Arsenal head into this game knowing automatic Champions League qualification is all but secured following their 0-0 draw with Sunderland in midweek – though perhaps Arsene Wenger will be slightly concerned at his side’s inability to finish the plethora of chances they created in that game especially ahead of their FA Cup final with Aston Villa next weekend on May 30th.
We say ‘all but’ because it’s not entirely locked in just yet, but it would take an almighty turnaround on the final day of the season including an Arsenal loss, a Manchester United away win at Hull City and a seven goal swing in the Red Devils’ favour for Louis van Gaal’s side to leapfrog them Gunners into third place.
It means Arsenal’s focus will quite rightly by on the challenge ahead at Wembley and less on Tony Pulis’ hard-to-beat Baggies that was so keenly impressive in their 3-0 win against Chelsea on Monday night.
A win for Arsenal in that fixture, against Tim Sherwood’s resurgent Villans, would mean the Gunners have secured a 12th FA Cup to make them the most successful English side in that competition – but to achieve such a historical feat Arsenal will know it’d feel a lot more possible if they went into the game off the back of a good performance.
Perhaps this’ll be a Wembley run-out for Wenger’s prospective Final team and if so it would mean the likes of Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere will have to seriously impress to get a shout of a start – though the Arsenal boss might end up simply rest his proposed XI to prevent any kind of injury.
For Tony Pulis, he certainly won’t allow his side to roll over against Arsenal and Arsene Wenger considering his magnanimous history with the north London club.
He has rescued a doomed looking West Brom through his managerial cornerstone of tough, muscular, defensive solidity and this is not the team you want to face – as Arsenal are – when your struggling to put away chances upfront, their 10 clean sheets out of 17 since Pulis’ arrival is a testament to that.
For Arsenal, Danny Welbeck has been ruled out of this fixture and, disappointingly, perhaps for the FA Cup final as well – as shame in his first season at the club.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mathieu Debuchy have returned to first-team training but both are not yet ready but could be for Wembley.
Pulis’ only concern will be Ben Foster’s recuperation from a knee injury but this has been a long-term fitness concern and there are no fresh issues for the former Stoke boss to contend with.