Arsenal are currently third in the table, two points above Spurs and Newcastle, and have four more than Chelsea with a game in hand. That is the game against Wolves at Molineux. Winning this match could give the Gunners a five point cushion with just as many games to go. With still some tricky fixtures to come in the run-in Wenger’s team could benefit from some breathing room.
However, looking at it that way inherently implies this game is not tricky and three points are to be expected. It would be foolhardy for anyone in the Arsenal camp to take a win for granted. The hosts are fighting a relegation battle, and even if looks increasing bleak for them with every passing week, one must not underestimate their battling instincts. And how can anyone forget the 1-1 draw at the Emirates between the teams earlier in the season.
In that fixture Arsenal had over 70 percent possession and had 11 shots on target out of the attempted 27. The inconsistent Hennessey was on top form. At the other end Wolves scored with their only shot on target. This can happen again, anytime. That gives hope to teams who strive to avoid the drop. Fighting for 90 minutes gives them a chance. With a bit of luck they can get a point or three.
This game is, therefore, more likely to be about duels and work rate rather than inventive tactics or slick football. Wolves will have to rely on their organization, discipline, and effort. The areas of the pitch where they choose to do so will be interesting to watch. Last season McCarthy’s side were able to pin Arsenal back for periods of the game but they no longer have him as the manager and don’t look like the same side. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to doubt their abilities.
Vermaelen was talking about the importance of the collective shape while defending,
It’s about the organisation of the team. It’s not just about the defenders who defend, it’s the whole shape of the team. That’s really good at the moment…
The same has to continue. We saw the impact of a drop in concentration at QPR. And it will most definitely be repeated if the performance/concentration/determination levels drop. Song and Arteta will again have a vital role to play in front of the defence not only with their movement and reading of the game, but also with their ability to retain the ball and absorb pressure.
The midfield duo’s role will take on greater significance given Koscielny’s forced absence through suspension. Djourou is a good replacement but is inconsistent and hasn’t played regularly in recent weeks. He could be caught out if exposed. One key aspect of solid defences is the inherent depth that prevents a single error from proving fatal. Arsenal will have to show they have this by covering for each other.
Wolves have some quality in the wide areas and, with Gibbs missing due to injury, Santos could have a tough time on the left in his first start since his injury last year. Wenger will probably be tempted to pick Benayoun to provide some support to the Brazilian.
It will be a challenge for Yossi who’s looked good in certain games but is another one who hasn’t quite demonstrated the kind of consistency demanded at this level. On occasion the Israeli has drifted in and out games but did well in a conservative role against City last Sunday. He could do more of the same in this one but one gets the feeling Arsenal will need some of his attacking/dribbling skills in and around the opposition box for greater penetration.
I am also of the opinion that this would be a good game to give Walcott a breather and bring Oxlade-Chamberlain in. The youngster hasn’t started since the home win over Newcastle while Theo has been playing constantly. It could help both but somehow I doubt Arsene will make many alterations to a winning combination as there is definitely an element of risk involved with too many changes.
Szczesny – Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen, Santos – Song, Rosicky, Arteta – AOC, RvP, Benayoun
Wolves are on a 6 game losing streak and have been winless for 8. I don’t like saying this but even such streaks have to come to an end. They’ve already forced a draw at the Emirates and will believe they can do the same or more at home. More than tactics or personnel, this one could boil down to who wants it more.Follow @goonerdesi