Arsenal should close the gap separating them from fourth-placed Liverpool when they travel to the Hawthorns to do battle with West Bromwich Albion this weekend (12.30pm Saturday on Sky Sports 1).
Arsene Wenger’s side have slipped outside the Champions League spots in the last few weeks, although they still have two games in hand on Liverpool in the place directly above them. A margin of five points means the top four is therefore still within the Gunners’ hands, and whether or not they qualify for next season’s edition of Europe’s principal continental club competition could play a big part in determining whether Wenger extends his stay at the Emirates Stadium or not.
Many supporters have been protesting against the under-fire Frenchman in the last couple of months, and another loss on Saturday would only serve to increase the pressure on the 67-year-old, who has now been manager of Arsenal for two decades. A strong performance and result at The Hawthorns is essential if Wenger is to escape another round of criticism from the north London club’s fan base.
West Brom reached 40 points with a 2-1 victory over Bournemouth last month, a result which essentially guarantees them a place in the Premier League next term. Tony Pulis’ side have been comfortably beaten in their two games since then, though, first going down 2-0 to Crystal Palace after a flat performance in front of their own supporters, before being brushed aside 3-0 by Everton at Goodison Park last weekend. Those reverses are somewhat understandable given that West Brom have little left to play for this season and have presumably lost much of their motivation as a consequence, but Pulis will be desperate to see his players respond in a positive manner when Arsenal come to town this weekend.
The visitors will be without Santi Cazorla (leg) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring), but Wenger has no other injury concerns ahead of his team’s trip to the West Midlands. Mesut Ozil has now recovered from illness and should start for the first time since the 5-1 defeat by Bayern Munich in the first leg of Arsenal’s Champions League round of 16 tie. Alexis Sanchez will probably get the nod ahead of Olivier Giroud up top.
West Brom, meanwhile, will have to cope without Matt Phillips (hamstring), although there is a small chance that the winger will recover from his injury in time to feature. Salomon Rondon should return to the starting XI after being left on the substitutes’ bench last time out, while Chris Brunt and James Morrison are also likely to come back in and feature from the first whistle. On the other side of the equation, James McClean, Hal Robson-Kanu and Claudio Yacob will probably drop out of the team.
Despite their struggles at times in the last few weeks, it is difficult for this betting tips’ preview to look past an Arsenal victory on Saturday afternoon. West Brom seem to have switched off now that Premier League survival is guaranteed. They have not even scored a goal since reaching the 40-point mark. The Gunners have greater need for the victory, which should be enough to get them over the line given that they also possess far superior technical quality.
The home side will look to sit deep and frustrate Wenger’s top-four challengers, but Arsenal possess enough ability to break down a defensive unit which has been breached five times in their last two outings. Arsenal should win to nil at The Hawthorns, but we won’t take a chance on that especially given that the best odds of 3/4 (with Bet365, Betfred or Paddy Power) about them winning the match outright are appealing anyway. A additional betting tip is Sanchez, who has scored 21 goals in all competitions this term. He is the obvious choice to find the back of the net at some point in the game at 11/10 with Bet365.