood - four bosses have gotten the sack in the last year and a half after defeats to the West Midlands club. Admittedly, these were mostly foregone conclusions anyway - particularly given that two of the victims were Chelsea managers, and Roman Abramovich fires managers like it's a bodily function - but it was tough not to hope for a new level of chaos at Manchester United after West Brom's convincing win at Old Trafford last weekend.

Arsenal, luckily, have the advantage of having faced West Brom recently, grinding out a League Cup win (on penalties, no less) at the Hawthorns while fielding a team full of youth players and Last Samurai Nicklas Bendtner.

On paper, Arsenal's prospects look bright for Sunday's game - if West Brom couldn't beat what was essentially a reserve side, how can they be expected to cope with Mesut Özil? Yet, and I'm sorry to resort to cliché, the Gunners can't afford to be complacent about a team that features a rejuvenated Stéphane Sessègnon, to say nothing of Saido Berahino, who's starting to look a lot like the guy some bigger club will snap up in a future transfer window. Morgan Amalfitano is also one to watch.

West Brom do have injury issues, however: midfielder Scott Sinclair had to be subbed off after a hamstring injury early in the United game, and striker Victor Anichebe will also be a doubt. Given that the aging Nicholas Anelka is also hurt, we could see Berahino start up front.

Possible Lineups:

West Brom (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob, Mulumbu; Sessègnon, Morrison, Amalfitano; Berahino.

Arsenal: (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Flamini, Arteta; Smokin' Jack Wilshere, Özil, Ramsey; Giroud.

Prediction: West Brom 1-2 Arsenal.

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