The season has wound down rather slowly, which is all a bit concerning ahead of a Cup Final. I have been thinking of that game personally, with the league feeling increasingly irrelevant. Unfortunately it feels as though the players have too.
Regardless, Arsène Wenger was in the same buoyant mood on Friday morning as he has been for a number of weeks as he looks to end the Premier League season on a high.
“We want to send our fans home happy on the last game of the season.”
Yes please, Arsène.
A fourth home game in a row without scoring would not go down too well and would probably put even more pressure on the club ahead of the transfer window.
The team seems a little bit switched off lately. We have had a week between games so tiredness shouldn’t have been too debilitating, more likely is that a competitive edge has been lacking.
“Every season we have had to focus until the last minute,” said Wenger.
“So sometimes you would like to play a game where there is no pressure. But finally when you have one, you get bored.
“What is important is to finish well and score again.”
If you don’t include Tyler Blackett’s own goal we have failed to score in four of our last five Premier League games. This run of struggling in front of goal arguably started in the FA Cup semi-final against Reading and it would be best to end it before we return to the stadium next weekend.
Wenger confirmed that there were no new injuries following the draw with Sunderland, but also said that a few players were looking jaded and their recovery would be measured before a decision was made on the team. Danny Welbeck won’t play on Sunday but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was back in full training on Friday and may well feature. Mathieu Debuchy also trained fully, but Wenger was coy on whether he or Oxlade-Chamberlain would actually be ready to face West Brom.
Little rotation is expected, with the manager saying:
“I might rest one or two but overall I believe that the team will be similar to the team that played on Wednesday night.”
Although we have struggled for form, Wenger clearly believes that some sort of continuity aids us.
Possible XI: Ospina; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Walcott, Özil, Alexis; Giroud.
This weekend’s opponents should know a bit about boring. Now managed (and guided to safety) by Tony Pulis, no game between the two sides has seen more than three goals since we last met on the final day back in May 2012.
The last six meetings between Arsenal and West Brom haven’t even seen a goal every 45 minutes.
Not the ideal opponent when looking to bring an end to a barren run.
Pulis has gone as far as using four central defenders lately as he looks to dominate physically. West Brom will be compact and invite us to cross where they can comfortably deal with the ball – the onus will be on us to be good enough to break them down.
A fantastic job has been once again by Pulis – whatever you think of him, he is a very good manager who drills his defences superbly.
He has, however, never taken a point from Arsenal away from home.
West Brom themselves have won once at the Emirates Stadium, losing on their other five trips. That win, gift-wrapped by Manuel Almunia, was also the only game at our new ground that has seen the Baggies score.
Saido Berahino is their biggest threat this time around with 14 Premier League goals this season, though a fair few have come from the penalty spot.
Possible XI: Myhill; Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Lescott; McManaman, Fletcher, Yacob, Morrison, Brunt; Berahino.
Our recent form has looked less like leaving the handbrake on and more like switching to autopilot.
“When you switch off it’s always difficult to switch on again,” said Wenger on Friday.
There will be enough pressure at Wembley and we learnt last year that we have to be switched on from the very first minute for such an occasion.
We can’t afford to end the season with disappointment. Let’s go out on a high.