Whilst fans and media alike are raving about Mesut Ozil and his deep box of trickery, Arsene Wenger believes that Mathieu Flamini has been, and will continue to play a key part in our season:
Flamini has given us a balance between attacking and defending. He is somebody who accepts doing the dark role in the team and you need that for balance.
We looked a little bit frail defensively sometimes on the big occasions. Flamini gives us something more on that front. He is 29 now and you know better at 29 who you are as a player. When he arrived here he wanted to be a bit more offensive, today he knows his qualities and he accepts that.
So, another tough fixture today in fact, they are all tough in the league this season and West Brom will be flying high in confidence after their victory at Old Trafford.
They have a few injuries. Victor Anichebe, Nicolas Anelka and Shane Long could all be absent, meaning Saido Berahino could make his first league start. Scott Sinclair is definitely out with a hamstring problem. Berahino hit the headlines after their OT victory. (Can you believe he only earns £850 a week?)
Bacary Sagna joins Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla on the injured list but it’s hopeful that a few of those will return after the international break which is welcome news as November will be a very tough month.
Less than two weeks ago we were at The Hawthorns for the Capital One Cup but with a very different side than the one who will be on show today. The same can be said about the home side too, their side will be a lot stronger than the one Steve Clarke fielded that night.
We head off up to the West Midlands on a very good run of eight away victories in the league and our record up there isn’t bad either. We have been victorious on three of their last four occasions.
I’ll drop the match facts in now:
- Arsenal have not lost any of their last six visits to The Hawthorns in all competitions (W4, D2).
- The two sides drew in the Capital One Cup less than a fortnight ago, with Arsenal winning the penalty shoot-out.
- West Brom have lost two of their first three home matches in this season’s Premier League – their only win came against bottom club Sunderland.
- The Baggies have scored fewer than half as many goals as Arsenal (6:13) in the Premier League this season.
- Saido Berahino, who scored his first Premier League goal in last week’s famous win at Manchester United, has already scored against Arsenal this season in the Capital One Cup.
- Morgan Amalfitano has scored in his last two Premier League appearances for West Brom.
- Arsenal have won five league games in a row, something they didn’t achieve last season. They are the only team to score in all six of their Premier League games this season.
- The Gunners have won their last eight away league games in a row, equalling their best run in the Premier League. The all-time record for consecutive away wins in the Premier League is 11 by Chelsea in 2008.
- Aaron Ramsey has scored eight goals in his last eight appearances for Arsenal.
So history points in our favour.
However, history means very little, what matters today in how we are prepared and how we perform over 90+ minutes.
On Tuesday, we were all treated to an absolute master class in ‘perfect football’ for 45 minutes and that was followed by another 45 minute master class in football but of a very different kind. The second half was calm, professional, organised, very controlled and a perfect way to see off a top quality Italian side.
Whether the team can reach such dizzy heights again today remains to be seen but playing away from home, I suspect we are more likely to see something similar to what we witnessed during the second half and then hit them hard on the break.
To be honest, as long as we win, I don’t really care how we play. I’d rather it’s scrappy and we go into the break with all three points on the board than to play with style and flair, only to lose.
Let’s get maximum points, go back to the top of the league and then sit back during the break and pray for no injuries….