West Brom-Arsenal Preview: Mertesacker demands focus after Champions League joy

Arsene Wenger’s side got a morale-boosting win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday but still need to buck things up in the Premier League, with injuries dogging them


Per Mertesacker wants Arsenal to put their Champions League success behind them when they face West Brom in the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger’s side have made a slow start to the 2014-15 domestic campaign, with just four wins from their opening 12 league outings.

The FA Cup holders came under heavy criticism for wasting a host of first-half chances in the 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United in their last league game but there was more positive news on Wednesday with a 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund.

That win secured their progress into the Champions League knockout stages with a game to spare but Mertesacker knows that they must now focus their attentions on addressing their league form, starting with a trip to the Hawthorns.

“We were very convincing [against Dortmund],” he told the media. “We have to show character and that is what makes me really happy for the next few games because we have to sharpen up in the Premier League as well.

“Saturday is a good chance to show everyone that we are still alive. We have secured Champions League [last-16] football and that gives us a life but that has nothing to do with the Premier League. We have to come back in the Premier League and that is the next target.”

Arsenal have been hindered by a lengthy injury list this season, a problem highlighted by Jack Wilshere’s latest setback, with the midfielder set for three months out after undergoing ankle surgery.

Mikel Arteta and Yaya Sanogo went off injured during the second half on Wednesday, with Wenger expecting the Spaniard to be out “for a while” with a calf problem, while the French striker – who scored his first goal for the club against Dortmund – has a hamstring problem.

Theo Walcott (groin), Danny Welbeck (knee) and Wojciech Szczesny (hip) all missed the midweek game and remain fitness concerns.

Meanwhile, the hosts are looking to recover from back-to-back league defeats and will be without midfielder Claudio Yacob after his red card in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea.

Defender Jonas Olsson is another certain absentee after it was revealed on Wednesday that he would be out until the new year, with the Sweden international set for an operation on his left foot.

Manager Alan Irvine insisted on Thursday that Saido Berahino – who has seven Premier League goals this season – would continue to be selected despite being the subject of a police investigation into a possible case of drink-driving. Defender Sebastian Pocognoli, meanwhile, returns after hamstring trouble, although James Morrison is a doubt through illness.

Captain Chris Brunt is hoping Saturday can mark the start of a turnaround in their home form, with West Brom having won just once at the Hawthorns in the league this season.

“Points are hard to come from away from home in this league but, in the last few months, we’ve done a lot better away from home,” he told The Birmingham Mail.

“I don’t really know what that is. It’s a difficult one to put your finger on but it’s down to us to improve that.

“Arsenal will be favourites to win but we will be prepared for them. It’s a big game against Arsenal followed very closely by another one against West Ham [on Tuesday]. Our home form hasn’t been great this season so we have two games that give us a chance to improve that.”

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Arsenal's Alexis is just like Aguero & Suarez – Ramsey

The Wales international has been impressed by the Gunners’ new signing and says Arsene Wenger’s men are grateful to have him in their team following his summer move from Barcelona

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey has likened Alexis Sanchez to Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero after another goalscoring display against Borussia Dortmund.

The Chile international grabbed his side’s second goal as Arsenal won 2-0 on Tuesday and has now scored 12 goals for the Gunners since his summer move from Barcelona.

Ramsey says he has been impressed by Sanchez particularly his work ethic, both in matches and in training.

“With the South American players, it is sort of bred into them to work hard, he is no different to any of the other players like Suarez or Aguero, so we are grateful to have him in our team,” he told reporters.

“He gives 100 per cent – everybody is at it in training all the time. We like to train hard. He works hard for the team and when he gets an opportunity to score, he scores.

“It took him a couple of games to get into it, but he has not stopped scoring since. The thing which has impressed me most about him is his work-rate off the ball. It is always nice when the team is scoring goals, at the moment, he is doing it.”

Arsenal’s Champions League win saw the Gunners qualify for the knockout stages for a 15th consecutive season and Ramsey is confident his side can go far in the tournament.

“It is a great achievement, all credit to the manager and players in those 15 years. We are always hungry to go on in this competition and do the best that we can,” he added.

“We are through now and hopefully we can have a very successful Champions League.

