Alexis Sanchez could break Henry's record as Arsenal take on West Bromwich Albion
And so we come to the end of another Premier League season. The campaign has not delivered the outcome many of us were hoping for at the beginning of the season but when put into context we can be pleased – if not entirely happy – with the outcome.
Arsenal still need a point to confirm 3rd place but with a superior goal difference over Manchester United, a big goal swing is needed. Taking a point from the Black Cats on Wednesday wasn’t enough to secure automatic Champions League qualification but on reflection, it wasn’t a bad point.
Arsenal had plenty of chances to get into the game, but the finishing was not of a high enough standard and Sunderland benefited from an inspired defensive performance and excellent goalkeeping.
The Sunderland match saw a few changes in the team and with the FA Cup final just a week away it might be worth resting a few more.
Alexis is a player I would consider resting but with just one opportunity left to claim a personal accolade, I would be inclined to give him 60 minutes. I’m not a huge fan of personal accolades, but we cannot underestimate the psychological impact of matching or beating the first season record of such a legendary figure.
I would also be inclined to give Coquelin another rest with maybe a substitute appearance to warm his playing legs and I would dearly like to see both Rosicky and Walcott start. Once again, Walcott came on to look our most threatening player and I know I have been saying it for weeks, but this game really is crying out for his inclusion.
I believe Walcott’s incredible pace, movement and finishing is paramount to undoing West Brom. The Baggies have a good record in recent games – including a win over the champions – and they are well drilled at protecting themselves against wide attacks, as you would expect with a Tony Pulis side.
Pulis has West Brom almost playing with four centre-backs at times and crosses into the box are gobbled up like a tin of Celebrations in any given office in the UK. Giroud’s aerial ability will be all but nullified in a match like this where he will be challenged for high balls by at least two players.
Walcott would bring an equilibrium to this match through his natural ability to beguile defenders into abandoning their post to track his runs. His pace in behind the defence can also expose chinks in the Baggies armour, should they plug their ears to his snake charming ways and focus on presenting a physical challenge to Giroud.
With Giroud occupying the two central defenders and the fullbacks tracking Alexis and Walcott there could be ample opportunity for Arsenal to play their best one touch combination football around the box and find runners like Ramsey or Wilshere in the box.
This could be a horribly tight and tense match but with the right tactical approach and player application we could secure our 2015/16 Champions League group stage spot in style.
Arsenal from; Ospina, Szczesny, Bellerin, Gibbs, Monreal, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Koscielny, Chambers, Rosicky, Wilshere, Flamini, Coquelin, Özil, Ramsey, Alexis, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud.
Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Gibbs, Wilshere, Özil, Ramsey, Alexis, Walcott, Giroud.
I expect to see substitute appearances from Monreal, Akpom and Cazorla.
“That is what I like to do, to get the ball and drive the team forward. I am not a No 10 really, playing with my back to goal. I have to start from a defensive position, looking to drive the team forward, playing little one-twos around players, things like that. That’s where I prefer to play.” – Aaron Ramsey
Last 3 meetings
West Brom 0-1 Arsenal (29.11.2014)
Arsenal 1-0 West Brom (04.05.2014)
West Brom 1-1 Arsenal (10.06.2013)
Arsenal Last 5
West Brom Last 5
A Tony Pulis side is last on your wish list of teams to play on the final day when you need a point to secure your spot, especially if goals are proving a problem as they have for Arsenal in recent weeks.
Since West Brom hired Pulis they have kept 10 clean sheets in 17 league games, however, when they concede they don’t leak them in, it’s a positive deluge.
As Arsenal found to their chagrin last season, a propensity for clean sheets doesn’t stop you from having some really off days. At the end of March and the beginning of April, The Baggies lost three games on the trot conceding a whopping 10 goals.
Whopping may seem like a brutal adjective coming from an Arsenal supporter who saw his team ship 17 goals in three fixtures last season, but it is worth remembering that these fixtures were consecutive and included QPR and Leicester – although credit to Leicester who were at the beginning of their incredible turnaround to survive the threat of relegation.
West Brom are generally hard to beat under Pulis and rather stingy in most respects but if you can get at them they can really lay themselves out for the taking.
It would be a cruel twist of fate for a Tony Pulis led side to deny Arsenal 3rd place on the final day of the season but if West Brom seem content to park the bus then maybe we should park ours next to it. There’s no need to overexert ourselves ahead of the final and all we need is a point.
West Brom have not beaten Arsenal in their last 8 league attempts.
Arsenal have scored in every Premier League meeting with West Brom.
West Brom have 4 clean sheets in their last 5 games.
Arsenal haven’t lost on the last day of the season for 10 years.
Alexis needs just one more league goal to equal Henry’s Premier League record of 17 goals in his debut season
This could easily be a 0-0 draw, a 1-0 win or a 4-0 win for Arsenal. I’m going to split the difference and predict 2 goals with Alexis equalling Henry’s record and Walcott opening proceedings.