Wolves’ fight for a place in the promised land of the Champions League continues on Saturday evening as they welcome Arsenal to the Molineux. A win will keep Wolves firmly in the race for the top four but a loss will see Arsenal close the gap between the two teams to three points. The game kicks off at 5:30 pm and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.
Wolves have been on impressive form since the restart, winning all three of their games and not conceding a goal. The defence have been incredibly solid in each game which I think, in turn, has helped Rui Patricio’s performance. No, he hasn’t had a lot to do but overall he seems much more confident now. He is commanding, he is claiming balls in the area and his distribution has improved massively.
In their 1-0 win over Aston Villa last weekend, Nuno opted for a 3-5-2 bringing Leander Dendoncker in for Adama Traore. This was a great decision from Nuno as having three in the midfield basically nullified Villa and Dendoncker put in a great performance. Not only did he score the winning goal but he worked tirelessly all game helping out both in defence and going forward. Johnny was another stand out player who made so many great runs throughout the game to support in attack.
I think the main thing Wolves need to improve on for the next game is being clinical in front of goal. Diogo Jota had the chance to put Wolves ahead when Villa keeper Ørjan Nyland mistakenly threw the ball to him but he blazed it over the bar. They had their chances but it wasn’t until Traore’s introduction that Wolves were able to score. Since the restart Traore has played a part in every goal Wolves have scored. The skill he has to open teams up is incredible and he is a key asset to Wolves. I do think, however, that if he isn’t starting every game Wolves need to find other ways to break teams down too, rather than relying on him to come on and change the game. Throughout the game, Wolves had 11 shots with only two of those being on target and against a team like Arsenal, they need to make sure they take their chances.
Arsenal have played five games since the restart, four in the league and one in the FA Cup. They started off rocky, losing their first two games against Manchester City and Brighton, but they seem to have steadied the ship having won their last three. Their most recent outing was a comfortable 4-0 win over Norwich on Wednesday night.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the star of the show grabbing two goals and one assist. His tally of 19 goals so far for the season puts him level with Jamie Vardy at the top of the Premier League scorers chart. I think he will be going into this game full of confidence and hungry for more goals so he is definitely one to watch. On Wednesday, his goals came when he was able to capitalise on the mistakes made by Tim Krul and Josip Drmic so Wolves need to make sure they are compact and organised.
In an article for the Express & Star, Arsenal blogger Peter Wood spoke about some of the problems Arsenal have had. He said, “We’ve really struggled to maintain concentration over the course of a full 90 minutes, so we’ll have to hope whoever he starts can see a game through.” This could work in Wolves’ favour as typically their performance improves in the second half of matches, so if Arsenal’s concentration starts to dip Wolves could be deadly.
Wolves v Arsenal Team News
There are no injury concerns for Wolves who will be looking to maintain their 100% record since the restart. Considering that Arsenal’s form has improved and that Leander Dendoncker played well against Villa, I think Nuno may start in a 3-5-2 to remain tight and hard to break down. I do, however, think that with Traore on better form than Jota at the moment, we may seem him in the starting XI. I’m predicting a line-up of:
Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Johnny, Jimenez, Traore.
For Arsenal, Lucas Torreira is now fit and available for selection but they will still be without Pablo Mari, Bernd Leno, Gabriel Martinelli and Calum Chambers. Mesut Ozil is also still a doubt following back soreness.
Wolves v Arsenal Head to Head
In the last five meetings between the two clubs, Wolves have won one, lost one and drawn the other three. Overall, there have been 115 meetings between the two sides. Arsenal have the better record winning 57 compared to Wolves’ 30, with the other 28 games ending in draws.
The last time Wolves faced Arsenal was at the Emirates back in November where the points were shared in a 1-1 draw. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring against the run of play in the 21st minute but Wolves, who looked the better team throughout, pulled themselves level after Raul Jimenez headed home Joao Moutinho’s cross in the second half. The Gunners were under the managerial influence of Unai Emery last time whereas this time they’ll be led by Mikel Arteta.
Wolves have had a week to prepare for this match whereas Arsenal have only had a couple of days. Keeping this in mind and the fact that Arsenal have only won three of their 16 top-flight away fixtures this season, I think Wolves have the upper hand.
Arsenal, in my opinion, will not sit back and give Wolves possession, they will be prepared to come at the defence and pounce on any errors. With this in mind I think the key to success in this game for Wolves will be to remain compact and to make sure they start the game strong, unlike in previous games where their first-half performances have been slightly lacklustre.
Speaking on Wolves’ defence, as reported by Arsenal, Mikel Arteta said:
“I think a lot of teams have struggled to create anything against them. They are really, really strong defensively, very well structured, very little spaces to attack. We have a plan to try to help them, with the right players in the right spaces to try to create the chances that we need to win the game.”
I think that Arsenal could get on the scoresheet as they have some talented forwards but ultimately I think Wolves win 2-1.