ARSENAL FC
v
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

The Emirates Stadium, North London
February 12, 2011, 08:30 PM IST (15:00 B.S.T)

After a nightmarish second half against Newcastle at St.James Park, which saw Arsenal surrender a four goal lead following Diaby’s red card, the Gunners must now shrug off the result of the previous game and try to secure all three points against a Wolves side which managed to end Manchester United’s unbeaten run in the League this season. Although the visitors are in the relegation zone, they have a good record against the big teams in the league, and their current position in the table does not tell the true story of their performance so far.

Arsenal have managed to get into the record books for all the wrong reasons, and manager Arsene Wenger feared repercussions from the high scoring draw, hinting that there could be some psychological damage from the forgettable game. However, Walcott and Arshavin have spoken about learning from the game and moving on to the next one; Gooners will be hoping that their team bounces back quickly, and a win over Wolves would provide the Arsenal players with some confidence going into the Champions League game against Barcelona in the midweek.

Mick McCarthy’s side are in danger of being demoted to the Championship, and they will be looking to build on the momentum from the Manchester win to pull themselves out of the relegation zone. Although they have been playing good football, their current position in the table has been largely due to their run of poor results against fellow bottom side clubs; they secured wins against Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, but failed to grab points in the other games. With just 13 games remaining in the League, they cannot afford any more slip-ups if they wish to remain in the top flight.

The last encounter between the two teams saw a spirited display by Wolves as the latter faltered in the face of a Chamakh brace in the first and last minute of the game. With Arsenal having Robin van Persie back in their ranks, Wolves will face a different team upfront; however, they can take heart from Newcastle’s comeback last Saturday and take on the home side with an intent to grab at least a point from the Emirates trip.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Arsenal

The Gunners suffered a major injury scare when their best defender Djourou limped out of the Newcastle game with a knee injury. After days of speculation, the Swiss FA confirmed that the defender was out only for a week; Wenger confirmed that he would be fit for the game, and Song would also probably be available. However, given that Arsenal have a crunch game against Barca in four days and Diaby will start his three-match suspension, Denilson and Squillaci are almost certain to start in the game.  Cesc and van Persie have recovered from their bout of illness, while all players who participated in the international friendlies in midweek returned unscathed; however, Rosicky is unavailable for the game due to a groin injury, which means Cesc may be forced to start in his absence. Nasri has yet to recover from his hamstring, while Vermaelen has been making good progress but there is no clear indication of his return date.

Wolves are a strong English team who play the English way of football – a combination of physical strength, the inherent grit of English players and continued pressure on the opponents form the basic strategy of their game, and they took advantage of Manchester United’s inability to deal with set pieces. With Arsenal also piss-poor in defending set pieces, this is the perfect chance for McCarthy’s side to score goals from that avenue; they will benefit from the absence of Djourou, should Wenger decide to rest him in this game. Arsenal have their task cut out – clear set pieces, keep a check on Jarvis and Doyle, and get their usual passing game up and running in a crowded midfield. Fabregas will have to contend with the hard tackling Karl Henry, and Wilshere must put in a solid shift against the big midfielders to allow Cesc more space. Upfront, the strikers must be able to convert their chances, as Wolves will look to sit back and snuff out Arsenal attacks. With the Barca game looming ahead, it is hard to predict the line-up which will start on Saturday; Walcott and Arshavin could play sub-roles, with Chamakh or Bendtner starting in the game.

Probable Starting XI: Szczesny, Eboue, Squillaci, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere, Denilson, Fabregas, van Persie, Bendtner, Chamakh

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Mick McCarthy has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the game against Arsenal, and will be likely to continue with the same side that beat United last season, with one or two changes probably. Stephen Hunt remains on the sidelines, while Kightly and Guedioura are out with a knee injury and a broken leg respectively. The manager will rely on a five-man midfield to stifle Arsenal’s attacking outlet, with Fabregas possibly being the only creative player to start. Kevin Doyle will play the lone striker with his usual efficiency, while Jarvis and Milijas will patrol the wings and put pressure on Arsenal’s fullbacks.

Wolves fans will look for an encore

Van Persie has proved to be the proverbial thorn in the flesh for opposition defenders since his return from injury, having already amassed 8 goals and 5 assists in 14 league games this season. His quick movements and comfort with both feet will make him difficult to handle, and Stearman and Berra will have to keep the Dutchman in check in central defense. Karl Henry will look to stop Fabregas in his tracks, while the other central midfielders will put pressure on Wilshere and Denilson. Zubar and Elokobi had a good game against the Red Devils in the fullback positions, and will look to continue their form against Arsenal’s wide men in their 4-3-3 formation. Doyle’s stamina and positioning sense will make him a genuine threat upfront, and he and Jarvis could take advantage of Squillaci’s slow pace and poor positioning.

Probable Starting XI: Hennessey, Zubar, Stearman, Berra, Elokobi, Henry, Ward, Foley, Milijas, Jarvis, Doyle

Football Fans Know Better

Match Facts

  1. Van Persie has found the back of the net eight times in his last six games
  2. Chamakh scored the fastest goal in the League against Wolves last season
  3. 52% of the goals conceded by Arsenal have come from set pieces
  4. Wolves have one only one game away from home against top half opponents.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Laurent Koscielny

Don’t you dare take my ball!

Arsenal’s new defender has proved to be yet another master stroke signing by Wenger. The relatively unknown Polish-born French defender has come into the limelight for his timely tackles and clearances inside his box, but his shortcomings have also come to light in some of the games in which Arsenal dropped points. He will look to lead the line in Djourou’s absence, and a clean sheet with Squillaci will be a god-send to Arsenal and a massive boost to his confidence.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Arsenal 3-2 Wolves

This promises to be yet another intriguing encounter, with Wolves attempting to take the lead through set pieces or a long range shot and defending it. However, Arsenal will be wounded by the result of the previous game and will be looking to make a point in this fixture.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST

Arsenal 1 – 0 Wolves [Bendtner]
 


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