“We’re always told that referees ‘make allowances’ in these conditions,” writes Gary Naylor. “The question is, will VAR?” Well firstly, VAR doesn’t make allowances for anything. Secondly, as BT Sport start their broadcast it isn’t snowing at all, and the pitch is clear and looking perfectly football-ready.
According to the Met Office, the chance of snow in or around the Hawthorns is 90% now, 70% at 8pm and 80% at 9pm. It then warms up, hitting 2C in the early hours of the morning and the balmy heights of 3C tomorrow afternoon.
Snow is falling all around him. Children playing (well, Saka and Smith-Rowe), having fun. It’s the season of love and understanding – Alexandre Lacazette everyone:
Will these clubs be doing business in January?
Spare a thought for the groundstaff at the Hawthorns. The highest football ground in England, don’t you know.
Get the orange ball out, lads.
Both teams make two changes: West Brom bring in Ivanovic and Pereira, with Peltier moving to the bench and Grant having the night off. Meanwhile Ceballos and Lacazette come into the Arsenal side, and Elneny and Martinelli dropping to the bench.
Anyway … heavy snow is coming down at The Hawthorns. Both managers have been out on the pitch with the officials to have a look at conditions. The groundstaff have been working hard to clear snow from the lines but it is still settling across the playing surface. Hopefully all should be fine …
The team sheets have been handed in, and David Luiz and Willian both return for Arsenal – but only to the bench:
West Brom: Johnstone, Furlong, Ajayi, O’Shea, Ivanovic, Sawyers, Matheus Pereira, Phillips, Gallagher, Diangana, Robinson. Subs: Gibbs, Bartley, Grosicki, Austin, Harper, Krovinovic, Peltier, Button, Diaby.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Pablo Mari, Tierney, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka, Smith-Rowe, Aubameyang, Lacazette. Subs: Willian, Runarsson, Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Luiz, Elneny, Willock, Nketiah, Martinelli.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
A big game here between two teams who need points, both of whom have injury worries for this match: West Brom might have to live without Kieran Gibbs, while if late fitness tests don’t go their way Arsenal might feel obliged to play one or both of Willian and David Luiz.
West Brom have only won once in the league this season, and have two points from their last six games (only avoiding defeat at Manchester City and Liverpool, perversely). “Let’s hope they see Arsenal as big as they see Manchester City and Liverpool because they seem to do the right things against the teams they seem to have a bit more fear of,” says Sam Allardyce. ““I hope they fear Arsenal and it kicks them into performing like they did against Liverpool and certainly at The Hawthorns. We’ve got to start picking up points wherever we can.”
Arsenal have won their last two games to inject a little seasonal cheer into their season, having approached Christmas with a string of dismal performances and depressing results. Win this, though, and they’ll be sitting pretty in 11th, or 12th if Wolves beat Brighton, and with lots of teams not too far ahead of them. Bukayo Saka is likely to be key, though he came off with nine minutes remaining at Brighton in Arsenal’s last game – other than the match at Leeds in November, when he was injured in the first half, he has missed just 37 minutes of league football since September – and is a minor injury doubt.
Anyway, enough from me. Welcome!