Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has given his assessment of West Brom under Sam Allardyce, ahead of their crunch clash on Saturday.
With West Brom in 19th position in the Premier League table, five points from safety, they face a tough match on January 2 against a resurgent Arsenal, who have won both matches post-Christmas.
The Baggies, meanwhile, are yet to taste victory under new boss Allardyce, with the 5-0 humiliation handed to them by Leeds United on Tuesday a new low point in their season.
Speaking in his pre-West Brom press conference, Arteta warned his side Allardyce will make things tough.
Per Football.London, he told reporters, “Well, two very different matches [West Brom’s games against Liverpool and Leeds]. The first one against Liverpool, when they had a really clear plan and they executed it really good.
“I think even going 1-0 they didn’t really change anything at all. They knew they were gonna have their moments. They grew and they got into the game, and were much more efficient in the second half and put Liverpool in trouble.
“Sam is very efficient at what he does. He has a very clear philosophy of playing, he always picked up results, he always made it really difficult for you and it’s not gonna be different. His teams are always organised and they know exactly what to do so, it will be a tough test again.”
Change in shape for battered Baggies?
Picking up a point, or three, against Arsenal will be top of Allardyce’s agenda as he seeks to solve the defensive issues that culminated in Tuesday’s embarrassing defeat to Leeds.
Famed for his team’s organisational structure, something explicitly mentioned by Arteta, the five-goal debacle at home to Leeds will have infuriated Allardyce and left him considering his defensive options.
West Brom have now conceded nine goals in Allardyce’s first three games, an alarming statistic that gives them very little chance of making a push for Premier League survival.
The Baggies have been lining up in a variant of a 4-5-1 formation since Big Sam’s appointment, but he may look to make that a 5-4-1 to arrest the fortunes of his team and stop them leaking goals.
That could mean a recall to the starting line-up for Branislav Ivanovic, who has not begun a game for Albion since Slaven Bilic’s penultimate match as Baggies boss against Newcastle United on December 12.
Ivanovic has actually appeared as a substitute in the past three games, coming off the bench at half-time against Leeds as Allardyce looked to shore up his defence and stop the rush of goals.
The only other obvious option in the centre of defence would be 24-year-old Cedric Kipre, but he is yet to make his Premier League debut and would appear to be a riskier option than the experienced Ivanovic.
In other West Brom news, our view on Arsenal’s key man ahead of Baggies clash.