Please forgive me if I end up jinxing the outcome of today’s game, but this match today feels very much like the Swansea game of a few weeks ago, in which we had some very difficult moments but ended up winning comfortably away in South Wales.

I’m not saying that I think we’ll win today (there, hopefully that will appease the football karma gods), it’s just that we’re up against a tough team and a manager in Tony Pulis who has his fair share of wins under his belt against Arsenal at home. He may not have won many whilst Palace or West Brom manager, but I don’t really recall a game in which it hasn’t been really tight until the last second of the game, so I’m expecting another nerve-jangling afternoon against the Baggies.

Last season it was the same. We won 1-0 with a Danny Welbeck goal but it was a very hard-fought point. Arsene recognised that in his pre-match presser on Thursday, saying that Pulis teams are always ‘organised and committed’, which ordinarily means code for ‘they kick you about a bit’. I think West Brom will try to be hard in the tackle today, so it will be important that we’re just as hard, but able to demonstrate our superior technical ability as well. That’s where players like Ozil and Cazorla are so crucial. Ozil is the man on form at the moment, but it was the shadow of Cazorla that at times made us look a bit suspect against the Spuds, so if he’s back to his best today then that will go a long way to seeing us get the three points we crave. And we do crave those three points. You can be damn sure that City will be Liverpool later, so anything other than maximum return from an away day in the West Midlands is essential, with a few early goals would be a lovely little Saturday afternoon from our boys.

For West Brom they have Gareth McAuley suspended, but that’s pretty much their only worry, with Chris Brunt also returning from a groin problem, so I’d expect a team that is fully ‘at us’ today, trying their best to destabilise us. Pulis will want to see Darren Ferguson return to the United player who used to play against us, run around a lot and make foul after foul without getting any kind of punishment, whilst players like Yacob and Brunt will also get their foot in like Morrison too. They’re missing Ben Foster in goal, but Myhill is a decent back up and so I don’t  really see their ‘keeping situation as a weakness. Where we can get at them is on the flanks I think. I don’t know much about Lindegaard or Gamboa, but if we can get in to good wide positions with Alexis and Campbell, I’d fancy their chances of beating some relatively inexperienced Premier League full backs.

Defensively for us, much will depend on whether Koscienly plays. He is by far and away our best defender and whilst I think Gabriel has a great future, it is clear that Koscienly is the finished article. Arsene spoke of his mental state on Tuesday against England so everyone associated with the club will need to be confident that he feels ok enough to play. If not, then the Brazilian will come in and have to contend with either the pace of Sessegnon and Berahino, or the aerial threat of Lambert. I suspect Pulis will go with pace ahead of an ageing Lambert, but he’ll no doubt be used at some stage today. Salomon Rondon is a tricky player too and has a few goals already this season, so for us to keep him quiet will be a bonus.

I’m pretty confident Arsene will return Bellerin to the squad ahead of Debuchy today and with his pace and will to drive forward, the hope is that it allows Campbell to have a better game than he did against the Spuds. There was times against that lot, that he looked a little isolated and I’m just not sure he’s confident enough at the moment to pick the ball up on his own in opposition territory and beat his man. Bellerin will offer that overlap that could potentially spread defenders a bit more, so if he’s fit enough, the Spaniard will play.

On the other flank we really have no other option than to play Alexis. If he is not fit enough, then we’re talking about probably moving Santi or Mesut out wide and Arsene has already spoken a few weeks back about how he doesn’t like to disturb the rhythm of too many players by shuffling them around. The other option could be to play Campbell on the left hand side, but with The Ox, Theo and Rambo all still out, we’d probably be looking at bringing Bellerin in as a winger. Gibbs is another option, but he looks to me to be more of an impact player in left wing, rather than somebody who’s going to affect a game over the course of 90 minutes in an attacking position. So given the paucity of options, it looks like Alexis will have to go once more unto the breach. Let’s just hope he isn’t running on fumes and picks up a knock. The team is too stretched in attack at the moment as it is.

This is a game that champions in waiting win. Paul Merson said so this week and whilst I don’t always find myself agreeing with The Magic Man, on this occasion I do. It’s these types of games, in November, with the injuries upon us, that champions find a way to dig out a result. It can be as scrappy as it likes and although I’d prefer an easy afternoon, I’d take any afternoon that ends up with us clutching three points to our breasts on the journey back to London this evening.

Come on you reds!