After the bore draw and horror injury for Danny Welbeck, we face Wolverhampton Wanderers at home.
Wolves are a welcome addition to the Premier League, and despite not featuring much in the top division of late, they are a football club of some note. They’ve won the league three times (more times than Spurs incidentally), won several FA Cups, and even featured in a European final at one point. They’re not akin to the Man United, Liverpool, or Arsenal levels of club size, but they’re definitely not small. It would be interesting, given their new backing, to see if they can stay in the top division over the long haul, and they have the set-up and infrastructure to do this.
As for this game, Wolves have done well to be a top ten side currently. They have lost to Watford of late (another top ten teams), however, they won’t be pushovers here.
We have better players overall, no doubt. But I suspect their approach would be similar to Crystal Palace, in that they will look to physically dominate us and get in our faces. This worked somewhat for Palace since despite them playing well they only equalised via a last-minute penalty. However, they know they cannot outplay us, and there still is the narrative of us being soft – which is being slowly eradicated in my view.
However, if we can ride out the physicality and pressing they may bring, we can get a result.
The Sporting game was odd since the Welbz injury did have an impact. However, our attacking play in the final third was muted. But we should have Ozil back, and Bellerin can bring some good width and crossing. Lacazette should return and we know that he and Auba link up well.
Moreover, Torreira should return, as would Xhaka, and our defence is starting to gel somewhat. Sokratis should start again, though in this game I’d go with him and Holding, over Mustafi. Mustafi is an enigma, to say the least, and has done well this season, but Holding needs more game time and has a higher ceiling.
Manchester City and United will be playing and one of them will drop points. This is opportune to capitalise on, and we need the points ahead of the Scum and United games.
This will be my XI for the game, using the presumed 4231 formation of Emery:
It’s a cliché – albeit a true one – that there are no easy games in the Premier League. Wolves will, like Palace, Leicester, etc. will have a defined game plan, and it’s how we manage this which ultimately would be telling.
If I were Emery, I would be saying to either get an early goal, weather the early pressing/physical storm Wolves will bring, and use our better technicality and players to win. If we can blitz them early on, then fine, this is more than welcome. But the test of Emery is in some ways being anti-latter Wenger – in handling other sides’ strengths and exploiting their weaknesses. If we do score early, or get a couple in the first half, then Wolves would need to alter their game plan, and this could spell the end for them here. The chips are in our favour though, as we have more tactical tools at our disposal than they do.
I believe teams are starting to figure out that we’re not as soft a touch as before – or compared to latter Wenger. The plaudits Torreira is gaining are in part due to this, and I think teams are realising that we’re more tactically flexible than before too. So if we can out-physical – so to speak – Wolves and other teams, then it would be a positive sign and more proof that a new Arsenal is emerging.
PREDICTION – Arsenal 2-1 Wolves
I would like a clean sheet since our goals against column in the table is high vis a vis the other top sides. However, I think our emerging physicality and higher technical quality should see us through. Unfortunately, I feel we may concede, as the defensive structure is not still our strong point.
Either way, let’s win it for Welbz. Or better still, win the Europa League for Welbz. Or it would be fitting if he gets fit and scores the winner or the winning penalty in the final.