Mark O’Haire’s Premier League Tips – Arsenal v West Brom
West Brom beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Hawthorns earlier this season, despite only having one shot-on-target.
That’s proven a familiar theme for Tony Pulis’ side this season with the Baggies boss overseeing one of the Premier League’s most efficient outfits.
It won’t win prizes for aesthetics but WBA’s prioritisation on organisation and defensive structure has been a successful base for the Black Country boys. The Baggies have averaged just 0.98 goals-per-game during the 51 games under Pulis’ watch but their 21 (41%) clean sheets return has kept the club competitive.
Heading to the capital on Thursday night, West Brom sit 10 points clear of the relegation zone with the safety of 40-points already reached. However, I don’t expect the visitors to be on the beach, knowing Pulis’ stickler for hard work, attitude and aggression.
Sure, since beating Manchester United – and all but securing their top-flight future this term – they’ve scored just one and picked up a solitary point from a possible 12 but Saido Berahino’s two missed penalties cost West Brom points on Saturday and I’m not expecting the Baggies to be in charitable mood here.
The guests have suffered just one loss by a margin of two goals or more in their last 21 Premier League encounters, including a recent 2-1 reverse at Manchester City when Albion actually took a surprise early lead. Across the past 21 fixtures, West Brom have also shipped fewer goals than opponents Arsenal.
Over the course of this season’s campaign, the Baggies have lost by two or more goals on just four occasions and only one of their past six encounters with the Londoners have seen WBA suffer a defeat by more than a one-goal margin.
As already alluded, goals are Albion’s main problem. The away side have scored just 12 goals on their travels – only Newcastle (10) and Aston Villa (11) have notched fewer – and West Brom’s average of just 2.79 shots-on-target per-match is comfortably a divisional low. It’s a stat that drops to just 2.31 shots-on-target per-match when away from the Hawthorns.
The visitors have returned a solitary success in 11 away league games now (W1-D5-L5) but it’s worth pointing out that Pulis’ charges have held Leicester, Liverpool, Chelsea and West Ham on the road and you’d suspect the Welsh capped wonder will be targeting a direct and physical approach following Arsenal’s struggles against Andy Carroll in a recent Premier League battle.
Since Pulis arrived at the club, Albion have only lost five of their 25 away clashes by two goals or more and with all the above information available, it makes sense to try and find a pro-Baggies angle despite the lopsided odds on offer.
With 21/20 available for West Brom +2 on the handicap, we’ll be paid out should the visitors stay within a one-goal margin of their underperforming hosts and that’s an attractive first port of call.
The Gunners have struggled to sell tickets for Thursday night’s match as another season peters out in front of an unsatisfied Emirates crowd. Arsenal have W4-D6-L3 in their past 13 league outings with Arsene Wenger‘s side now only four points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United.
The capital club were more dominant than their draw with Crystal Palace suggested but a lack of killer instinct in the final third appears to be the Londoners real undoing as 12 clubs boast a stronger shots conversion rate.
Arsenal have shipped just 11 goals at the Emirates all season but with a home win ‘to nil’ too ugly to entertain at odds-on quotes…
I’d be a happier camper following the above path by backing the Gunners to win but by just a one-goal margin at 14/5.
Despite the negativity, Wenger’s men have seen off 29 of their past 37 bottom-half visitors and the requiring three points to keep their top-four position safe, Arsenal should in theory deliver a maximum point return here.
West Brom +2 handicap (21/20)
Arsenal to win by exactly one goal (14/5)
*Prices correct at time of publication.