The period between a last Arsenal match and an upcoming fixture sandwiched between International football usually feels like an eternity, but after the tragic events in a number of countries over the past week, it feels more comforting than usual to have our Arsenal back again.
We were starting to look somewhat jaded before the players flew off to different parts of the world. It felt as if we were pushing the limits of our squad somewhat, especially in midfield and attack so it will be interesting to see how the players look and feel after being away from the squad for a few weeks. We were hoping to have Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain back after the break but it seems as if they are not yet ready to take part in the squad. Arsène did say that those two will be back for midweek but I am not entirely sure what that means. Back in the squad? back in training? back to the future? Who knows. But at least we have Hector Bellerin back for this afternoon. I thought his absence was felt against Tottenham, while Debuchy's defending was much better than it had been, probably down to a few games under his belt, he just does not have the same impact going forward as our Spanish hipster does.
The other question mark is that of Laurent Koscielny and we all know by now why that is. As Arseblog put it on his podcast I think it is more likely to be down to the circumstances. Around his Arsenal team mates traveling to Birmingham should give him a completely different focus. If Koscielny is not ready then Gabriel is about as perfect a replacement as you are going to get. In someway's he is probably more suited to this fixture more given his superior ability in the air than the Frenchman.
So what of Tony Pulis' West Brom this season? They currently sit in 13th position in the table and have only scored 10 goals this season but have conceded seven less goals than last seasons Champions, Chelsea. Chelsea who are 16th. Chelsea who are 3 points above the 3rd relegation spot. Ha!
West Brom have a funny home record this season. Losing 2-3 twice, drawing 0-0 twice and beating Sunderland 1-0.
Games against West Brom at the Hawthorns have been pretty low scoring ones in recent years. It took a 60th minute Danny Welbeck header after some magic Cazorla wing play down the left to take all the points. It was a game where Giroud, Welbeck and Alexis worked quite well together but it is not something we've seen much of since then. I do miss Welbeck I must say, especially in these types of away matches where hard running and graft is a must before we can impose our quality in the latter part of the game.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
I can't see any surprises to the team. No Ox and no Rambo probably means no rest for Alexis, it might be a little much to expect a big performance from him right now, especially after two more games for his country but hopefully he can offer quality in bursts and a few of his contributions can make a positive impact on the team. But if we are to succeed today then I think it could be down to a good defensive performance from Mert and Kos and the cutting edge found from Giroud and Özil, two players who are in good form right now. We need them to carry our attacking game until messrs Theo, Rambo et al return.
I think it is going to be another low scoring affair but hopefully a fully rested Mesut can make the difference for us. Again.
Post match stuff later.