Arsenal v West. Brom Preview: Wenger determined to take third place.
The Gunners need a point to secure third place in the Premier League ahead of the FA Cup final, and the veteran coach is glad the game has something riding on it
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger welcomed final-day pressure on his team as they prepare for a clash at home to West Brom on Sunday.
Wenger’s men are guaranteed a top-four finish in the Premier League, but need a point to secure third spot ahead of Manchester United.
That would mean avoiding a Champions League play-off, with a spot straight into the group stages.
With the FA Cup final against Aston Villa on May 30 still to follow, Wenger said being forced to be fully focused on the last day of the league season was a bonus for his team.
“Every season, and now again, we have to focus until the last minute,” the Frenchman said.
“Sometimes you would like to play a game with no pressure but finally when you have one you get bored – so at least we have to keep the concentration, and it’s better.
“It’s better [with the FA Cup still to play]. Always when you switch off, it is difficult to switch on again.
“You always think we will switch on but it is not like that. When you switch off it is always difficult to switch on again. It is not like when you switch on a light.”
Wenger will be without forward Danny Welbeck, who is sidelined with a knee injury that could rule him out of the FA Cup final.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin) and Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring) are back in full training, but will not be risked against Tony Pulis’ side as they are not match fit.
Arsenal have failed to win in three league matches, while West Brom head to the Emirates Stadium with little to play for but in fine form.
Pulis’ men are unbeaten in five and were resounding 3-0 winners at home to champions Chelsea on Monday.
West Brom cannot finish any lower than 13th, the position they sit in now, while they would need plenty to go right to rise to as high as 10th.
They have struggled against Arsenal, however, winless in the past seven league matches between the teams and having suffered six losses.
Making matters worse for Pulis, he has lost all six of his Premier League games as manager against Wenger at the Emirates.
West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster (knee) is out until October in the club’s only major absentee.
- Arsenal have won six and lost none of their last seven Barclays Premier League matches against West Bromwich Albion.
- The Baggies have never kept a clean sheet against Arsenal in the Premier League (35 goals conceded in 17 matches).
- West Brom have scored only two goals in their last five Premier League games against Arsenal.
- Arsenal are unbeaten on the final day in each of the last nine seasons, the longest current run.
- Only West Ham have scored as many headed goals as West Brom this season (15).
- Saido Berahino has scored 14 Premier League goals. The only Englishmen with more in the Premier League this season are Kane (20) and Austin (17).
- Since 2006 Arsenal have finished the Premier League in the following positions: 4th, 4th, 3rd, 4th, 3rd, 4th, 3rd, 4th and 4th.
- Next season will be West Brom’s sixth successive top-flight season, their best run since they went down in 1986 after 10 campaigns in a row in the top division.