Arsenal host Wolves in the Premier League on Sunday.
It’s like being in emotional limbo. Pleased to see the team click well in that second half against Molde, play with some freedom and score three goals must then, obviously, mean Arsenal will win on Sunday, right?
If only it were that simple.
This damn thing known as belief that Arsenal supporters get far too wound up in is a cruel mistress. Drawing you in with moments to savour and the club’s Twitter being chock-a-block with smiling players, huge and kisses is inevitably just one big hustle to crush our spirits on the weekend and leave us going to bed sulking.
Had Sunday’s visitors been an easier affair, on paper at least, then this optimism may well carry on for good reason. Shame it’s Wolves, then?
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Nuno Espirito Santo’s side’s form has been indifferent this season, winning four and losing three of their nine matches, but goodness gracious me, have they been dull.
Last season their system was more refreshing. The explosiveness of Adama Traore, the string pulling of Joao Moutinho and the bombarding runs of Matt Doherty added some glitz to what was undeniably a defensive setup. This season, they seek to suck the life out of football and win games on fine margins. Sounds somewhat familiar.
Whoever comes to north London this weekend, the aim remains the same. It’s win or bust. If Arsenal play out of their skin and are undone by diabolical referring then so be it, but it does nothing for the league table. Arsenal simply must secure three points.
Here is your preview ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash.
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There were no major casualties from the midweek win over Molde barring the half-time withdrawal of David Luiz, although Mikel Arteta has allayed fears of the issue being serious.
Bukayo Saka could be available for selection after suffering a deal leg against Leeds, although it’s doubtful, while both Sead Kolasinac and Mohamed Elneny are also back fit having been absent from the last two fixtures after contracting COVID-19.
Calum Chambers could make his first Premier League squad of the season after recovering from his cruciate ligament rupture, while Pablo Mari is edging ever closer to his own comeback.
Further grey areas for Arsenal involve Willian and Thomas Partey. Both missed the Molde clash through injury, although the length of their absences remains unknown. The Ghanaian’s return is the pivotal one, as him being fit constitutes an immediate place in the starting lineup.
As for Wolves, Jonny Otto is the only significant absentee for the visitors as he recovers from a long-term knee injury, with Santo boasting a near fully fit squad for the weekend.
Arsenal: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Ceballos, Elneny, Willock, Willian, Aubameyang, Nelson
Wolves: Rui Patricio; Boly, Coady, Kilman; Semedo, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Aït-Nouri; Jimenez, Podence
Arsenal vs Wolves Score Prediction
For a team who are very reserved in their approach, Wolves boast players who can cause damage. Raul Jimenez is a lethal, clinical striker, while the trickery and dexterity of Daniel Podence is a prospect few defenders relish.
Where the game will be decided on Sunday is Arsenal’s dealing of transitions. Wolves break with pace from wing-back and regardless of whether one or both of Podence or Adama Traore play, their threat from counter-attacks is frightening.
Of course, Arsenal will still need to break down the five-man defence, a proposition which is made immensely harder with the expected absences of Saka and Partey.
Despite that, we will carve out chances. Perhaps not many, and there is little evidence to suggest that this will be the case, but even in tight affairs where Arsenal couldn’t find the barn door let alone hit it with a banjo, something tells me the opportunities will come.
Finding openings does not, however, constitute victory. A game with two sides who combined have scored 18 goals in 18 games, and have conceded a combined 20 in 18 games, means all signs point towards this being somewhat drab.
Which is why there will be goals…obviously. Goals that, unfortunately, could well be split. As they have been in the previous three matches between the two at the Emirates.
Score Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Wolves