It might seem harsh, but the evidence of the last two matches has shown that Arsenal still don’t have the ingredients to win the league despite the talent in their squad. The Gunners dropped points from winning positions in two consecutive matches, proving that their old fragility had never really gone away.
But it’s the way the team performed that is most damning. The second-half showings against Everton and Man City were dismal, as a team famed for its technical football could barely put a couple of passes together.
Bad Özil Omens
There was a time when the most talented players could afford to walk around the pitch and get involved when they felt like it. But in the days of gegenpressing and so forth, that time is long gone.
On his day Özil is exceptional, but when things go wrong he’s worse than a passenger.The Arsenal number 10 has had as many wretched days as good ones this season, and the time may be approaching for Wenger to consider his place in the side.
The new signing from Mönchengladbach has done enough in his career to prove that he’s a very good central midfielder. But he wilted in the face of intense pressure in his last two matches.
The good news is that West Brom will probably guard their own final third and give him room to operate. This may give Xhaka the chance to find his passing range once more, but Wenger will expect more from the Swiss star when he’s playing in tighter spaces.
There’s a bit more optimism to be gained by looking at the fixture list. Four of Arsenal’s last five matches had been away games, which took its toll on Wenger’s side.
We’ll get to find out if fatigue was a reason for those second-half collapses, because they’ve got an eight-day rest for this match. And the winnable matches continue into the new year, which should brighten the mood even if the underlying weaknesses remain.
Picking their Fights
Being a methodical sort of manager, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tony Pulis identifies matches he can win long before the fixture takes place.
And in that case, what’s the betting that he writes off away matches at top four teams? Regardless of the circumstances when the match actually happens, we often see his sides play for a point on difficult trips.
Now, at a time when West Brom can afford attacking players of Rondón and Chadli’s standard it makes less sense than ever.
Unambitious as Usual
Last week we weren’t giving West Brom much hope against Manchester United if Tony Pulis continued to leave his attackers stranded up the pitch. On the weekend he did pick his best attacking midfield for the first time since Chadli got fit.
But that choice was completely undermined by the manager’s insistence on using a centre-half at right-back. Craig Dawson has a lot of qualities but you can bet that overlapping with a winger isn’t one of them.
Awful Away Day
West Brom have lost every match away at Arsenal since their shock win there in 2010. That record doesn’t bode well, but the picture looks worse when you factor in Tony Pulis’ away form against Arsenal.
Stoke often caused Arsenal trouble at home, but were roundly beaten on every visit to the Emirates. And yet despite what’s happened in the past, the restive Arsenal crowd and the Gunners’ own crisis of confidence could play into West Brom’s hands.
Arsenal vs West Bromwich Albion Match Prediction
Arsenal have gone from the top of the league to an emotional rock-bottom in the space of three matches. And yet, despite the rebellious Emirates support and underperforming stars, West Brom are odds-on to sit off the Gunners and let themselves be overrun.
A leggy Arsenal team will also be grateful for a longer rest in the build-up to this match than they’ve had in weeks. Their long-term problems will never be solved by a win against West Brom, but it should bring a few smiles back. If only for a little while.
We’re tipping a restorative 3-1 win for Arsenal.