Pre-Match Preview: Arsenal v Wolverhampton

Arsenal will be hoping for nothing less than a win against Wolves, but can the Walking Wounded Gunner’s
overcome Wolves despite a plethora of key injuries?

Approaching this game, no words seem more advisable than these – take nothing for granted. Too many teams have been lining up against Wolves in recent weeks with the attitude that the points are in the bag. Realistically, nothing could be further from the truth, and the last thing any of us want to see is an air of over-confidence for this game. Wolves come into this game in excellent form, with 8 points out of a possible 12. They have the bit between their teeth and are on the front foot in a difficult struggle to stay up; a struggle which they will be doing everything possible not to have derailed by a heavy defeat to the Gunners. On the other hand, Arsenal’s current morale is in a state of ambiguity; what was an essentially negative result versus Barcelona seems to have actually instilled a great deal of pride and hope in the side, as they showed grit and courage to salvage a draw and give themselves a sniff in the Champions League. However, this match is similar to last week’s against Birmingham, and should equally not be taken for granted. Home advantage at the Emirates will definitely go some ways to assisting us in ascertaining an essential three points, but it likely won’t be easy unless we are very sharp on the night.

Another key consideration is that we try and avoid any further injuries. Obviously, what some knocks are unavoidable, but at the moment our squad is stretched so thin that any further setbacks to the personnel is truly putting the rest of our season in serious jeopardy. Still missing van Persie and Gallas, arguably our two other best players, Fabregas and Arshavin, our now also certain to miss this game. Serious clouds of doubt remain over Clichy, Denilson and Abou Diaby, too.

We will be looking for excellent games from Nasri and Rosicky to cover for the injuries to our creative powerhouses. Rosicky should be fresh and capable of filling in for Arshavin, whilst Nasri has been coming on as a footballer in leaps and bounds, and the central playmaker role is tailor made for him. Everybody should be crossing their fingers that Clichy is fit, as we may need to employ Eboue on the Left Flank if he is not; I would rather that than Mikael Silvestre. Eboue is not unproven in that position, and filled in for Clichy a couple of seasons ago and did very well.

This may be a good game to bring Vela back into the fray in place of Arshavin, too. Vela has been nothing but a bit-part player due to injuries this season, and with has agility and pace, he can dominate the Wolves right flank. I watched him decimate New Zealand’s defence in a match for Mexico a few weeks ago, and he simply shattered them down the left side of the pitch with his sharp finishing and close dribbling; excellent balance too, not dissimilar to Arshavin.

Arsenal Game Plan:

Keeping the ball in possession and not rushing things will be important. There is nothing wrong with playing it all the way back to the centre-backs and starting again if necessary. With our pace and movement, I doubt it will take long before we start to see our men getting in behind Wolves, so as long as we are patient we should be okay. Bendtner needs to stay central, or perhaps Wenger might even consider playing Eduardo, though I doubt it. Either we, Bendtner needs to set up and start performing because his finishing is way below par, and he is not performing good enough at the moment, although he has chipped in with some handy assist in recent games. He needs to be braver when he attacks the cross, and attack them from deeper, rather than being flat-footed.

Key Men Watch – Arsenal: The little French maestro Samir Nasri is certain to be critical to our success in this game. He has shown a great deal of ability in recent weeks, and is really finding his feet; some of his goals have been like watching our own little Messi (vs Porto, Birmingham.) He has good pace, fantastic balance, and a great eye for goal. He’s sure to be pulling the strings in midfield; he will certainly be involved in the result, whether it is through assist or goals. As well as Nasri, I think Eboue should start this game, as he can play a key role. The combination of Walcott and Eboue on the right is a devastating one, and the Ivorian Right Back is always a menace to opposition defences; he is unpredictable, lightning quick, and has great skill on the ball. He always seems to pop up in the right place to give a final pass, too.

Team and Formation:

My line-up would look like this, and is pretty predictable, really. Nothing drastic.

—————————–Almunia

Eboue———-Campbell————Vermaelen————–Clichy

——————————-Song
——————————————Rosicky
——————Nasri

——–Walcott————————————–Vela
—————————-Bendtner

With this formation, we really have a devastatingly fast team. The Eboue/Walcott formation is fantastic, and Clichy should get excellent service to Vela to run on the ball. Nasri and Rosicky were played together a few weeks ago and looked good, Rosicky often drops a bit deeper and likes to run the ball from further back in the pitch.
However, I doubt Wenger will play Eboue at right back, which is a mistake in my opinion, as he is phenomenal. Sagna will most likely start.

Discuss pre and post match in the Arsenal Action Forum,

Curt.B

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