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Premier League preview: Arsenal v West Brom

West Brom will be hoping to regain the form which had them as high as third on the Premier League table when they visit Arsenal on Saturday.

Steve Clarke’s team have been the surprise packets of the 2012-13 season, winning eight of their 15 matches so far including the scalps of giants Chelsea and Liverpool, to rocket into the top four.

But back-to-back losses have seen them slip to fifth spot – equal on 26 points with third-placed Chelsea – as they fell to defeat against Swansea City and Stoke City.

Aiding West Brom’s climb up the table this season has been their squad availability, with just goalkeeper Ben Foster (groin) their only ailment up until this week.

However, the trio of Yassine El Ghanassy, Boaz Myhill and Billy Jones have all been affected by a bug that spread through the playing group – a cause for concern for manager Clarke ahead of their trip to London.

Most concerning will be Myhill, who has been deputising for Foster for the past five games, meaning third-choice keeper Luke Daniels may need to be called upon for what would be a dream debut for the Englishman at the Emirates.

Clarke has revealed Foster is not far away from returning to the training track as he battles to get back between the posts.

“Ben is improving. That’s good news for us. We will see how he gets on in the next few days,” Clarke said.

Arsene Wenger’s side have endured a torrid time in the Premier League this season, and are sitting in 10th position through 15 games.

The Londoners have gone winless in their past four in all competitions – held to draws against Aston Villa and Everton, before losing to Swansea and then Olympiacos in the Champions League.

Although it was a weakened Arsenal side on the park in Piraeus, Wenger will still be concerned his side have lost their winning touch, with their Premier League wins in October and November coming over 10-man Tottenham, lowly QPR and promoted West Ham.

The loss of star striker Robin van Persie at the beginning of the season was always going to hurt the Gunners, but injuries have played their part too, with Laurent Koscielny (thigh), Lukas Podolski (illness), Bacary Sagna (ankle) and Andre Santos (abdomen) all on the sidelines.

Also, back-up goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski has been sidelined until the New Year with an ankle complaint.

Despite their poor form, Wenger can be buoyed by the fact his side have not lost to Albion in their past three, including last season’s 3-0 win at the Emirates.

Thu 6 December, 2012
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