Arsenal will look to respond from their setback against Crystal Palace and get back into top four contention when they meet Wolves at Molineux.
Arsenal’s imperious home form was shattered with a shock defeat to Crystal Palace on Sunday at the Emirates. Unai Emery will be expecting a swift response from his side when they take on Wolves, although with the game being away from home, there is a sense of nervousness due to Arsenal’s form on the road – the Gunners have only won six of their 16 away games this season.
Last Sunday’s defeat could have severely dented their hopes to finish inside the top four, but subsequent results involving other rivals means they are still very much in contention for a Champions League spot. Chelsea’s draw with Burnley helped the Blues go past Arsenal by just a point, albeit with Arsenal having a game in hand over their London rivals, setting up an intense run-in.
Wolves, on the other hand, are in a precarious situation with their season, as a series of poor results, coupled with their elimination from the FA Cup has threatened to end their season on a sour note. Nuno Espirito Santo will be hoping for a quick response from his side and will want his team to show the character they have shown time and again this season against the ‘Big Six’ sides at the Molineux.
Additionally, Wolves are aiming to become only the third promoted side top beat at least four of the ‘Big Six’ sides in a single campaign, having already secured wins over Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham this season. With a victory, they can ensure they are very much in the hunt to finish seventh and possibly make it to the Europa League qualifiers next season.
Team News & Tactics
Nuno Espirito Santo will be grateful for having a clean bill of health at a time when the fixtures are piling up. The availability of most of his players will help the Wolves boss rotate his team if necessary, but the Portuguese manager is not known to tinker too much with his team.
There might still be a few changes around in the lineup. Morgan Gibbs-White who started against Brighton at the weekend, may be replaced by Leander Dendoncker in midfield. Roman Saiss is also in contention to get named in the starting lineup.
There definitely is a place in the lineup for Raul Jimenez, who has been directly involved in seven goals in 10 games against ‘Big Six’ opponents this season, scoring four and assisting three. Nuno will go with his trademark formation with a back-three, and with Dendoncker returning, he could line up alongside Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho in midfield. Upfront with Jimenez, Diogo Jota is expected to start.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Jimenez, Jota
Unai Emery will be relieved at the news of Sokratis returning to Premier League action after what happened defensively in the last game against Palace. The Greek is most certainly expected to replace the error-stricken Shkodran Mustafi in the starting lineup. Emery will look to continue his defensive line of three at the back, with Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny the other players expected to start.
The Arsenal boss should bring back Ainsley Maitland-Niles, after his cameo against Palace. Alex Iwobi could start as well after making a positive impact off the bench in the last game. There could also be returns to the starting lineup for Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka. The manager will be hopeful for the Swiss midfielder, who missed out against Palace due to a knock.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan might come in handy for the Wolves game due to his work-rate off the ball and Emery could look to start him ahead of Mesut Ozil. A change of formation in attack is expected and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might find himself on the bench with Alexandre Lacazette preferred.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Leno; Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Mkhitaryan, Iwobi; Lacazette
- Wolves have never beaten Arsenal in the Premier League in nine previous attempts (D2 L7), the most number of times they have faced an opponent in the competition without being victorious.
- Arsenal haven’t lost against Wolves in any competition since September 1979 in a top-flight clash, winning 16 of the 20 meetings since (D4).
- Arsenal have won all four of their Premier League matches at Molineux. Only at the KCOM Stadium (5) do they have a better 100 per cent win rate at a particular ground in the competition.
- Wolves have already beaten Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham this season. Only two promoted sides have ever beaten at least four sides to finish that season in the top six in a single Premier League campaign – Sunderland in 1996-97 and Blackburn in 1992-93.
- Wolves are unbeaten in their last six Premier League home games (W4 D2). They last had a longer run without defeat in the top-flight between October 2003-January 2004, when Arsenal eventually ended their eight-game unbeaten streak at Molineux.
Player to Watch
Sokratis has had an impactful season at Arsenal so far, with the defender exemplifying at times what Emery’s defensive game at the club looks like. For the money spent on the former Borussia Dortmund star, he has thus far proved his worth and should continue doing so in the remaining games of the season.
Laurent Koscielny’s form and Nacho Monreal’s support in defence in recent games alongside Sokratis have been fruitful, but Shkodran Mustafi proved to be a catalyst for Arsenal’s downfall in the last game. Sokratis’ return should be helpful, and the defender himself should make this opportunity count by making himself an undisputed starter for the seasons to come.
Wolves 0-1 Arsenal
Are we about to witness an end of the season trend from Arsenal under Unai Emery, where the team is scrapping out victories in a way they did against Watford and Napoli in recent games? Most certainly, because Emery has hinted that Arsenal may look to grind out victories for a change. Wolves are a difficult opponent, but Arsenal might just scrap out a win here.
Wolves have displayed courage and strength when it comes to facing the top teams, although their recent faltering form is a reminder of what might happen against Arsenal. The Gunners have more to play for than their opponents and will undoubtedly look to win it in any way possible, considering away games are not their strong point. The Hard Tackle predicts a 1-0 win for Unai Emery & co.