Wolves vs Arsenal: Premier League Preview and Prediction
The race for European spots intensifies in the Premier League as Arsenal are set to face an in-form Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux.
Wolves, who are unbeaten in six games across all competitions are in for a tough game against an Arsenal side that has looked better since the two consecutive losses to Manchester City and Brighton.
Sixth-placed Wolves are only six points ahead of eighth-placed Arsenal and this game is likely to play a major role in determining the European spots for the Premier League. A win in this game will also help Wolves leapfrog both Manchester United and Chelsea to the fourth spot.
Nuno Espirito Santo's men have remained undefeated for eight consecutive Premier League games and have won five of their last six. Their last loss in the competition was a 1-2 loss at the Molineux in January 2020 to champions Liverpool.
An even more incredible stat is that they have not conceded for 405 minutes running in the league. The last time Rui Patricio had to pick out the ball from his net was in March when Wolves defeated Tottenham, 3-2. During midweek Premier League action, Wolves overcame Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park.
Arsenal have won their last three games across all competitions – two in the Premier League and one in the FA Cup.
Mikel Arteta’s men have been steadily improving since the listless showing against Brighton. They defeated Southampton, followed by Sheffield United in the FA Cup quarterfinals. The Gunners looked good value in midweek action as well, putting four past relegation candidates Norwich City.
Head to Head
Ever since Wolves’ promotion to the top flight in the 2018-19 season, the Gunners have drawn a blank against Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
Wolves are unbeaten in their last three meetings against Arsenal, winning one and drawing two. The reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium earlier this season ended in a 1-1 stalemate for both sides.
Striker Raul Jimenez was the hero for Espirito Santo’s side, cancelling out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opener.
Wolves enter this game boasting of a fully fit squad.
Arsenal, however, have quite a few players on the sidelines.
Bernd Leno was injured after a mindless challenge by Neal Maupay in the game against Brighton. The German could be back in training in a couple of weeks. Emiliano Martinez has been a capable cover so far in goal.
Gabriel Martinelli is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery. The Brazilian also extended his contract with the Gunners this week, following Bukayo Saka’s footsteps.
Calum Chambers and Mesut Ozil will also not be taking part in the game but Lucas Torreira has returned to the squad.
Raul Jimenez vs David Luiz
Mexican forward Jimenez was on the scoresheet the last time Wolves faced Arsenal. Looking at his output this season, one can expect him to trouble the Gunners again.
The former SL Benfica man’s link-up play with his teammates and poaching skills make him a terrifying prospect for defenders. He can latch on to and convert any opportunity that comes his way which makes committing defensive errors a major problem.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, errors are synonymous with David Luiz who has had an atrocious campaign so far. His pathetic display against Manchester City could well rank as one of the worst defensive performances in Premier League history.
Luiz has looked more comfortable in the three-at-the-back system that Arteta is currently implementing as it provides cover for the Brazilian. Still, he did face a struggling Sheffield and Norwich. Wolves come with much higher quality and it will be interesting to see if Luiz can match up to Jimenez and co.
Willy Boly vs Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Aubameyang became the fastest Arsenal player to score 50 goals for the club with his strikes against Norwich this week.
He will be looking to reach another milestone as a goal would make him only the second Arsenal player behind Thierry Henry to score 20 goals in consecutive Premier League seasons.
The Gabonese forward is a major threat while drifting in from the left wing and Espirito Santo will entrust Willy Boly with the task of keeping Auba quiet.
Boly has been a solid operator for Wolves and is one of the main reasons why they have been so miserly at the back. Aubameyang scored against them at the Emirates Stadium but Boly did not play that game. The Frenchman might prove to be the difference maker in this one.
Ruben Neves vs Granit Xhaka
At the heart of Arteta’s revival plans for Arsenal lies Granit Xhaka. The Swiss midfielder endured a torrid time under Unai Emery which resulted in that infamous outburst against Arsenal fans in the Crystal Palace game.
Under Arteta, the former Borussia Monchengladbach man has slowly regained his place in the Arsenal lineup and has finally become a reliable performer. He has been pulling the strings from midfield and adds much needed composure for the Gunners in the middle – evident in the loss to City as his injury and subsequent substitution left Arsenal in disarray. Xhaka also found the net in Arsenal’s last win over Norwich.
Xhaka is in for a tough night as Ruben Neves is bound to harangue him. The Portuguese midfielder excels at reducing passing spaces and stopping the opposition’s flow in midfield. Xhaka is error-prone and Neves will be looking to induce him into committing careless mistakes.
A year ago, Arsenal would have been heavily tipped to win this game.
The Emery mismanagement and current rebuilding phase, combined with Wolves’ stratospheric improvement, makes the hosts the favorites for this game.
Both sides will be playing three-at-the-back but Wolves’ defense is far better than that of Arsenal. The Gunners definitely have a stronger offensive setup but Wolves’ forward line is nothing to sleep on as well. They are experts in tiring their opponents out and then taking them down like a pack of hungry wolves.
I expect Espirito Santo to mastermind another win over Arsenal, with the winning goal coming late in the second half. Wolves’ clean sheet run, however, is likely to end this time out.
Predicted scoreline: Wolves 2-1 Arsenal