The resurgent Gunners will look to make it three consecutive wins tonight to begin 2021 on a high note at The Hawthorns.
Arsenal looked like genuine relegation candidates after their worst start to a season since 1974, though Mikel Arteta’s side have begun the recovery by following a Boxing Day triumph over Chelsea with a victory at Brighton in midweek.
They will be considered favourites to sustain that winning run against a struggling West Brom team that currently sit 19th and five points adrift of safety.
Though Sam Allardyce was able to lead the Baggies to a surprise point at leaders Liverpool over the festive period, heavy defeats by Aston Villa and Leeds show there is a huge amount of work to be done if he is to mastermind another unlikely escape from relegation.
Allardyce’s comments before Christmas that he considers Arsenal as rivals for the drop will likely only add to to the visitors’ motivation this evening.
West Brom XI: Johnstone, Furlong, Ajayi, O’Shea, Ivanovic, Sawyers, Matheus Pereira, Phillips, Gallagher, Diangana, Robinson
Arsenal XI: Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Pablo Mari, Tierney, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang, Lacazette
With kick-off scheduled for 8pm GMT, stay tuned for the latest team news, match build-up and live updates with Simon Collings at The Hawthorns.
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Allardyce and Arteta in discussions with the officials as the snow fell persistently a little earlier…
Allardyce also swaps two
Two changes also from the hosts.
Veteran defender Branislav Ivanovic replaces Lee Peltier, while Matheus Pereira comes in for Karlan Grant, who isn’t in the squad.
Former Arsenal defender Kieran Gibbs is fit enough for the bench, with Cedric Kipre dropping out.
Arsenal make two changes
So Arteta makes two changes to the Arsenal side that won at Brighton on Tuesday.
Alexandre Lacazette starts in place of Gabriel Martinelli, with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out on the left.
In midfield, Mohamed Elneny is replaced by Dani Ceballos.
Saka is fit to start, while Emile Smith Rowe remains in the XI.
David Luiz and Willian are both on the bench, with Cedric Soares and Shkodran Mustafi dropping out of the matchday squad altogether.
Starting XI: Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Pablo Mari, Tierney, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Willian, Runarsson, Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Luiz, Elneny, Willock, Nketiah, Martinelli
West Brom team
Starting XI: Johnstone, Furlong, Ajayi, O’Shea, Ivanovic, Sawyers, Matheus Pereira, Phillips, Gallagher, Diangana, Robinson
Subs: Gibbs, Bartley, Grosicki, Austin, Harper, Krovinovic, Peltier, Button, Diaby
Snow falling heavily
Very wintry conditions now at The Hawthorns, with the lines being cleared of snow and Arteta having been out to inspect the pitch with assistant Steve Round.
Team news coming
Just 10 minutes now until we get the official team news and lineups from The Hawthorns.
Allardyce on West Brom mentality
Sam Allardyce – who said before Christmas that he saw Arsenal as genuine candidates for relegation – wants West Brom to view tonight’s clash in the same way that they did recent draws against Manchester City and Liverpool.
“I want the players to see Arsenal in the same way they saw Liverpool and Manchester City,” he said.
“They’ve seemed to have performed better against the bigger sides in this division so far this year and I hope we can produce another strong performance on Saturday night.
“It would be great to get a result at The Hawthorns. It’s no secret that we need to start picking up points wherever we can now.
“Arsenal haven’t had the start to the season they might have wanted but they’ve had a fantastic win against Chelsea recently and then they won at Brighton.
“I need to make sure I pick the best team to face them, in terms of fitness and mentality.
“We need to go and compete.
“We’ve had a few days to recover from the Leeds game so hopefully we’ll look a lot fitter.”
A chilly evening in store at The Hawthorns
Arteta on Ozil future
Arsenal have allowed Sead Kolasinac to return to Schalke on loan this week as Arteta sets about trimming a bloated squad.
The likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis are also free to go, while the Spaniard says it is up to Mesut Ozil whether or not he stays past January and sees out his £350,000-a-week Gunners contract.
“You can just try to be open with players, tell them your intentions and the role they have in the team, and why that is,” Arteta said.
“At the end, they are entitled to make the decision in their lives because they have a contract here. Some would like to move because they are not playing and some would like to stay. At the end of the day we cannot decide.”