Weblog: The football punter

Arsenal could have a tricky test at Hawthorns

Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event, 4.30pm

It might look like a tall order for West Brom to end their four-month winless streak against Arsenal, but it may well be worth chancing that the Baggies can do just that.

Arsene Wenger marks his record 811th Premier League match in charge and the bookies fully expect him to celebrate the occasion with three points.

But, even allowing for West Brom’s barren run, this looks a decidedly tricky assignment for the Gunners, who have lost on their last two trips to The Hawthorns.

Winners by 3-2 at Crystal Palace on Thursday night, Wenger's men face a quick turnaround and take on a Throstles outfit who have had an extra 48 hours off.

It’s worth asking whether West Brom have the firepower to beat anyone at the moment, let alone Arsenal. But the 3-1 about the Baggies draw no bet at least takes the stalemate out of the equation and gives us a nice price if Alan Pardew’s men can complete a Hawthorns hat-trick over Wenger.

There's no doubt that West Brom are improving under Pardew.

Their midfield is more creative and defence more sturdy – they’ve kept clean sheets in three of Pardew’s six matches in charge.

Three of those six have ended in 0-0 draws, one of which was at Liverpool, and any side who can produce a performance solid enough to keep out the free-scoring Reds, deserves respect.

In their last two matches, they bossed the second half at Stoke and bossed the full 90 against Everton.

They’ve lost the same number of games as Watford – who are tenth – but their lack of a cutting edge is the overwhelming reason why they are in the relegation zone. Their top scorer is Salomon Rondon with three – and he’s injured.

What we do know is that Arsenal will rack up a possession percentage of 60 and upwards and doubtless carve out more openings.

But while Arsenal are bullies at The Emirates, where they’ve won eight of ten and scored 25 goals, they are far less dynamic on the road with just three wins in ten and only 12 goals scored.

Pardew flits between a midfield four and five and will presumably err towards five this afternoon with a solid three in the middle to stop Arsenal going straight through them.

Arsenal are unbeaten in seven but were made to work hard at Selhurst Park for the win on Thursday and it remains to be seen if Jack Wilshere, for example, can start twice in three days, especially with a visit from Chelsea to come on Wednesday.

West Brom play 24 hours earlier at West Ham, a match which Pardew will doubtless see as more winnable than this one. But I’m not sure he can afford to be choosy and rest players for that assignment in the capital, not when there are hints of a recovery in their form.

WBA draw no bet

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Match in Focus

19:45 Fr 23Mar ITV

Holland v England

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • England have kept four clean sheets in a row and five in their last six
Expert verdict
This is Ronald Koeman’s first game in charge of the Oranje and, as well as saying farewell to the likes of Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder and ignoring the claims of Daley Blind and Robin van Persie, he’s brought in five new faces. England have been defensively very good in recent internationals, with clean sheets against world champions Germany and Brazil, and are un likely to be beaten.