Arsene Wenger says the best approach for Arsenal is to pay no attention to the Premier League table as his players prepare for what he expects to be a physically testing clash against West Brom.
The Gunners are level on points with leaders Manchester City ahead of Saturday’s trip to The Hawthorns, where they face Tony Pulis 13th-placed side, who have lost their last two matches to Leicester City and Manchester United.
Arsenal go into the game with an impressive away record having picked up 31 points from a possible 36 in their last 12 Premier League contests on the road.
But Wenger is certain a difficult challenge awaits and warned his team to forget the form guide and ensure they do not make any key mistakes.
“I watched West Brom against Manchester United and they looked a very well organised team which is absolutely – as always with Tony Pulis – fully committed,” he said.
“On top of that they are in a difficult situation a little bit in the Premier League.
“You expect what you always expect in the Premier League – a committed, physical, fast game and a game where we cannot afford to make any mistakes.
“I would even say that you don’t even look at the table anymore because you know what you get.
“The difference between the teams has narrowed and these days it is more about how much can you be close to your best which will decide the result, more than the team you play against.”
Arsenal will be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey (both hamstring) and Theo Walcott (calf), while Wenger will check on Laurent Koscielny’s state of mind following the terrorist attacks in Paris last week. Hector Bellerin, though, is fit after a groin problem.
West Brom, who have failed to beat Arsenal in their last nine Premier League meetings, will assess the fitness of Chris Brunt (groin).
The Baggies’ new first-team coach Ben Garner, who has joined Pulis’ backroom team from Crystal Palace, believes the players need to display more confidence in their own ability.
He told the Birmingham Mail: “Because they have had a tough period for maybe the last two, three, four seasons, I think maybe they have lost just that little bit of confidence and assertiveness about their play.
“That is something we have got to try and get back into them. Be a little braver and a bit more positive in our attacking play because there is real talent in the group.
“There is a lot of ability within the squad and if anything I don’t think they maybe appreciate what a good group they are.”
Key Opta stats:
– Arsenal have scored in every one of their last 18 Premier League games against West Brom, the longest 100% scoring record of any side against a single opponent in Premier League history.
– West Brom have averaged 0.5 points per game against Arsenal in the Premier League, their joint-lowest return against any side they have met more than twice.
– Olivier Giroud has scored in four of his last six Premier League appearances.
– Since joining the club in 2012, Giroud has scored more headed goals than any other player in the Premier League (15), including one against West Brom in May 2014.
– Including blocked, West Brom have fired in the fewest shots this season (113) while Arsenal have mustered the joint-most (221, level with Man City).
– Only Southampton (six) have scored more headed goals in the Premier League than West Brom and Arsenal (five each).