Wenger wary of well-organised West Brom

LONDON • Arsene Wenger takes his Arsenal side to West Bromwich Albion today knowing that anything other than victory will spark fresh calls for him to go after two decades at the north London club.

A 5-0 FA Cup victory over minnows Lincoln last Saturday briefly lifted the pressure on the Frenchman and sent Arsenal into the semi-finals.

But he has been in football long enough to appreciate that intense speculation about his future and rumours of dressing-room discord will ramp up all over again if he fails to stop Arsenal's rot in the Premier League.

"I know when you don't win it's not a happy week," he said. "That's part of our job. When you care about results and they are not what you want, it's not a happy place."

Winning the FA Cup and making the top four in the Premier League are the goals for Arsenal and Wenger, who has yet to commit to the club beyond this season. But those aims are below the expectations of fans who say the manager has run out of ideas.

And even that target will not be easy. Wenger's side are fifth, five points behind fourth-placed Liverpool, although they have two games in hand over the Reds.

"We want to play in the Champions League next season. Six or seven are fighting for the places," said Wenger, whose side lost 1-3 at Liverpool in their last league game.

Arsenal will give fitness tests to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs, but Mohamed Elneny will return from an ankle injury.

"They are well organised, physically very strong and very efficient on set pieces," Wenger said of eighth-placed West Brom. "It's a very balanced team with a good size who are very well equipped to deal with the Premier League."

With 10 games to play, West Brom's only remaining challenge is proving to fans that the mentality in the squad has changed and the bar has been raised.

"It's been a good season but we can't let it go to waste and go on holiday early," goalkeeper Ben Foster said. "If (the Arsenal players) are having a good day, they can just tear you apart."



Singtel TV Ch103 & StarHub Ch228, 8.25pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger wary of well-organised West Brom'. Print Edition | Subscribe