Arsenal could have a place in the Champions League for a 17th straight season wrapped up for them by the time this game kicks off on Sunday. If Everton lose to Manchester City in Saturday’s late kick-off, the Emirates Stadium will be in a celebratory mood.
A relaxed atmosphere may help the Baggies, who will be conscious that despite a vital win over West Ham - which took them four points clear of the relegation zone - they aren’t out of danger yet. A first win at The Hawthorns eased the pressure on manager Pepe Mel, whose underwhelming record of 15 points from 15 league games is still encouraging speculation about his future. More than half of those have been gained in the last five matches, suggesting that Mel is getting through to his squad.
However, this is not the ideal fixture for the Baggies to continue their resurgence. Arsenal are back on song, having scored three goals in each of their last three games. It seems that their FA Cup semi-final triumph against Wigan was the perfect tonic after a four-match winless streak. Lukas Podolski has enjoyed his team’s purple patch, doubling his league tally to eight as he and the Gunners have hit form at just the right time.
KICK-OFF: Saturday, 3pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
West Brom 1 (Yacob) Arsenal 1 (Wilshere), Premier League, October 2013
West Brom 1 (Berahino) Arsenal 1 (Eisfeld), 3-4 on penalties, League Cup, September 2013
West Brom 1 (Morrison) Arsenal 2 (Rosicky 2), Premier League, April 2013
If Arsenal seal Champions League qualification on Sunday, it will be the second time in three seasons they’ve done so against West Brom.
Arsenal haven’t lost at home in the league since their opening day 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa.
West Brom have beat Arsenal on their own patch once in the last 30 years, a 3-2 win at The Emirates in 2012.
The Baggies are draw specialists, picking up 43 per cent of their points via their league-high 15 draws.
Arsenal to win: 1.25
West Brom to win: 12.0
Arsenal went to The Hawthorns on the last day of the 2011/12 season knowing that only a win would be enough to guarantee a Champions League place. With fourth-placed Spurs winning at home to Fulham, the Gunners took the lead but fell behind to quick-fire strikes from Shane Long and Graham Dorrans. It took a hapless display from keeper Martin Fulop to let Arsenal back into the game. The debut stopper conceded a soft long-range effort by Andre Santos before flapping at a corner to gift Laurent Koscielny the winner. Fulop’s first performance for the Baggies also turned out to be his last.
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