Things already feel bad enough being an Arsenal fan as it is, we certainly don’t need Tony Pulis to turn up only to rain on an already soggy parade.
A trophyless season is coming to a close and Arsenal, after aiming to win the Premier League title, are slipping further and further from the top of the table. So far, in fact, that the Gunners find themselves in the familiar position of scrapping for a place in the Champions League.
Arsène Wenger used Wednesday morning’s press conference to admit the team hasn’t performed well enough and take blame for recent performances before looking forward.
“Every time it doesn’t work, you question yourself,” said the boss.
“[Regrets are] part of your job. Of course, in the end, it’s always down to me, so I have to stand up to that.
“If you look at the games against Crystal Palace and West Ham, we were not efficient enough in the quality of the game we produced. That always gives you regrets.”
Wenger isn’t happy to ‘only’* be fighting for a Champions League place again but the focus is very much on improving right now.
After that, the manager insisted he will still be in north London next season.
*inverted commas included because there are 15 or so other clubs who would be happy to be in our position right now.
Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are both edging closer to first team action but won’t be involved on Thursday evening. Wilshere has played three times – including two sets of 90 minutes – for Arsenal u21s in the last fortnight but is still not quite ready.
Everyone who made the squad on Sunday is available.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Elneny, Ramsey; Alexis, Özil, Iwobi; Giroud.
Facing the media, Wenger was quick to praise West Brom for their organisation and defensive record, something of a hallmark for Tony Pulis sides.
Pulis himself has never managed to leave the Emirates as anything but a loser and will be eager to set that record straight by upsetting an already disgruntled home crowd.
West Brom are essentially safe, sitting 10 points clear of the relegation zone on 40 points after 33 games. Maybe that’s why their form has stuttered and they’ve won just once in their last six matches, defeating 10-man Manchester United by a single goal.
Saido Berahino missed two penalties at the weekend and may be dropped. Chris Brunt and James Morrison are both injured.
Possible XI: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Chester; Sessegnon, Gardner, Yacob, Fletcher, McClean; Rondón.
Arsenal are very much playing for pride now. Oh, and a place in the Champions League. Right now, for most fans, a restoration of pride is something we’d settle for.