“We have come out winners against Borussia Dortmund and hopefully now we can get back to winning ways in the Premier League and go on a winning run there as well.

“It was a really pleasing performance against Dortmund, we picked up where we left off from Man United in terms of the way we played, but we got the early goal this time, which we did not get against United.

“It always helps when you do, and you could see the confidence in the team, we defended really well and kept a clean sheet.”

Wilshere ruled out for up to three months

The England international sustained an ankle injury in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester United that could sideline him until March


Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has undergone surgery on his left ankle and will be sidelined for up to three months.

The England international limped off during the Gunners’ 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at the weekend following a late challenge from Paddy McNair on the edge of the box.

Wilshere subsequently missed Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, with manager Arsene Wenger revealing after the match that he expected the midfielder to miss “the next few games”.

However, it has now been confirmed that Wilshere will instead be sidelined until at least February, though the Gunners revealed that his operation had been a success.

Wilshere took to Instagram to confirm the news and said that “everything went well”, while urging his fans to stay positive.

“Work hard for what you want because it won’t come to you without a fight,” he wrote. “You have to be strong and courageous and know that you can do anything you put your mind to.

“If somebody puts you down or criticises you, just keep on believing in yourself and turn it into something positive.”

Liverpool should have signed Alexis – Neville

The Chile forward has been the standout star in north London since his €40 million arrival, and the 39-year-old feels he would have been the perfect replacement for Luis Suarez


Gary Neville feels Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez would have been the “perfect replacement” for Luis Suarez at Liverpool.

The Chile international was sold by Barcelona to make room for the arrival of Suarez for €86 million, allowing Arsene Wenger to secure the forward’s signature for €40m.

Sanchez has impressed since his arrival – boasting a team-high 14 goals and 30 chances created – and Neville feels the forward would have softened the blow of the Uruguayan’s exit with Liverpool’s form faltering since.

“[Sanchez] would have been an ideal replacement for Luis Suarez. Goals, tenacity, pressing from the front, loses the ball – it goes past him he runs back,” he told Sky Sports.

“Everything Liverpool would have wanted to replace Suarez, obviously you could argue he wouldn’t score the goals Suarez would score, but I think he would have been the perfect replacement for Suarez.

“It’s a real shame for Liverpool they didn’t get him, but a massive plus for Arsenal.”

Sanchez scored his 14th goal of the season on Wednesday night as Arsenal beat Borussia Dortmund to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage for the 15th consecutive season.

Subotic: Dortmund didn't deserve anything against Arsenal

The centre-back has admitted that the Bundesliga outfit were unable to cope with Arsene Wenger’s men in Wednesday’s encounter

Neven Subotic has voiced his frustration with Borussia Dortmund’s display in Wednesday’s Champions League match against Arsenal, conceding they deserved their 2-0 loss at the Emirates Stadium.

Yaya Sanogo gifted Arsenal an early lead before Alexis Sanchez put the match to bed after the break and Subotic feels BVB were simply not good enough to get a good result.

“We weren’t at our peak. There’s a lot we could have done better and even though we didn’t play our best we still had chances. Sadly we didn’t score any, but I can’t say the result wasn’t fair. We did not play well enough to deserve a win,” Subotic told Uefa.com.

“They scored their goal, we started chasing the game a bit and never really got to the point where we put them under so much pressure that they had to make unforced errors. They had plenty of time and we didn’t put our game on the pitch.

“As time moved on we got better and better but with the second goal the next big hit happened. After that it was just us trying to chase the game and get a goal at any cost and we just didn’t have the luck to do that. To be honest we didn’t deserve much more.”

Dortmund can still finish top of their group if they beat Anderlecht on matchday six and the defender insists it is vitally important that they do so.

“It is extremely [important to finish top], that’s why we wanted to seal the deal on Wednesday. We knew Arsenal were going to be tough but we also knew that they are beatable. Our plan was to take home a point, but sadly that didn’t happen.

“Now we have the next game [at home to RSC Anderlecht] to seal the deal and we have to do it. At this level [finishing top] can be a big help for the next round and we have the goal set to finish first.”

Dortmund hold a two-point lead over Arsenal heading into the last round of matches.