Preview: Arsenal v Wolves – Mission Impossible?

Wolves correspondent Tim Spiers previews the clash.

Preamble

Arsenal away as about as tough as it gets right now for Wolves – not what you want on the back of three successive defeats.

Not only are the Gunners unbeaten in 14 in all competitions, the weight of history is seriously against Wolves too.

Arsenal are the only one of the top flight’s traditional big teams that Wolves haven’t beaten in their four-and-a-bit seasons in the Premier League. Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs – all defeated. But Wolves haven’t beaten Arsenal since 1979. That’s 19 matches ago.

Still, Nuno broke a few Wolves curses last season, like the winless November run, not winning at Middlesbrough for about 150 years, etc.

And Wolves have proved so far this season that they can compete with the big boys.

They took on Manchester City and earned a point (only Liverpool have also taken points off Man City this season) and did the same at Old Trafford.

Against Spurs, they created as many chances as the visitors and, again, definitely didn’t look out of place. They can certainly trouble Arsenal and in what’s likely to be an open game on a big pitch they can look to exploit the gaps that may be afforded to them.

One thing they could certainly do with achieving is scoring the first goal. Wolves made a lovely habit of scoring first last season but it’s a different story in the Premier League and they’ve failed to find the net in the first half since the opening day of the campaign.

Indeed, in the ‘first half’ table of the season, Wolves sit rock bottom having not yet led at the break. Arsenal haven’t either – so a draw at half time could be a decent bet.

Nuno will know, though, that Wolves need to sharpen up in both boxes. They made uncharacteristic defensive errors against Spurs, while goals at the other end have been a problem all season long, despite only four teams in the league having more shots than them.

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Helder Costa (11 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists) has been more guilty than most, but there have been signs he’s about to put together a match-winning display. Is Sunday the day?

If he, or Adama Traore, Ivan Cavaleiro or the fit-again Diogo Jota step up their game, Nuno can break another Wolves curse.

The opposition

Luke Hatfield spoke with four Arsenal writers/fans to get the lowdown on Unai Emery’s team.

Team news

Arsenal will be without Danny Welbeck and Stephan Lichtsteiner after both were forced off injured in Thursday’s draw with Sporting Lisbon.

Welbeck (ankle) is expected to be sidelined for some time after being taken to hospital following an awkward fall.

Mohamed Elneny (thigh) and Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin) are still missing, while Matteo Guendouzi is back in domestic contention after serving a one-match ban.

Nacho Monreal has returned to training after a hamstring problem.

Wolves have Diogo Jota available again after the forward missed last Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Spurs with a quad injury.

Nuno Espirito Santo has a fully fit squad to choose from.

Likely line ups

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Kolasinac; Torreira, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette.

Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Moutinho, Neves, Otto; Costa, Jimenez, Cavaleiro. Subs: Ruddy, Dendoncker, Vinagre, Gibbs-White, Jota, Traore, Bonatini.

Key players

Arsenal – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Clinical striker whose switch to a left forward position (with Lacazette as the central striker) hasn’t lessened his goalscoring threat. Since his debut in February the 29-year-old has a goals-to-shots percentage of 34 per cent, by far the best in the Premier League. Netted nine in 15 this season.

Wolves – Joao Moutinho

Wolves will need all of Joao Moutinho’s guile, nous and experience in midfield against top quality opponents. He’ll have to keep an eye on Arsenal’s free-flowing midfielders and forwards, while keeping possession wisely.

The bosses

Unai Emery: “We want to use the players that we think are right for each match. We think about Sunday’s game against Wolverhampton and continue to create our ideas. Some players need to take responsibility and confidence.”

Nuno Espirito Santo: “We are not in the best moment and we have to react to it. It’s going to be very tough for us. No matter what, perform well, do your tasks, try to play well and win.”

Form

Arsenal WDWDD

Nov 9: Arsenal 0 Sporting Lisbon 0 *Europa League

Nov 3: Arsenal 1 (Lacazette 82) Liverpool 1 (Milner 61)

Oct 31: Arsenal 2 (Lichtsteiner 33, Smith Rowe 50) Blackpool 1 (O’Connor 66) *Carabao Cup

Oct 28: Crystal Palace 2 (Milivojevic pen 45, pen 83) Arsenal 2 (Xhaka 51, Aubameyang 56)

Oct 25: Sporting Lisbon 0 Arsenal 1 (Welbeck 78) *Europa League

Wolves WWLLL

Nov 3: Wolves 2 (Neves pen 68, Jimenez pen 79) Spurs 3 (Lamela 27, Moura 30, Kane 61)

Oct 27: Brighton 1 (Murray 48) Wolves 0

Oct 20: Wolves 0 Watford 2 (Capoue 20, Pereyra 21)

Oct 6: Crystal Palace 0 Wolves 1 (Doherty, 56)

Sep 29: Wolves 2 (Cavaleiro 79, Otto 87) Southampton 0

Past five meetings

Apr 11, 2012 (PL): Wolves 0 Arsenal 3 (Van Persie pen 9, Walcott 11, Benayoun 69)

Dec 27, 2011 (PL): Arsenal 1 (Gervinho 8) Wolves 1 (Fletcher 38)

Feb 12, 2011 (PL): Arsenal 2 (Van Persie 16, 56) Wolves 0

Nov 10, 2010 (PL): Wolves 0 Arsenal 2 (Chamakh 1, 89)

Apr 3, 2010 (PL): Arsenal 1 (Bendtner 90) Wolves 0

Referee

Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)

The last time Wolves played at the Emirates, Stuart Attwell caused a bit of a furore when controversially sending off Nenad Milijas. Mick McCarthy took it well.

Attwell also sent off two Wolves players at Middlesbrough in April , but in fairness for the recent home fixture against Southampton he was pretty low key.

Match odds

Arsenal 8/13, draw 3/1, Wolves 4/1