Arsenal face Wolves in another Premier League clash on Saturday, looking to keep their recent winning run going against a tough opponent.
Wolves have had a near-flawless return to the pitch since the football shutdown. They’ve won three in three, scoring four times and not conceding once. The only real negative was that they were facing such weak opponents – 16th, 19th and 18th.
Still, Arsenal can’t really talk about that when they lost to relegation-threatened Brighton a couple of weeks ago. Anyone can beat anyone, as usual, so it’s a testament to Wolves’ strength that they haven’t slipped up so far.
Since that game against Brighton, Arsenal are on a good run. They won away to Southampton, eliminated Sheffield United from the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage and thrashed Norwich City at home.
So we have two teams in good form with a six-point gap between them in the table (Wolves in sixth, Arsenal in eighth). Let’s have a look at the team we predict Mikel Arteta to pick to try and close that gap.
Emi Martinez will continue his run in the team, after two clean sheets and just one goal conceded in the last three games. Matt Macey should make the bench as usual. Bernd Leno is around four weeks away from fitness.
Shkodran Mustafi came off at half-time against Norwich, and Arsenal initially claimed they had no injuries from the match. However, Mikel Arteta then said they had a ‘few issues’ for unnamed players afterwards.
It’s very possible Mustafi was one of these players, and Arsenal are just trying to keep it quiet ahead of the game. That would leave David Luiz, Rob Holding, Sead Kolasinac and Sokratis Papastathopoulos available.
Whether through fitness issues or some other problem he has with him, Arteta seems reluctant to give Sokratis games. Perhaps this has something to do with the centre-back’s public declaration that he could leave this summer.
With Pablo Mari out, Arteta appears to like Kolasinac as the left-footed centre-back to fill his spot. Alongside him, I’m predicted Holding and Luiz.
Midfield and Wing-Backs
Cedric Soares made a great case for himself in the cameo appearance against Norwich on Wednesday, possibly enough to earn him his first start for Arsenal. Hector Bellerin hasn’t been on top form lately anyway.
Kieran Tierney is in great form, but I’d expect Arsenal to be wary of overplaying him. Given his recent injury record, that’s a genuine concern. With Kolasinac in the back-three, Bukayo Saka is the logical replacement at left-wing-back.
Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos will probably continue their run of games together in the middle. Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Özil will probably miss out on the squad completely. Lucas Torreira is back, but unlikely to go straight into the starting lineup.
The only real contender for a start is Joe Willock. It’s not impossible, it’s just hard to see Arteta dropping Xhaka or Ceballos right now.
After they dropped to the bench for rests before coming on as substitutes against Norwich City, I’d expect Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe to make the starting lineup against Wolves.
Nketiah is in better form than Lacazette, showing as much even in his cameo on Wednesday. Pepe is also on the back of two goals in his last three starts.
It’s hard to look past Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the left after his two goals and an assist on Wednesday. Particularly if Saka is playing at wing-back.