20 November 2015

Campbell's the one to cook West Brom's soup...

What a week. Normally, we fret and strut about, worrying whether this or that Gunner will come up lame during the international break during some pointless friendly. How gladly would I accept Alexis's injury if it would have forestalled what transpired last Friday. Rarely has the diversion of Premier League soccer come at a more-necessary time. Sport is meant to be a proxy to war; here's hoping that it offers a welcomed salve as well.

Of course, before we can proceed very much further, we have to account for a few Gunners whose presence on the pitch on Friday exposed them to the trauma. While they may not have been under attack directly, the idea of France as a beacon of equality and fraternity suffered a serious hit, and players like Giroud and Koscielny, who escaped without any physical injuries, may still suffer from a bit of shell-shock in the wake of those attacks. Koscielny in particular seems to have taken things quite hard, playing quite well against Germany only to stagger through Tuesday's match against England.

We could all do with something to ease our minds, to re-establish some degree of normalcy, and a trip to the Hawthorns might be just the tonic we all need for jangled nerves. The Baggies, who have offered some stubborn resistance in recent seasons, have been a bit more generous of late even under the gentle tutelage of Tony Pulis, conceding 12 goals in their last six matches at home. Matters won't be helped by the absence of Ben Foster, who's turned in a fair few blinders against us in the past.

However, our own cause is hindered in no small part by injuries new and old. Alexis was run into the ground by Chilean manager Sampaoli and will miss out. Koscielny looks likely to be rested. While we'll welcome Bellerín back on the right, we still have a few selection head-aches to address. We may have little choice but to ask Gibbs to play as the attacking midfielder on the left, all but forcing West Brom to attack down the opposite flank...where they'll run up against the quicksilver duo of Campbell and Bellerín, no slouches when it comes to defending or getting forward.

In fact, I'm looking to Campbell to elevate us, perhaps even inspire us. He's got a lot a to prove, after all, and if there was ever a chance to seize, this is it. Walcott, Ramsey, and Ox are all sidelined, as is Alexis. We could use an unlikely hero, and Campbell, still callow at 23 years old, is gaining in experience if not confidence. At his best, he's electrifying. We've only see this in flits and flashes, it's true, but there's enough in that to suggest that he's ready to rise to the next level.

LAST 3
Arsenal 4-1 West Brom (24.05.2015)
West Brom 0-1 Arsenal (29.11.2014)
Arsenal 1-0 West Brom (04.05.2014)

FACTFILE
Arsenal have scored at least three goals in their last three away matches.
West Brom have not defeated Arsenal in their last ten outings.
The two clubs first clashed on 2 August 1901, a 2-1 win to Woolwich Arsenal

INJURIES
Wilshere, Rosický, Welbeck, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Walcott have all been ruled out; Alexis and Koscielny face late fitness tests.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Čech; Monreal, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Bellerín; Coquelin, Cazorla; Gibbs, Özil, Campbell; Giroud

Look to Campbell to carve the Baggies open despite Pulis's best-laid plans.

PREDICTION
West Brom 0-2 Arsenal