This week marks the ninth anniversary of Arsène Wenger's first game in charge of Arsenal - a 2-0 Premiership away win at Blackburn Rovers.

So it's fitting that the Gunners travel north again on Saturday, this time to face Bryan Robson's West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.

The Baggies returned to the top division for the start of the 2002/03 campaign following a 17-year absence and met Arsenal at Highbury in only their third league fixture of the season at the end of August.

Goals from Ashley Cole, Lauren and Sylvain Wiltord put the Gunners three up inside 24 minutes. The game ended 5-2 with Wiltord and Jeremie Aliadiere adding second-half strikes for the Gunners. Scott Dobie and Jason Roberts got West Brom's goals in a thrilling match.

The return fixture in December that year was a somewhat tighter affair but, like the game at Highbury, it produced an early breakthrough for the home side. Journeyman striker Daniel Dichio gave Gary Megson's side a shock third-minute lead against the champions - and sent The Hawthorns into raptures. Wenger's men eventually equalised through Francis Jeffers shortly after the half-time interval and Thierry Henry scored a late winner to secure all three points.

West Brom were relegated that year but still crossed paths with the Gunners the following season. Goals from Kanu and Aliadiere either side of half time gave Arsenal a 2-0 League Cup Quarter Final win at The Hawthorns in December.

Ironically, that was one of Kanu's last goals for Arsenal before he joined West Brom at the end of the season.

And the skilful Nigerian is not the only ex-Gunner on the Baggies' books at present. Veteran striker Kevin Campbell and Japanese midfielder Junichi Inamoto both used to ply their trade in the red half of North London, so Wenger's men could conceivably have to contain a strike force of Kanu and Campbell this weekend.

Last season, West Brom fared better against the Gunners on their travels than they did on home soil. Robert Earnshaw's late equaliser at Highbury put a dent in Arsenal's title ambitions but Robin van Persie and Edu exacted revenge later in the season for Arsenal.

Although Arsenal have held the upper hand in recent times over Albion, the rivalry between the clubs dates back over 100 years to an FA Cup encounter during the 1900/01 season. On that occasion West Brom came out on top, winning 1-0.

The first league meetings between the sides were not until the following season and the honours at the end of both games were even. Arsenal triumphed 2-1 in their home fixture before West Brom did exactly the same just 12 days later.

Overall, the Gunners boast the better record in meetings between the sides with 56 wins from 118 matches, but it is not as one-sided as one may imagine.

With Wenger taking a depleted squad up the motorway on Saturday, it doesn't look like being a one-sided encounter on this occasion either.

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13 Oct 2005