Top four aspirants Wolves are ready to welcome a well-rested Arsenal side to the Molineux, with both sides eager to improve on recent results and form.
Wolves are in the conversation for a top-four finish as they sit just six points off fourth-placed West Ham United, while having three games in hand over the Hammers.
Although it is a little optimistic to think the Midlands club could make it to Champions League places, they can still target a realistic Europa League spot. Considering their performances last season and the start of this term, Bruno Lage has done an incredible job to glue the team together and produce results.
Wolves are unbeaten in their last five Premier League games, and Lage will be eager to carry this momentum forward. Moreover, the manager will be looking at ways to bounce back from a disappointing exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Norwich City.
Visitors Arsenal will be eager to get back on the pitch and put a wretched January behind them. In the five matches that the Gunners played last month, they scored just one goal and won none of their games, ending with a disappointing draw against Burnley at home. Moreover, fans are still baffled at their decision to not sign any players in the window while allowing plenty to leave, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
However, with a trimmed squad to Arteta’s liking and a revitalising trip to Dubai, Arsenal seem well-rested and ready to resume the business end of the season. Without any distraction from cup competition or European football, the Gunners have only 17 games to focus on and achieve their goal of Champions League football next season.
Arsenal spurned the chance to decrease the gap to the fourth and fifth placed sides in their recent goalless draw against Burnley. However, Manchester United’s draw with the Clarets will allow Arsenal to go above them on goal difference with a win over Wolves. The Gunners also have a game in hand over Manchester United and two games in hand over West Ham after this matchday.
Team News & Tactics
The Midlands club have a few confirmed absentees in Yerson Mosquera, Pedro Neto, Jonny and Willy Boly. The manager will hope to have Romain Saiss and Hwang Hee-chan fit for the clash, though the latter is quite unlikely to make it in time for the game on Thursday.
Goalscorer turn shotstopper.
— Wolves (@Wolves) February 9, 2022
It remains to be seen what Adama Traore’s departure does to the formation. Lage could certainly field a front three with Trincao in the attack or focus on adding a third central midfielder in Leander Dendoncker. The manager could also bring Marcal back at left wing-back and replace Rayan Ait Nouri, who played against Norwich.
Against a stout Arsenal defence, Lage will feel a two-man midfield should be enough and may start Trincao in the attack. If Saiss is available, the Morrocan will partner Conor Coady and Max Kilman in central defence, with Jose Sa guarding the goal.
Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho are the likeliest candidates to marshall central midfield, with Marcal and Nelson Semedo playing as wing-backs. Trincao, if available and fit to play, will partner Raul Jimenez and Daniel Podence in a potent looking front three for Wolves.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3) – Sa; Saiss, Coady, Kilman; Semedo, Neves, Moutinho, Marcal; Trincao, Jiminez, Podence
A well-rested Arsenal side will provide Mikel Arteta with the best available options for the Wolves clash. The manager is likely to stick with his regular starters, although slight changes could be made to the Spaniard’s usual lineup. With players leaving in January, the Gunners have a lean squad for the rest of the season.
Working for Wolves 💪
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) February 9, 2022
Mohamed Elneny is the only confirmed absentee after returning on Tuesday from his AFCON journey, which ended in a penalty-shoot defeat to Senegal in the final of the competition. Nicolas Pepe, who returned early from the continental competition and joined the squad in Dubai, is available, although he could find himself on the bench.
The big issue for Arteta would be the fitness of key defender Takehiro Tomiyasu. The Japan international suffered a recurrence of a calf problem during the Carabao Cup clash with Liverpool, where he was half-fit. The Gunners boss did not explicitly rule him out, suggesting the right-back was back in full training.
With a late assessment planned with Tomiyasu, there is a good chance for Cedric Soares to start this game. Soares has been fully fit in recent weeks and is looking sharp in Arsenal’s social media videos. Alternatively, Arteta could start Ben White at right-back, although it would disrupt the build-up play from the back.
The good news for Arsenal would be the return of Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey from their suspensions following recent red cards. The pair will certainly start in central midfield. With Elneny potentially absent, Albert Sambi Lokonga will be the backup on the bench.
Bukayo Saka is the sure starter from the right side of attack, while Martin Odegaard will pull the strings from an advanced midfield role. Arteta confirmed that Alexandre Lacazette would captain the side for the rest of the season, so the Frenchman will likely lead the line, with Gabriel Martinelli charging from the left. Emile Smith-Rowe, Pepe and Eddie Nketiah are options from the bench.
Probable lineup (4-2-3-1) – Ramsdale; Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Lacazette
- Wolves have scored more goals in their last two games (5) than they managed in the previous nine (3) in the Premier League.
- Only Burnley and Norwich have scored fewer goals than Wolves this season in the Premier League.
- Wolves have won their last 3 games in the Premier League.
- This season, Arsenal and Wolves are yet to concede a goal from a corner in the Premier League.
- Arsenal have won just one of their last 6 games against Wolves in the Premier League.
Player To Watch
There were no doubts about his ability ever since the Brazilian signed with Arsenal, although this is the season in which Martinelli is producing consistent performances. Since being given a chance midway through the campaign, the youngster has not looked back, making the left attacking role his own.
A scintillating December and a half-decent January were enough for Martinelli to take home the club’s player of the month awards. He now has to keep his momentum for Arsenal going. Against Wolves, he should be the player in focus, as he looks to help the Gunners claim all three points.
Wolves 1-1 Arsenal
Wolves’ clash with Arsenal could prove to be a dull affair, judging by the form of the two teams and their records so far this term. Although both sides are capable of producing an entertaining display, they do prefer to remain organised, which could lead to a cagey affair.
While Wolves may have had a positive run of results in January, the FA Cup exit is surely a setback they will look to bounce back from. Although both teams have the ability to collect all three points, the expectation here is for a 1-1 draw.