Arsenal-West Brom Preview


Apparently "Le Professeur" has some new lessons in his planner, and it most certainly helps when his new star pupil is apt to deliver.

Currently the team of the moment, Arsene Wenger and his first-place Gunners try to continue their scintillating form Sunday at The Hawthorns against an upstart West Bromwich Albion side seeking a second consecutive stunner.

With a trophy case devoid of silverware since winning the 2005 FA Cup, much was made of Arsenal seemingly standing pat during most of the transfer window. The scrutiny of Wenger - now the longest-tenured Premier League manager following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson - intensified as many questioned the direction of the London club, but the Frenchman was able to lure midfielder Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid before the end of the close window.

Now the German has provided a long-lost missing spark that could lead to glory in both England and Europe.

Ozil netted his first goal in an Arsenal shirt Tuesday, providing the first goal in a 2-0 Champions League victory over Napoli before turning playmaker for Olivier Giroud as the Gunners (5-1-0) scored both their goals in the first 15 minutes and claimed the group lead. Wenger had been waiting on that goal and feels it will only add to the 24-year-old's comfort level.

"His skill, his finishing, it is everything that you dream to see when you sit in the stands watching football,'' Wenger said of Ozil, who has played five matches across all competitions for the Gunners. "It's always on your mind a little bit (scoring your first goal) so he got rid of it.''

Giroud has six goals in 10 matches across all play for Arsenal, and much like his manager, feels more familiarity with Ozil will only lead to bigger and better things.

"It's really good to play with (Ozil) and I have a good relationship on the pitch, a good understanding,'' the French striker said. ''It's really easy to play with him.''

Arsenal have won 10 consecutive games across all competitions and are seeking a club-record ninth straight road victory in league play. They already have a victory at The Hawthorns to their credit, ousting the Baggies from the League Cup on Sept. 25 on penalty kicks after the teams played to a 1-1 draw.

While revenge may be on their minds, West Brom (2-2-2) also have an opportunity for a high-profile double after their 2-1 shock win at Old Trafford over Manchester United on Saturday. Saido Berahino provided the match-winner in the 67th minute as the Baggies had the run of play for most of the match against the reigning Premier League champions.

"I thought we were tremendous from start to finish,'' West Brom manager Steve Clarke said. ''We did everything almost perfectly.''

The Baggies are seeking their third straight win in league play and a second straight clean sheet at home after besting Sunderland 3-0 on Sept. 21. Clarke thinks Morgan Amalfitano may be West Brom's fulcrum player versus the Gunners.

"He's worked the way we expected him to work and all three outfield deadline-day signings have come in and been a breath of fresh air," Clarke told the team's official website about Amalfitano, on loan from Marseille. "When you come from a different league sometimes it can take a bit of time to find your feet.

"But he's hit the ground running, which is good for us and good for Morgan."

Arsenal, though, have run the Baggies into the ground in this series of late, winning the previous four league matches. The Gunners posted a 2-1 victory in the corresponding fixture last season on a brace from Tomas Rosicky and have five wins and a draw in seven Premier League clashes at The Hawthorns.