By Bulldog Drummond
This will be match number 140 between these two teams, the first such game being 23 February 1901, a 0-1 home defeat for Woolwich Arsenal in the FA Cup. Since then Arsenal have won 71 of the games, West Brom 38 and 30 have been drawn.
The bulk of the WBA victories came early on (Arsenal won only one of the first six matches) and even in the glorious 1930s West Brom were able to put a three match winning run together, and a run between 1931 and 1933 in which Arsenal only won one game in six.
But then betweeen 1979 and 1983 they went nine without winning, and after one win went another ten without repeating the trick. A format that looks a bit like Crystal Palace’s matches against us.
However in the last couple of years they have had a mini-revival after a ten match streak without a win (and only two draws). Here is the most recent run.
|21 Nov 2015||West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal||L||2-1||Premier League|
|21 Apr 2016||Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion||W||2-0||Premier League|
|26 Dec 2016||Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion||W||1-0||Premier League|
|18 Mar 2017||West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal||L||3-1||Premier League|
|25 Sep 2017||Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion||W||2-0||Premier League|
So we clearly do need to establish something of a run, less these baggies start thinking that beating the Arsenal on their home patch can be a regular occurrence. Two wins for them in two is a bit much
Looking at the sort of game we can expect the most stand out statistic is concerning the number of times the ball is touched….
Arsenal have touched the ball 16,385 times so far this season according to official Premier League statistics while WBA have touched it 10,651 times – only 65% of the number of times Arsenal have achieved the feat. In fact WBA touch the ball fewer times per match on average than any other team.
What this means is that Arsenal’s recent run of having 65% or 70% of the possession is going to be continued.
Not surprisingly West Brom also make the smallest number of passes of any team in the league – 6833, against Arsenal’s figure of 12624. The only team who pass it more than we do is Manchester City – and we are getting on for double the number of passes that WBA produce per match.
Of course part of their problem is the long ball game – whacking it upfield can work with the team charging forwards en masse in the style of a bunch of thugs, or Stoke as the common name has it, but without the right players the tactic doesn’t always come off.
This style of approach can result (when the referee is looking in the right direction) in a number of yellow cards and it is not surprising to find that WBA has 41 yellows this season, a number only beaten by the up-and-at-em-elbows-out approach of State Aid United.
Now one way to cut the number of yellows is to have refereeing decisions go your way, but that seems not to be happening (quite possibly other methods are being used or WBA’s approach is so outrageous that the yellow do have to be given). It may however explain Chelsea’s 23 yellows so far while Arsenal are on 28 yellows. Although we might note that WBA has only one red so far this season.
West Brom also don’t shoot very often (195 times – just under 10 times a game compared to nearly 18 times a game for Arsenal), but then they are pretty mid table in tackling too – and given the sort of game they are playing one might expect them to be dishing out the tackles all the time.
So overall it looks like a team that doesn’t really know where it is going and what it is doing, or come to that what it would actually like to do. But they have a new manager and he could be about to make some significant changes, so caution is needed. And an early goal.
Now if we look at the number of games played of late, we have eight games in 24 days – one in every three days in fact…
|07 Dec||Arsenal v FC BATE Borisov||W||6-0||UEFA Europa League|
|10 Dec||Southampton v Arsenal||D||1-1||Premier League|
|13 Dec||West Ham United v Arsenal||D||0-0||Premier League|
|16 Dec||Arsenal v Newcastle United||W||1-0||Premier League|
|19 Dec||Arsenal v West Ham United||W||1-0||League Cup|
|22 Dec||Arsenal v Liverpool||D||3-3||Premier League|
|28 Dec||Crystal Palace v Arsenal||W||2-3||Premier League|
|31 Dec||West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal||Premier League|
I would not be surprised to see more use made of Arsenal II in this match, since they have only had two games in the period whereas the Arsenal I team have played six. There is certainly a case to say that Calum Chambers could keep his place in the side after doing ok with Wilfried Zaha.
But not only do we not know Mr Wenger’s view on the rotations, and who he sees as getting tired after so many games, we also don’t know the format. We could try this…
Chambers, Mustafi, Koscielny;
Bellerin, Xhaka, Wilshere, Kolasinac;
Or it could also be…
Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles
Walcott Ozil Iwobi
It is not just a case of which format (three central defenders or two) but also what sort of a rest players need. I quite like the idea of Coquelin and Elneny in midfield against a team like WBA, but we could also have
Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles
Welbeck Ozil Alexis
Because I don’t have a clue (no change there) I can’t even put up a beach – and besides everyone knows the West Mids (or is it the Black Country, I am never quite sure with West Bromwich) is nowhere near the sea. So here is the squad who appear to be more or less fit…
Cech, Ospina, Mertesacker, Holding, Mustafi, Koscielny, Chambers, Debuchy, Bellerin, Nelson, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Wilshere, Xhaka, Elneny, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez, Welbeck, Walcott, Lacazette.
And that I think is about it from the team for this year. Walter has a New Year’s Eve party to go to (and you have to remember it is already tomorrow in Belgium) and so can’t do the post match report, so you’ll have to make do with this piece.
Tony will be back tomorrow looking back on 10 years of Untold Arsenal. And quite possibly this match.
Happy New Year; have a great evening.
- West Brom v Arsenal: there are more exotic places to take a record
- West Bromwich v Arsenal: this could be dangerous
- West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal; Sunday 31 Dec 2017 – The Match Officials
And from the Arenal History Society
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.
- Luton Town v Arsenal: Grim football, fewest goals, lowest possession rate