EPL Preview: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. West Bromwich Albion
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The Gunners have amassed three consecutive wins after a horrific start to 2011/2012, resulting in the North London giants rapidly rising from near the drop to seventh.
Furthermore, Arsenal are returning from an emphatic 5-3 victory against rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and, despite a disappointing stalemate with French giants Olympique de Marseille midweek in the UEFA Champions League, Arsene Wenger's men enter the clash with the Baggies full of confidence.
West Bromwich Albion, on the other hand, have endured a quiet start to their campaign. Roy Hodgson's men sit 13th on the EPL table with just three wins. But despite a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool, Albion were 2-1 victors in the Midlands Derby against Aston Villa two weeks ago.
Last season, the Gunners failed to defeat West Bromwich Albion, but with renewed confidence and home-ground advantage alongside the vitality of every point in order to reach the top four, Arsenal enter the game clear favourites.
As always, Bleacher Report keeps readers up to date and predicts the Arsenal Starting XI.
Polish international Wojciech Szczesny is certain to start as the first-choice keeper. The 21-year-old has enjoyed a superb season so far and is becoming renowned for his skills on the ball.
Fellow countryman Lukasz Fabianski is set to continue his role as deputy shot-stopper and will start on the bench.
Veteran Manuel Almunia has returned from an impressive loan spell with West Ham United but is unlikely to be considered. Italian youngster Vito Mannone will continue to perform for the Arsenal reserves.
Defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen is fully fit following a strong 90 minutes against Marseille.
The Belgian returned this month after suffering an ankle problem in August. Vermaelen is set to partner Frenchman Laurent Koscielny in the central defence with German giant Per Mertesacker set to be rested and receive a place on the bench.
Renowned right-back Bacary Sagna is still recovering from a broken ankle suffered last month, which ensures imposing Swiss Johan Djourou continues his run as a makeshift right-back. Teenager Carl Jenkinson, who completed 90 minutes against Marseille, will return to the bench.
England international Kieran Gibbs has not featured since early October following a stomach issue and is unlikely to appear against the Baggies, ensuring in-form Brazilian Andre Santos will continue. Veteran Frenchman Sebastien Squillaci and teenager Igansi Miquel are unlikely to be considered.
Cameroon international Alexandre Song will of course start as the defensive midfielder—the 24-year-old is in stunning form for the Gunners. Key playmakers Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta are both covering a heavy workload, which may prompt Israeli captain Yossi Benayoun to feature ahead of Arteta.
Who Will Conquer?
Imposing Frenchman Abou Diaby is expected to return to full fitness following the international break while teenage sensation Jack Wilshere is not set to return until February. Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky is likely to receive a role on the bench alongside Ghanian teenager Emmanuel Frimpong.
However, French youngster Francis Coquelin is set to miss out.
Arsenal captain and hat-trick hero against Chelsea Robin van Persie will aim to continue his impressive rate of 30 goals in 34 appearances since January 2011, as the Dutchman leads the Gunners front line.
Russian dynamo Andrei Arshavin enjoyed a blistering match in the Carling Cup last week, which could see the 30-year-old start ahead of Theo Walcott on the right.
Ivorian forward Gervinho is the favourite to start on the left wing. However, Arshavin is also a candidate for that role, too.
Imposing Moroccan Marouane Chamakh is unlikely to feature due to a knee problem, while Japanese teenager Ryo Miyaichi and England teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are also unlikely to be considered.
South Korean captain Chu Young-Park, who started against Marseille, is set to miss out.
It is a tough array to choose from for Arsene Wenger. Lukasz Fabianski is set to be the deputy keeper whilst Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny, depending on who starts, and Carl Jenkinson are the emergency defenders.
Emmanuel Frimpong, Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun or Mikel Arteta, again depending on who starts, should be the backup midfielders with the non-starter from Andrei Arshavin or Theo Walcott the impact forward.
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