Scouting Report: West Brom vs Arsenal
Relegation Sunday looms once again but for Arsenal and West Brom, the weekend holds a different importance. For Arsenal, it’s a chance to bring a difficult season to an end by securing third place. For West Brom, it’s Roy Hodgson’s sending off before he takes over as England manager.
The Baggies have been in a decent run of form lately, only losing one of their last six matches. Last week they played for a tough draw against Bolton, putting both their strengths and weaknesses on show.
Hodgson’s men play a simple, flat 4-4-2 which is their first major flaw as it makes them predictable. They attack very methodically and like to slow down the pace of the game. Over the course of this season we’ve been horribly exposed by counter attacking teams like Wigan and Norwich. But West Brom’s slower attacks will allow the Arsenal defence to set up properly and shut down any threats with a lot more ease.
As mentioned, West Brom are terribly predictable both in attack and in defence. Their defence and midfield stay very compact, forcing the strikers to drop into the hole to bridge the large gap between midfield and attack.
This now creates a 4-3-3 situation if the target man, namely Marc-Antoine Fortune, manages to keep possession. The wingers arrive late and with the more advanced of the strikers up front, it gives Fortune plenty of choices to take the attack further. Fortune is the pivot of this West Brom attack and gets upwards of 50 touches per match.
Sometimes they are pushed out to the wings in an attempt to find some open space and all this does is isolate the strikers further. It could possibly create an another threatening situation on the edge of the box however. Chris Brunt usually ghosts in behind the attack but when the ball is out wide he will move up to cover for the striker on the wing. He’s out for this match but the winger coming into the box can still cause problems and you couldn’t write a better script with former Arsenal man, Jerome Thomas likely to fill in for his injured captain.
Defensively, there’s a lot that can give Arsenal fans hope. The West Brom defence was constantly bombarded by crosses from Bolton and really struggled to defend against them. They couldn’t stop the flick ons by Kevin Davies, allowing the other striker to get into great scoring positions. Having a player like Chamakh on the pitch would give us a more potent attack. Given that he has played well in the handful of playing time he’s got in the last few weeks, it’s not an outrageous suggestion. With Van Persie playing off the big man, it will cause havoc for the West Brom defence.
That suggestion being pointlessly offered, it’s not the only way to trouble them. The West Brom defence shows an amazing lack of grace during spells of the match. They don’t track their men, are constantly caught out of position and leave enough space to be exploited by a quick attack.
Fortunately, the two biggest threats in the West Brom squad, Peter Odemwingie and Chris Brunt, are out for this match.
Instead, we’ll have to turn our focus on their target man, Marc-Antoine Fortune, who has the pace, strength, skill and heading ability to be a dangerous player. He plays with his back to goal a lot. This pulls a center back out of position and stretches the opposition defence as the overlapping runners get into the space left by the out of position defender. Alex Song will be vital and will either have to cover well or mark Fortune himself, leaving our center backs to focus on the players running in late.
The Weak Link
Right back, Billy Jones is in his first Premier League season and has shown his inexperience at this level time and time again. Attacks down the left will definitely bring a lot of chances for Arsenal.
Arsenal have been unconvincing in possession since Arteta’s injury. In addition to that the team has really struggled away this season but third place should really be enough motivation to go out and win this match. Although that was said prior to last weekend’s clash with Norwich and it clearly wasn’t enough of an incentive to the players. Maybe the fact that West Brom are missing key players will make it easier.