Top-four challengers Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal renew hostilities at Molineux for Thursday evening’s Premier League encounter after the winter break.
Bruno Lage’s men were dumped out of the FA Cup by Norwich City at the weekend, while the Gunners have not been in action since being held to a goalless stalemate by Burnley.
With no more Adama Traore producing his trademark bursting runs down the right wing, Wolves lacked a great deal of attacking bite at home to Norwich in the fourth round of the FA Cup and crashed out of the tournament in front of their own fans.
Kenny McLean’s header on the stroke of half time was enough for the Canaries to break down this stubborn Wolves backline and advance to the fifth round, as Lage’s men attempt to regroup and boost their European chances in the Premier League at the expense of Arsenal’s.
Defeat to Norwich ended a four-game winning streak in all tournaments for Lage’s side, who enter the contest having won each of their last three in the Premier League – a hot streak that has seen them establish themselves in eighth position – four points off the Champions League spots with a game in hand.
For a side with a realistic shot of making the top four, boasting the third-worst goals tally of 19 pinpoints where Wolves’ downfall may lie, but only Manchester City (14) have shipped fewer goals than the Molineux outfit (16) this term.
Furthermore, only eight of Wolves’ Premier League goals this season have come at Molineux – where they have won just one of their last four in the league – but Arsenal’s lack of attacking inspiration is often well-documented.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta on January 23, 2022© Reuters
Arsenal fans were experiencing a sense of Mesut Ozil Deja vu during the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Barcelona saga – another £300k+ per week player ostracized from the team and allowed to leave for Barcelona for nothing after a big-money arrival.
While many will point to the 32-year-old’s lack of contributions this term, others will focus on a lack of January activity to negate the loss of Aubameyang, with soon-to-be free agents Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah now Mikel Arteta’s only two central options for the remainder of the season.
Failure to land Dusan Vlahovic, Alexander Isak or Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not gone down well with Gooners – especially after they were held to a goalless draw by Burnley before the international break – making it five games without a win and four without a goal in all tournaments.
The Gunners only have the top four left to fight for now and enter Thursday’s game lying sixth in the table and within touching distance of Manchester United – who have played a game more – so the onus is on their depleted attack to deliver the goods if a return to the promised land of the Champions League awaits them.
Arsenal do at least travel to Wolves on a two-game winning streak away from home in the Premier League, but the away crowd will need no reminding of last season’s Molineux catastrophe, as red cards to Bernd Leno and David Luiz contributed to a 2-1 loss after defeat by the same scoreline at the Emirates Stadium earlier that year.