You get what you get with Sam Allardyce and his sides often appear motivated by the desperation for points rather than their ability to showcase the virtues and beauty of the modern game. Allardyce fashions teams that frustrate and irritate, they are usually well briefed, well organised, and are not adverse to adopting a physical presence. Teams such as Bolton punched well above their weight during their time in the top flight.
However, Sam likes players with talent but also ones that are prepared to dig deep and work hard. Kevin Nolan had all the attributes that big Sam wanted in his players, grit, fight, talent, and the will to win, and many of his successes saw Nolan at the heart of his victories.
Sam Allardyce makes no secret that he will park the bus when he has to and that the result often justifies the approach and to that end, he has been successful but he has often employed a style that has cost him the big jobs that he feels entitled to.
His Everton side was nothing more than a big-budget Bolton and the football they played often left the fans cold and that cost him his job. What Allardyce does well is moulding a team from nothing, taking the unappreciated and unwanted, and instilling a sense of purpose and belief into their work.
He’s performed magic in the past and WBA need one last Allardyce miracle but has Sam exhausted all available supplies? West Brom’s 5-0 mauling at the hands of Leeds wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it will certainly sting him before the clash with Arsenal and that could be bad news for the Gunners.
You can expect a bumpy and rather unpleasant ride, a Bolton on steroids if you like, as Sam tries to upend Arsenal’s recent run of two back to back wins. If Arsenal are under the illusion that the Baggies will be unprepared or unwilling to scrap, they are wrong.
I doubt WBA have enough in the tank at present to prevent another Arsenal win and perhaps, this game came three or four games too early in Sam’s tenure but make no mistake, they will cause the odd upset when he manages to finally make his mark.
They’ve shipped 35 goals more than any other side, which means they have an aggregate of minus 24 which would indicate where all the problems exist. They’ve only won 1, drawn 5, and lost 10 and if Sheffield United weren’t so poor, then they would surely have the bottom of the table to themselves and that solitary win separates the two sides.
Sam Allardyce will also take heart from the smallest of margins between 16th and bottom and that a few hard-fought wins can turn the situation on its head, something he will be keen to impress on his players. Arsenal need to come out of the traps fast, they need crisp decisive passes and fluent movement going up the field, they can’t afford another static first 45 minutes.
I don’t see the need for any changes to the side other than who occupies the main strike role and surprisingly, I’d go for the man in form, Alexandre Lacazette. He has three from three and needs to keep scoring if Arsenal are to improve on their current position, but I suspect that he will be benched.
Elsewhere, I’d give Maitland-Niles an outing, it’s overdue and if Bellerin is to leave, then the lad will need to see some faith and belief from his Spanish boss, sooner rather than later. Arteta’s side can expect some knocks and bruises as WBA try to impose themselves and no doubt there will be plenty of balls over the top to expose any flaws or nerves in the Gunners defence.
It might not be pretty at times, but Allardyce isn’t bothered by aesthetics, he’s in a relegation battle and a win is a win no matter how it’s won. Arsenal have no room for lightweights, indifferent performances, or slackers, so there’s no need to trouble Ceballos, Pepe, or Willian for this one, although I understand the Brazilian isn’t available.
Preferred Side: Leno; Maitland-Niles, Holding, Mari, Tierney; Elneny, Xhaka, Smith Rowe; Saka, Lacazette, Martinelli.
Predicted Score: Arsenal win 2-0