An unusual mood greets us at the close of the third international break of the season, with people’s eyes still very much on events in Paris.
Arsène Wenger was present at Wembley on Tuesday night as England and France put on a strong show of solidarity, now he will be expecting the same from his squad as he deals with another minor ‘injury crisis’.
Playing before Manchester City on Saturday afternoon, Arsenal could go top of the league but will have to overcome Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion side to really put pressure on the Citizens.
Thursday’s press conference surrounded around work events of the last week, and Wenger was as articulate as ever as he explained his experience and concerns surrounding his home country.
The Arsenal boss was in Paris last Friday before attending England v France at Wembley on Tuesday, and spoke about the importance of football at a time such as this.
“I think the football world has responded how you would want it to respond with a big togetherness,” the boss told the media at London Colney.
“A way for us [to overcome it] is just to get on with life and respond in a positive way to the situation. You cannot stop everything, we have to continue with our lives and try to get people to focus on something else.”
One player who couldn’t focus on Tuesday night was Laurent Koscielny, and Wenger confessed he is not sure whether or not the defender will be in the right state of mind to play on Saturday afternoon.
The Gunners will have to be focused against tough opposition, and give the fans a pleasant distraction from the things that may even matter more than their beloved Arsenal.
Koscielny’s involvement may not be confirmed, but nobody has returned from the international break with injuries.
Unfortunately, this game comes too soon for Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott who remain unavailable along with long-term absentees Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky.
Alexis Sánchez (180 minutes for Chile) and Joel Campbell (145 minutes for Costa Rica) may be suffering from fatigue after long travels, but will probably be needed once again, unless Kieran Gibbs starts in midfield after his north London derby heroics.
Thankfully Héctor Bellerín is available again, and could slot straight back into the defence.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Alexis, Özil, Gibbs; Giroud.
Tony Pulis has won three of six home games against Arsène Wenger, losing on just one occasion. All of those games came during his time at Stoke City, but he has failed to turn the Hawthorns into such a fortress. So far this season, West Brom have won just one of six Premier League home games all season.
“I watched them against Man United and they looked a very well organised team which is absolutely – as always with Tony Pulis – fully committed,” Arsène Wenger said in Thursday’s press conference.
Thanks to a fine away record, the Baggies are 13th in the Premier League. No team has scored fewer goals, but that only means their decent record speaks for the strength of their defence.
Possible XI: Myhill; Dawson, Olsson, Evans, Brunt; Morrison, Fletcher, Yacob, McClean; Rondón, Berahino.
A tough opponent, but Arsenal have a great chance to head to the top of the table before Manchester City face Liverpool on Saturday evening. Drawing against Spurs may have been seen as something of a blip, but it was ultimately important to get a point from the game.
Now we have to build on that by extending our impressive away form. Let’s make it six wins from seven on the road in the Premier League.