Premier League co-leaders Arsenal travel to The Hawthorns on Saturday hoping to protect a six-match unbeaten run when they clash with an up-and-down West Bromwich Albion side.

Victory would see Arsene Wenger's troops move three points clear at the summit and consign the Baggies to a third straight defeat in the process. 


If playing poorly and still grinding out results is the hallmark of potential Premier League champions, then Arsenal can consider themselves the real deal so far this season.

Before the international break, the Gunners were torn apart at the Emirates by Tottenham Hotspur in a North London derby in which Spurs looked like the home team.

Yet, an unlikely hero in Kieran Gibbs grabbed a 77th-minute equaliser as Wenger's men somehow secured a 1-1 draw and displayed further evidence of their new-found resilience in the process.

It extended their unbeaten streak in the Premier League to six games - the previous five were victories - and it certainly seems as if Arsenal, unlike in recent seasons, will take some shifting this time around as they plot a first title since the 'Invincibles' went all the way in 2004.

Poor performances were a regular theme during their first-half showings in October, with Watford and Swansea City both bossing their respective home fixtures, before devastating second-half displays saw Arsenal leave with a couple of 3-0 victories.

Wenger was awarded Manager of the Month for October after his side won four on the bounce, scoring 11 and conceding once, but the Frenchman will want to get his hands on a bigger prize come May.

However, it is no secret that Arsenal have struggled away to Pulis-managed teams in the past, with their record at Stoke City during his tenure particularly hit and miss. Saturday is another big test for the Gunners.

It will not determine if they can end a 12-year wait for the title but, with a spot at the summit waiting, victory may prove whether Wenger and co have an increased appetite for English football's biggest prize.

Recent results suggest that they do.

Recent form: WWWWWD

Recent form (all competitions): WWLWLD


With one home victory this season, The Hawthorns is anything but the fortress that the Britannia Stadium was during Tony Pulis's spell on the Potteries.

It has been one false dawn after another for West Brom in an up-and-down season which has yielded six defeats, four wins and one draw. In other words, it is not what the fans would have had in mind for Pulis's first full season in charge.

They beat Stoke 1-0 at the Britannia at the end of August for their first win of the season. Another followed when Saido Berahino secured the bragging rights in another 1-0 victory at local rivals Aston Villa, but back-to-back defeats against Everton and Crystal Palace reduced the feel-good factor.

Two more 1-0 victories followed - at home to Sunderland and away to Norwich City. The home fans might be tempted to borrow Arsenal's one-nil chant tomorrow.

All four of their victories have come by that scoreline and it does not bode well against a Gunners side in a rich vein of goalscoring form.

Defeats at home to Leicester City and away at Manchester United have left Albion on the verge of losing three on the bounce; a run of form made all the more worrying given that Arsenal's visit is part one in a quadrilogy of tricky fixtures.

After this, Pulis's side face in-form West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in the build-up to the gruelling festive period.

Beating the North Londoners tomorrow could set them up for safely negotiating those tests.

On the other hand, defeat and their six-point gap from the relegation zone may just decrease in the coming weeks.

Recent form: LLWWLL

Team News

Wenger confirmed that right-back Hector Bellerin was back in full training as the Spaniard looks poised to return from a groin problem, which had ruled him out for the previous two games.

The Gunners boss is yet to determine if Laurent Koscielny is in the right frame of mind to play. The French centre-back was on the field when a suicide bomber killed three people at Stade de France during les Bleus' friendly win over Germany last Friday.

Elsewhere, Wenger also confirmed that Saturday comes too soon for Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with the pair due back from injury by Monday, while Theo Walcott is also ruled out.

In contrast, Pulis has the luxury of boasting a fully-fit squad as Salomon Rondon looked poised to spearhead Albion's attack once more.

However, defender Gareth McAuley will sit this one out through suspension following his red card at Old Trafford, with Jonas Olsson expected to deputise.


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