Arsenal vs West Brom: Match preview and predicted line-ups
Arsenal will look to get their title challenge back on track on Monday when West Brom side in high-spirits travel to the Emirates Stadium for their Boxing Day clash.
After consecutive 2-1 defeats to Everton and rivals Manchester City in the space of five days, Arsenal have dropped to that all too familiar fourth spot behind Pep Guardiola’s side and Liverpool and now sit nine points behind leaders Chelsea.
Arsene Wenger will be hoping that his side can enter 2017 on the back of a confidence-boosting victory as they aim to claw back Chelsea’s early advantage.
West Brom, by any standards, have excelled in the Premier League pre-Christmas and will be looking to consolidate their mid-table position against an Arsenal side short on morale.
Being comfortably beaten by Manchester United last weekend might have slightly dampened Christmas spirits at the Hawthorns, but Tony Pulis’ side will no doubt provide a stern test in North London after winning four of their last seven matches.
Arsenal’s 14 game unbeaten run which saw them climb to second in the table has ground to a halt in dramatic fashion after two successive losses, leaving the Gunners with plenty of ground to catch up over the upcoming fortnight of Premier League fixtures.
Arsenal fans could, however, be comforted going into the Boxing Day match by knowing that their side haven’t lost in any of their seven home matches this season, and haven’t lost to West Brom in their last five fixtures at the Emirates either.
West Brom, though, have had their most impressive start to a Premier League season in recent history, and despite losses to Manchester United and Chelsea in their last three league games they still sit eighth in the table, between usual Europa League contenders Southampton and Everton.
Tony Pulis’ last four defeats have come at the hands of Premier League title contenders (United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool), but they will be hoping to break this duck against top-six sides and leave the Emirates with at least a point on Monday.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is absent from the Gunners side with a hamstring issue, whilst the German duo of Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker are still both ruled out until the new year.
Danny Welbeck, who has been sidelined since injuring his knee back in May, has returned to full training this week alongside Welsh international Aaron Ramsey, but neither are likely to be in contention for Boxing Day.
Jonny Evans is still a doubt for West Brom after missing their previous two fixtures, whilst James Morrsion will require a late fitness test ahead of the match to reclaim his spot in the side.
Despite West Brom’s strong form in the first half of the current Premier League season, Arsene Wenger will know that another loss could prove critical for Arsenal’s title chances and will make his team deliver the much needed result at the Emirates.
It won’t be an easy afternoon for the Gunners, with the visitors able to make life difficult for their opponents – as proven in Chelsea’s hard-fought 1-0 win against the Baggies at Stamford Bridge a few weeks ago – but Arsenal should prove to have too much firepower and creativity for West Brom’s back four to deal with for 90 minutes.
Predicted Score: Arsenal 2-0 West Brom
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