Arsenal-West Brom Preview
Arsenal hope to ignite their title charge Saturday at a venue where they have performed well in recent seasons.
The Gunners are unbeaten in six (3-3-0) at West Bromwich Albion and can take sole possession of first place in the Premier League with a win there - at least temporarily.
A victory over the Baggies would begin to turn up the heat on Manchester City, who are ahead of Arsene Wenger's side on goal differential, and have a tricky-looking match against Liverpool on Saturday evening.
Arsenal (8-2-2) must first take care of their own business, but they will find a familiar foe standing across the touchline at the Hawthorns.
In his time at Stoke City, Baggies boss Tony Pulis became something of a nemesis for Wenger, frustrating Arsenal with a direct, physical playing style. The Gunners mustered only one win in seven at the Britannia Stadium while the Welshman was in charge. With that in mind, Wenger insists his side will not overlook an opponent who impressed in their last outing despite a 2-0 reverse.
"I watched them against Man United and they looked a very well organised team which is absolutely - as always with Tony Pulis - fully committed," Wenger told the official club website, www.arsenal.com. "On top of that they are in a difficult situation a little bit in the Premier League and you expect what you always expect in the Premier League - a committed, physical, fast game and a game where we cannot afford to make any mistakes."
West Brom (4-2-6) have recorded only one win in six at home so far this season, losing four and drawing the other. Only Aston Villa (2) have claimed fewer points on their home grounds than the Baggies, who have already run a gauntlet that included front-runners City, reigning champions Chelsea and upstart Leicester City."The games at home have been really, really tough and we've got to win games at home if we are going to be successful this year, and we hope we are so we have to improve our home form," Pulis said in an interview with BBC radio."That is something we'll be talking about and working on."
Pulis will have to do without goalkeeper Ben Foster (knee) while Gareth McAuley will serve a one-match ban for his red card in the loss to Manchester United. Loanee Serge Gnabry is unavailable for selection against his parent club.
Arsenal will be without several key players with Theo Walcott (calf), Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck (both knee) all ruled out. Defender Hector Bellerin has returned to training but may not be ready in time, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) and Aaron Ramsey are out for the trip to the Hawthorns but may be ready in time for Arsenal's critical Champions League match versus Dinamo Zagreb at The Emirates on Tuesday.
Defender Laurent Koscielny will be assessed pre-match to determine whether he is up to playing in the wake of events in Paris last Friday.
The Gunners are unbeaten in 10 (7-3-0) against West Brom dating back to a 3-2 home loss in September 2010.
Contrary to the feisty reputations of both coaches, these sides have actually committed the fewest fouls in the division so far with Arsenal (113), just behind the Baggies (109).
Arsenal won the corresponding fixture last year thanks to a lone Welbeck goal and completed the double over the Baggies with a 4-1 win on the last day of the season. Walcott bagged a hat trick while Wilshere snagged the other goal, and McAuley countered for the visitors.