Arsene Wenger’s side blew away their London rivals with Robin Van Persie plundering a hat trick and continued his astonishing goals scoring record of 28 in 27 games during 2011. The Gunners have won five of their last seven games since the 8-2 mauling they suffered at the hands of Manchester United at the end of August and now sit just three points off the top four. Early season worries over whether they could recover from a disastrous start are now gone with Wenger’s summer signings starting to repay the faith shown in them by the Frenchman. Gervinho is finally starting to display the kind of form that persuaded the Arsenal boss to spend £10.6 million on him whilst Mikel Arteta has proved to be a genuine replacement for Cesc Fabregas with his partnership with Aaron Ramsey blossoming. Reservations still surround the defence though with Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos both looking shaky in West London last week and that is something that will need to be addressed with 21 goals conceded in the last nine games. One of the big positives that will come out of the win at Chelsea will be the performance of Theo Walcottt. The England winger tormented Ashley Cole with his pace and skill proving too much to handle whilst his much maligned delivery from out wide was near perfect every time. His goal also typified the determination that lies within him as he shrugged off three or four challenges before lashing the ball past Petr Cech. They won’t want to be reminded of last seasons fixture in which the Baggies ran out 3-2 winners.
Roy Hodgson, who was in charge for that game, takes his side to the Emirates on the back of a 2-0 defeat against Liverpool at home last week. The much travelled boss has been unable to replicate the form his side showed at the end of last season following his appointment but a mini-revival has raised hopes at the Hawthorns. Two wins and two draws in their last four games, including a 2-1 victory at Midland rivals Aston Villa, caused the optimism levels to grow only for them to be dashed after last weeks disappointing defeat. Injuries have played a large part in their indifferent start to the season with last seasons top scorer Peter Odemwingie struggling to regain full fitness after his lay-off whilst Shane Long and Paul Scharner will be out for lengthy periods after sustaining serious knee and ankle injuries respectively. Despite that their form on the road is strong with seven of their 11 points and six of their nine goals coming away from home. Hodgson will be praying his side can replicate a performance and result similar to the one in this fixture last season which proved to be Albion’s first win at Arsenal since December 1983.
Robin Van Persie – His return to goalscoring form has been a breath of fresh air for Arsenal and without him they would be battling it out at the wrong end of the table. His hat trick last week was preceded by a match winning display against Bolton despite being rested for a majority of the game. It would be foolish not to bank on him continuing his incredible run in front of goal against the Baggies.
Chris Brunt – With Long and Odemwingie likely to miss out against the Gunners the onus will fall on Brunt to provide a source of goals for West Brom. With their North London hosts tightening up in defence the Northern Ireland international’s ability from set pieces will be vital to his sides chances of finding the net on Saturday.