Match Preview: Arsenal vs Wolves, Gunners Look For Any Spark For League Campaign
Arsenal look set to resume to their Premier League with Wolves visiting the Emirates this weekend. The Gunners are desperate to jump start their misfiring campaign, while Wolves are looking to play pile on the rabbit by relegating Arsenal to another defeat.
A lot of the feel- good feeling that followed Arsenal at the close of the COVID-hit 2019/2020 season has evaporated with a small but vocal portion of supporters already calling for a managerial change. It’s a sign of the times that a club that gave patience to a manager who probably over-stayed their welcome, can’t find the patience for a manager to try and fix years-old rot.
What Arsenal suffer from is not the doing of Mikel Arteta. Yes, there are some issues relative to his stubbornness – but that is an issue with many managers. But the deep systemic issues Arsenal face, were not going to resolve themselves after winning an FA Cup and a COVID-stunted transfer window.
How Broken Are The Gunners?
What ails Arsenal is going to take time to fix. Because of COVID players that were likely to leave did not and players Arsenal needed, did not come in. The transformation many were hopeful pre-COVID was only partially done.
But its not all doom and gloom. The biggest area of concern for Arsenal pre-Arteta was the spine of this team and its defensive structure. In both cases Arsenal have significantly improved over both Wenger’s waning years and Emery’s full tenure.
Crabstats mentions that teams that typically finish in the top 4 on average conceded 40.9 goals per game. That equates to about 1.08 per match. Arsenal look favorable on that front with an average of 1.1 per match. Last season Arsenal conceded 1.26 goals per match and in Arsene Wenger’s last season they averaged 1.95 goals conceded per match
But it’s the goals that everyone wants to know about well, the averages for Arsenal’s attack are at best anemic.
Again, according to Crabstats, the average 4th place team scored around 70.3 goals per season or about. 1.85 goals per match. Sadly, for Arsenal they are average a nice round average of 1 goal per match. That is as much down to the current personnel as it is to the personnel they don’t have.
The absence of Mesut Özil in the squad and the inability to land a central attacking midfield player better suited to playing how Arteta prefers to play is hampering the chance creation for the Gunners. The issues aren’t just about through balls behind the opposition defenders. Its also about the ability to effectively transition the ball from back to front.
Once the deep lying player -whether its Partey or someone else gets the ball there is no link between him and the forwards. The gap is either too huge to play for Partey or its overrun with opposition defenders meaning the ball is forced wide where any chances created are reduced to low risk chances, making them easier to defend against.
When you watch today’s, game look for this. In Thursday’s Euorpa League tie, the midfield was set up differently and the team expressed itself better because they were able to effectively move the ball through all the opposition lines and thirds of the field.
It’s something Arteta addressed in the wake of the win over Molde and preparation for Wolves:
Well we try to encourage them to do that and to play with that freedom. It’s true as well that we have a lot of rotation in the team for many different reasons. For injuries, some of them for the performances. And obviously the challenges that we face is in the big teams that we faced already in the first nine games of the Premier League. That’s one thing that we have to improve obviously and we are trying to improve it.
The impetus for the “let’s go for it” attitude displayed on Thursday was having a different set up and different players who had a spark, like Reiss Nelson. Additionally, Pepe, played with a chip and was looking to get back in the good graces of the manager.
The fact remains however, that the puzzle, Edu, Arteta and club management are trying to pull together isn’t complete. Pieces are missing and this process we are going through is going to take time, more time than 10 months on the job and one pseudo transfer window can resolve.
Wolves are good team. We know that. They are well coached and have multiple threats in attack. But what I really like about them is their defensive structure and discipline. Manager, Nuno has his side well versed in the defensive block and forcing play wide – something we’ve recently seen Arsenal struggle with.
Typically, as the ball is forced wide, you seldom see the ball side CB push out wide, instead they opt to stay central and take the arriving player. As we’ve seen with Arsenal the result typically is a recycled ball, looking for other areas to penetrate making the opponent predictable.
In attack Nuno is looking for long balls to fast runners. In looking back at some of Wolves recent matches the passing combination of Boly to Jimenez was one of the most frequent passing connections the team made.
It does have a negative impact at times, as Wolves do have a tendency to struggle to progress the ball forward once Jimenez drops to get the ball from Boly as at times no one has filled the space Jimenez has vacated.
Still even with the issues that creates, Wolves have been effective in shutting opponents down and taking advantage with quick direct play. Something Arsenal will need to be cognizant of as they continue to look for an attacking spark.
Arsenal 2 – 1 Wolves
What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
“We know we have to be prepared to go against both situations, in the back three formation they have different options to play as well and they are threat in different areas, so we need to get prepared like we always do.
“[It is] a really tough game, they are one of the most organised teams in the league for sure.
“They have been together for a long time, they have shown in big games against big opponents how difficult they can make it so I am expecting a difficult game against a team that dominates almost every aspect of the game I would say. They know exactly what to do.”
Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League Only)
12 MP, 8W 3D 1L
Average Goals For
Arsenal: 1.00 (home)
Wolves: 0.75 (away)
Average Goals Conceded
Arsenal: 1.50 (home)
Wolves: 1.25 (away)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth official: David Coote
VAR: Andre Marriner
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal have only lost one of the past 23 meetings in all competitions.
- Wolves are winless in nine away league games against Arsenal since a 3-2 victory in September 1979.
- However, each of their last three visits to the Emirates has ended in a 1-1 draw, and only Manchester City currently have a longer unbeaten away league run against the Gunners.
- Arsenal have scored in 25 successive matches against Wolves in all competitions dating back to February 1979.
- Arsenal could lose three home league matches in a row without scoring for the first time since a run of four from November to December 1908.
- Mikel Arteta’s side have 13 points after nine matches. Their lowest points tally after 10 Premier League fixtures is 14, set in 1992-93 and 1994-95.
- The Gunners last lost more than four of their opening 10 league fixtures in 1983-84.
- They have failed to reach double figures for goals after nine matches of a league season for the first time in 34 years.