Everything you need to know ahead of the Premier League clash at the Hawthorns on Saturday
Arsenal face a tricky lunchtime clash against West Brom on Saturday and manager Arsene Wenger is well aware that the match at the Hawthorns is one his team cannot afford to lose.
The Gunners are 16 points behind league leaders Chelsea and five points off the nearest Champions League spot with two games in hand, and Wenger says it’s all hands on deck as the north Londoners go into a crucial part of the season.
Wenger is under severe pressure himself following a demoralising 10-2 aggregate Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich and the Frenchman refused to comment on reports that Arsenal fans have raised money to fly a ‘No New Contract’ banner over the Hawthorns on Saturday.
Regardless of the noises outside the club, Wenger remains focused on finishing the campaign as strongly as possible.
“We want to play in the Champions League next season. We have a tough job because we have six or seven teams fighting for the places and how well we do until the end of the season will, of course, depend on that,” he said.
“On the rest, we are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, we have an opportunity to do that as well. So overall those are our targets. After that, success is basically to take the maximum out of the potential of the team. Where is that? We will see.”
Mohamed Elneny has returned to training slightly earlier than expected following an ankle injury and is expected to be named in the squad to face West Brom.
Elneny’s inclusion would increase the number of midfield options Wenger has to choose from, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain requires a late fitness test on a hamstring problem.
Kieran Gibbs’s involvement in Saturday’s game is “uncertain” but Nacho Monreal remains likely to start at left-back regardless.
Arsenal have no suspended players for this match.
ARSENAL POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP
The debate over Arsenal’s best central midfield pairing will continue on Saturday as Wenger decides whether to continue with the Xhaka-Ramsey partnership.
Wenger could opt for Francis Coquelin alongside the Swiss if he wants to go more defensive, while in defence Monreal will start at left-back.
Olivier Giroud will almost certainly feature as a No.9 to give Arsenal an added physical presence and the return of Mesut Ozil behind the Frenchman gives the Gunners more creativity.
WEST BROM DOSSIER
West Brom will be confident going into Saturday’s game when they look at Arsenal’s recent league form.
Tony Pulis’ side are the league’s top set-piece scoring team and will look to take advantage of the Gunners defensive vulnerabilities at the Hawthorns.
Pulis has hinted at changing his team after the Baggies failed to score at home against a struggling Crystal Palace side last week, with Nacer Chadli, James Morrison and Chris Brunt all expected to be under threat.
Matty Phillips has been ruled out of the game with a hamstring strain.
Salomon Rondon is their top league scorer with seven goals.
BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
- Tony Pulis has won only one of his last nine Premier League matches against Arsenal (D2 L6), although it came in this exact fixture last season at the Hawthorns (2-1).
- Pulis has only lost one of his six previous Premier League home games against Arsenal and Arsene Wenger (W3 D2 L1) and is unbeaten in the last four.
- Arsenal have scored in all 21 of their Premier League meetings with West Brom; their best such 100% record in the competition.
- Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 26 Premier League goal this season (17 goals, nine assists) – more than any other player in the competition. ;
- Since Tony Pulis took charge of WBA in January 2015, the Baggies have scored a higher proportion of goals from set-pieces (47.8% – 43/90) than any other team in the Premier League.
- Arsenal have lost three of their last four Premier League matches (W1 D0 L3); the same number of defeats as they had suffered in their previous 32 matches in the competition.
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