The sadness of Sam Allardyce – and being the cause of it – should be motivation enough for Arsenal to get a result at West Bromwich Albion tonight.
I confess to a certain bitterness towards ‘Big Sam’ and, by extension, any team he currently manages having suffered through years of torment at the hands of his various packs of slavering orcs (ditto Tony Pulis).
Allardyce has always been anathema to anyone who likes watching good football and it’s clearly something he revels in. In fairness to him, he has built a successful career from that platform and afforded opportunities that may simply not have come his way had he chosen a different route.
For all its merits, though, there has always been a nasty, thuggish quality to his style of football, with physicality and brute strength prized over finesse or guile. Big Sam’s route to victory has always been route one and, as an Arsenal fan, that concept is alien to me.
When Mikel Arteta’s men travel to the Midlands tonight then, I expect to see more of the same from Sam and his struggling Baggies, particularly following their spanking at the hands of Leeds three days ago, a chastening 5-0 defeat that is only likely to entrench his desire to defend.
Allardyce is brought into teams in crisis for one reason, to stiffen their resolve for the battle to come. No doubt that belligerent streak will be much in evidence against Arsenal tonight as the Baggies look to sit deep and play for the set pieces. In that outlook, they enjoyed a level of success against Liverpool (drawing 1-1) but it fell decidedly flat against Leeds.
Despite that setback, Allardyce will undoubtedly look at tonight’s clash as an opportunity to pick up points because, in his eyes, Arsenal will always be a soft touch, an opponent to be bullied and cajoled. Given how early Sam is in his tenure, however, I would hope he is still in need of time to instill in his players the finer points of his plan.
If we can take advantage of a team in transition, however, we stand a good chance of making it out of the Midlands with three points and a third win on the bounce but, as ever, we must guard against complacency with an Allardyce team.
They will set up deep and close down the spaces, making life incredibly difficult for a team that sorely lacks a creative influence, for all the good work done so far by Emile Smith Rowe. If we can avoid being suckered into the crossing game, and concentrate our efforts on speed of movement and passing, we can come away with a positive result.
Best of all, we can make Big Sam sad and, after all the Stelios Giannakopoulos we suffered over the years, isn’t that motivation enough?