Bouncing into 2021 after two successive wins in the league we go into our first game of the year at The Hawthorns. Another step forward is needed here but despite Big Sam’s arrival he has done little to quell West Brom’s slide towards the bottom of the table. One draw against Liverpool was the only real stand out performance in this time.
We know though, that Big Sam will set his team up with a solid structure which will make it hard for us to play through them, but also set them up to exploit our defensive uncertainty.
Again we are without Gabriel (Positive COVID) although it looks likely that Luiz and Willian will come back into the squad. Saka is a doubt after the foot injury he sustained against Brighton but a late decision will be made on his availability. Reiss Nelson appears to have a muscular injury which will rule him out.
I expect Mikel to continue with the team he selected for the Brighton game. That game was an indication that he trusts the players he selected. One potential change maybe that Luiz does come in for his experience and ball playing potentially for Mari. However I don’t expect the back four to change.
The midfield will probably stay the same also. Xhaka and Elneny offer a great deal of energy and protection for the defenders. In front of these I think he may go with Ceballos instead of Smith Rowe for a little more experience. The front three depend on Saka.
If fit he plays on the right, with Aubameyang on the left and Laca through the middle. If not then we probably will see Willian return, hopefully with renewed energy and a will to fight for the team. Martinelli will be an option later in the game and his energy could be a big plus.
Whoever Arteta goes with they will have a tough evening and we need to be ready for it as a unit.
Prediction: West Brom 1 Arsenal 3