Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Sunday’s Premier League clash between Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Gunners have gone nine matches without defeat in the top flight, but back-to-back draws has seen them drop down to fifth place in what is shaping up to be another tight battle for a Champions League berth.
Arsenal stretchered their unbeaten run in all competitions to 15 matches on Thursday evening with a bland goalless draw against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League – a game overshadowed by a nasty injury sustained by Danny Welbeck.
Unai Emery also lost Stephan Lichsteiner to injury in that Group E clash, taking the shine off what was a good enough result to send his side through to the last 32 of the competition with minimal fuss.
Top spot is still up for grabs in the remaining two matches, but between now and February all focus can turn to the domestic stage, where Arsenal are battling strong in the Premier League and EFL Cup, while the FA Cup will get up and running in two months’ time.
If bettering last term’s sixth-placed finish under Arsene Wenger in the league is Emery’s immediate priority, challenging for silverware in one of those three other competitions will also be high on the agenda.
Even with three draws in their last four matches, the only win in that sequence coming against lower-league side Blackpool in the EFL Cup last 16, there is a real feel-good factor around the red half of North London thanks to the work of Emery since succeeding Wenger during the summer.
A return to winning ways this weekend will ensure that Arsenal are on their best unbeaten league run since December 2016, though the sceptics will point out that they have lost to Manchester City and Chelsea, while also drawing with Liverpool, in their only major Premier League tests to date.
That is something that Emery admits he is working on, but seeing off mid-table opposition such as Wolves is not something that exactly came easy during Wenger’s final couple of seasons.
Ahead of a tough December that sees Arsenal face neighbours Tottenham Hotspur in league and cup, as well as Manchester United and Liverpool at either end of the month, Emery will be keen to put three more points on the board to keep this steady momentum building.
Recent form in Premier League: WWWWDD
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWDD
Wolves may have put up a real fight in going down 3-2 to Tottenham last weekend, but they ultimately left themselves with two much to do – falling three goals down with an hour played – and are now without a point in three matches.
Their current three-match losing run is in stark contrast to the results that preceded it, as they were on a six-match unbeaten run prior to losing to Watford, Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham.
Nuno Espirito Santo even guided his side to impressive draws against the Manchester giants, but for the first time since taking charge of the Molineux club in May 2017, the Portuguese is tasked with steadying the ship somewhat.
Wolves named the same starting lineup for eight matches running at the beginning of the campaign to set a Premier League record, but the first of their three losses – 2-0 to Watford on October 20 – forced Nuno into a rethink.
Fifteen points from a possible 24 has since become none from three, and up next is what has statistically been Wanderers’ toughest fixture in recent times.
The West Midlands outfit have gone more games without a Premier League win against Arsenal than any other opponents, with their last triumph coming nine matches ago. All three of their goals in that time, meanwhile, have come via corners.
Wolves have also won none of their last 25 Prem matches against sides who started the day in the top half of the division; the loss to Tottenham last weekend their 15th defeat against a top-10 side during this ongoing run.
The good news for Nuno is that his side have all four members of the bottom four to face up to and including Boxing Day. As the results against Man City and Man United proved, too, Wanderers should not be written off ahead of Sunday’s trip to the capital.
Recent form in Premier League: DWWLLL
Recent form (all competitions): LWWLLL
Emery confirmed after the Sporting stalemate that Welbeck suffered a suspected broken ankle, potentially ruling him out for the rest of the season, while Lichsteiner is also facing a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
Nacho Monreal could return after a month out, but it is more likely that Sead Kolasinac will again be tasked with filling in at left-back, giving the Spaniard a further two weeks to regain his fitness.
Another player back in contention is Matteo Guendouzi, who played a full part in midweek after sitting out the Liverpool draw through suspension, while Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey will be pushing for recalls from that last league outing.
Up top, Alexandre Lacazette has been directly involved in 16 goals in his 18 Premier League starts at the Emirates Stadium, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored five goals and assisted two more in five top-flight appearances against newly promoted sides.
In terms of the visitors, Diogo Jota remains a doubt after sitting out the defeat to Spurs last weekend, but Nuno otherwise has a full squad to choose from.
The performance of Morgan Gibbs-White from the bench was highly praised and the England Under-19s international may be rewarded with a first start in the top flight.
Despite Adama Traore also pushing for selection and Jota potentially being back involved, Nuno is expected to stick with the same XI that pushed Spurs all the way.
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Kolasinac; Torreira, Xhaka; Iwobi, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Wolverhampton Wanderers possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny; Costa, Jimenez, Cavaleiro
Head To Head
Wolves have avoided defeat in just one of their eight previous Premier League encounters with Arsenal, though that came in their most recent trip to the Emirates Stadium in December 2011 – a 1-1 under under Mick McCarthy.
In fact, the Gunners have not so much as trailed for a single minute in eight Prem games against Wanderers. Only one team has ever played more games against an opponent without falling behind – Chelsea vs. Portsmouth (14 matches).
Furthermore, Arsenal have claimed 59 points from the last 63 available at home to newly-promoted sides, stretching back to a 1-0 loss at the hands of Newcastle United in November 2010.
We say: Arsenal 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Last week’s point at home to Liverpool may be considered a positive result for Arsenal, but they need to get back to winning ways if they are to keep pace with the top four. Wolves have dropped off over the past few weeks, meanwhile, and this is not the type of match that Nuno would have wanted ahead of the two-week break.