Of all the rivalries between a club and a manager there are perhaps few as widely popular as Arsenal and Sam Allardyce. In the days when Arsene Wenger was at the helm in north London this was billed as a battle of philosophies: pragmatism against the pursuit of perfection.
Whether Allardyce would agree with that is up for debate but from his time at Bolton onwards he certainly relished getting one over on the Gunners, something he has done less frequently than might be assumed. In 34 games against Arsenal his record reads 6-8-20. Here is how you can watch his West Brom side in action and all you need to know:
- Date: Saturday, Jan. 2
- Time: 3pm ET
- Location: The Hawthorns -- West Bromwich, United Kingdom
- TV/Live stream: Peacock Premium
- Odds: West Brom +480; Draw +290; Arsenal -167 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
West Brom: Allardyce bemoaned his side's failure to find consistency when they followed a 1-1 draw at Liverpool with a 5-0 home humbling by Leeds and he did not stint in his criticism of West Brom's "terrible" defending. As he fears a tougher relegation scrap than he initially expected, it seems reasonable to assume the 66-year-old will look to build from the most basic of principles upwards.
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As such expect Allardyce to reprise the 10 behind the ball tactics he deployed at Anfield. He even hinted as much in his pre-match press conference, saying of his players: "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 have a bit more fear. I hope they fear Arsenal and it kicks them into performing like they did against Liverpool."
Arsenal: Two wins in a row have eased the pressure on Mikel Arteta but against West Brom's low block familiar issues may raise their heads at the Hawthorns. Throughout this season - and arguably throughout their manager's tenure - open play chance creation has been a huge problem for Arsenal. They sit 13th in the Premier League for open play chances created and open play assists.
Emile Smith Rowe has been handed the number 10 berth whilst Arsenal search for a creator in the January market. His performances and interplay with fellow youngsters Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli has offered a blueprint for the team's future but whether it is yet ready to break down a massed defence remains to be seen.
It will doubtless be hard work for Arsenal if West Brom repeat their Liverpool tactics. The reality, however, is that approach more often mitigates damage than wins or even draws football matches. The Gunners might just succeed where the champions fell short. PICK: Arsenal (-167)