WBA Preview: Shift over, Santi

You hear the phrase ‘must-win’ brandished as an epithet to every other Premier League game.  Today, for Arsenal, it feels appropriate.  Should we fail to beat West Brom, the consequences will be catastrophic.  Not as far as the Premier League table goes: there’s plenty of time for us to catch the Baggies, as well as the other teams chasing Champions League Qualification.  The damage to the trust between fans and manager, however, could be hugely significant.  Last week, the atmosphere shifted from tense to toxic.  I dread to think where it goes from here.

West Brom come with a strong squad.  Their only key player missing is Scott Carson BEN FOSTER (thanks for the copious corrections in the comments), and unfortunately for Gooners everywhere, his place won’t be taken by Martin Fulop.  The man who made the last day of 2011/12 hilarious for all the right reasons now plays for Asteras Tripoli in the Greek Super League, but we’ll never forget him, and shall raise a glass in his honour on every St. Totteringham’s Day.

Arsenal are without both Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott, as well as the expected absentees Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny.  Carl Jenkinson will continue at right back, with Mertesacker and Vermaelen in the middle, but it’s ahead of that where things become more interesting.  We can be fairly certain that Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere will anchor the midfield.  Santi Cazorla has started every Premier League game this season, and on each occasion it has been in the central playmaking role.  I wonder, however, whether the absence of our first-choice wingers and the renewed availability of Tomas Rosicky will see Arsene bring the Czech in to the centre and shift Santi wide.  We shall see, but I don’t think a change in role would do the Spaniard any harm – he may even find himself a bit liberated.  Olivier Giroud is guaranteed to play at centre-forward, and I’d then go for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain over Gervinho on the flank, for the simple reason that The Ox is a better crosser of the ball, and that suits Giroud down to the ground.

Arsenal will take comfort from the fact that West Brom have lost their last two matches, but know that the Baggies have beaten Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton already this season.  Swansea showed that sides no longer come to the Emirates playing with fear; they come to score goals and win.  Arsenal will need to be vastly improved to win this one.  And marks my words, Arenal need to.  It’s a must-win.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.


  1. The Grassy Knoll   •  

    2010 not 2012.
    Try Ben Foster…..

  2. liam   •  

    going by your goalkeeper timeline, Almunia will be flopping around in nets for you then?

  3. caveat emptor   •  

    I like Arsenal. It’s most of the Arsenal fans I have trouble with

  4. Joker   •  

    So you’d rather the atmosphere between the fans and manager improve, so that the parasite can remain in the job, to lead us to the groundhog day trophy for the next 5 seasons??? Let’s just force him out and be done with it

  5. monkeyboy   •  

    Scott Carson? What an idiot. Try Ben Foster…and try doing research next time.

  6. Stroud Green Road Boy   •  

    I agree the Ox ahead of Gervers would make sense for the reason you give, however this is Wenger we are talking about so we can be fairly certain that will not happen. Gervers is ahead of the Ox in the pecking order so will start.

  7. Stevieo   •  

    “there’s plenty of time for us to catch the Baggies”

    This statement alone sums up the pathetic state of the club and the pathetic mindset of the AKB’s.

    Today is not a must win game. It’s a must not lose game for this abysmal situation we are in. Then the joke fans that still think we are performing miracles can herald it as a great point as we keep Norwich at bay and keep West Brom within our sights.

    Joke club with joke fans

  8. Mitch   •  

    I’m wondering why so many people evidently read this blog just so they can hurl abuse at the person who takes the time to write it.

    Some people need lives and perspective.

    • GilbertoSilver   •     Author

      Thanks Mitch. I don’t take it too much to heart but it does essentially destroy the comments section as a forum for any kind of reasonable debate.

      • fu   •  

        there is no debate with you gs. you are totaly blinded by your devotion to wenger which rssentially makes debate with you impossible.
        However you seem like a decent bloke so i would never abuse you

  9. Munitionsman   •  

    So much for rosicky. I don’t think he is on the bench is he?? Must have been subbed due to injury in Greece. So much for that new signing.

    Wenger out

  10. Munitionsman   •  

    Cazorla dive. Wenger leads a charmed life.

  11. Munitionsman   •  

    Here’s we tommy now good as gold.

    Wenger out

  12. CL   •  

    How shit are we? relying on diving and pushing people off the ball to win penalties. We were very very lucky today and all it does is paper over the cracks.
    A new CF is needed badly, Giroud is a good player and improving slowly but he hasn’t got the goals in him that we need and neither has Podolski. Hunterlaar is an absolute must in January, nevermind the Zaha from Palace, KJH before anyone or a striker who can score like the dutchman. Doesn’t do much other than score i know but alongside Giroud will be great IMO as Giroud is the opposite, plays and does well but lacks that killer finishing and we are wasteful which is and will continue to cost us.

  13. CL   •  

    Good to see Wilshere back looking more like his old self. I knew it would take time and he has been sloppy on the ball lately but he’s getting there is the lad and we’ll be much better when he’s on song.

    Also, has anyone seen the young kid from Derby Will Hughes play? He’s only 17 years old but what a player that kid is gonna be. Watched him against Leeds today and he ripped them apart, nevermind signing Wilfried Zaha from Palace, best player in the Championship is Will Hughes and he’s 2 years younger, i really hope Wenger signs him before someone else does, he reminds me of Wilshere as he’s small central midfielder, left footed but plays with both, just glides past players and his passing and vision for one so young is immense. He’ll be as good as Jack if not better in the next 3 years. Big statement i know but remember where you heard it first.

  14. Daily Football Talk   •  

    Crisis over for Arsenal? Seems like it. At least people are only talking about a dive today as opposed to the manager’s future. Wenger will get Arsenal into the Champions League places. He hasn’t missed that target yet and I don’t think he’s about to now. Whether that’s enough for Arsenal fans is another matter.

  15. Joker   •  

    RVP ripping it up for Manure. He should still be playing for Arsenal but for Arsene’s stupidity. Well, but I suppose he deserves a proper manager, not a clown like Wenger.

  16. Shaun   •  

    Wenger is on the take , simple as , you do not sell a striker like persie to Manu , absolutely taking this piss out of arsenal fans , by doing that they tell you directly they have no ambition at all , and wenger deserves the abuse as does the board , these akb’s can defend wenger all they like , but you just don’t sell persie to a team that finish twenty points in front of you without being on the take or being a complete cunt so take your pick

  17. Kiwigoonerz   •  

    Jacky- boy looking good and TR7 sped the game up well – can he stay fit… Wenger needs to give up on the Gervinho experiment now – Eboue in disguise

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