It’s a must-win game for Arsenal as they travel to the Hawthorns for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off.
With twelve league matches remaining, the Gunners cannot afford to drop more points in their race for a top-four spot.
Defeats against Watford, Chelsea and Liverpool have seen any hope of catching Antonio Conte’s high-flying Blues disintegrate faster than our aspirations for progression in this season’s Champions League.
West Brom are tough opponents and having already achieved the 40-point mark, Tony Pulis’ side will be hoping for a top-half finish this term.
Wenger was sharp to shut down speculation whilst revealing some fitness updates ahead of Saturday’s clash.
Hector Bellerín, who signed a long-term extension in November, has again been linked with a move to Barcelona recently.
When questioned Arsène had this to say, “No. He has just extended his contract. It’s an unbelievable amount of years to go. I believe again it’s very difficult to take these things seriously.”
On why he has been impressed by West Brom this term, Wenger said: “They are well organised, physically very strong and very efficient on set-pieces.”
“It’s a very balanced team with a good size who are equipped to deal with the Premier League,” he continued.
He went on to further explain how facing West Brom has always traditionally been a tough test, but their main priority is to close the gap on the teams above. Intriguingly, Arsenal have won five of their last six meetings with Saturday’s hosts across all competitions.
As for fitness updates, he described Gibbs as being “uncertain”. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) meanwhile, had a fitness test to see whether it’s worth risking him.
“Overall, it’s the squad that was available [for Lincoln]. Elneny (ankle) has joined in again. He has recovered well because he’s a very strong boy and very keen to come back as quickly as possible,”Wenger revealed.
Arsenal are expected to start with the same formation and a similar team to the one which comfortably saw off Lincoln last weekend.
Compared to Nacho Monreal, Kieran Gibbs has done well and fitness permitting, deserves another league start on Saturday.
Aaron Ramsey put in a decent shift alongside Granit Xhaka so it’d be a surprise to see the Welshman dropped for Francis Coquelin, especially in a game where Arsenal are expected to have large periods of sustained possession.
Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck (illness) both didn’t feature against Bayern or Lincoln, but it’s possible that the latter could start as the lone striker with Olivier Giroud seeming a wounded animal at the moment. The 30-year-old has found regular minutes scarce but picks up knocks on almost a weekly basis and needs a rest.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerín, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs; Xhaka, Ramsey; Walcott, Alexis, Özil; Welbeck.
As previously stated, the Baggies are sitting comfortably in the league and a relegation battle is highly unlikely.
Their 3-0 away defeat against Everton last Saturday was a disappointing one for many reasons. All three goals conceded were preventable and their defence, which had been solid beforehand, was exploited by the pace and power behind the Toffees’ counter-attacking moves.
With that being said, they’ve got plenty of attacking threat that could trouble Arsenal’s backline on Saturday.
Salomón Rondon is currently on a dry spell and hasn’t scored since a memorable hat-trick against Swansea before Christmas. He has seven league goals whilst Gareth McAuley and James Morrison have eleven between them – highlighting they have a number of different goalscorers within the side.
Winger Matt Phillips has eight assists but hasn’t featured for a month with a hamstring issue. The 26-year-old has created 32 chances this term but remains their only injury doubt for contention this weekend.
With that in mind, here’s a possible XI for the hosts (4-3-3): Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Nyom; Livermore, Yacob, Fletcher; McClean, Chadli, Rondon.