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Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton preview: and one for the road

Three points at home would be a great way to go into an international break.

Arsenal v Sporting CP - UEFA Europa League - Group E
With Danny Welbeck out long-term with an ankle injury, will we see more of Emile Smith Rowe in the Premier League?
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Draws in three of their last four have taken some of the shine off the Arsenal apple. But don’t forget, the Gunners are unbeaten in the last 15 matches. Next up, Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Emirates on Sunday. The newly-promoted side might be the surprise of the season so far, sitting 11th in the table with a 4-3-4 record. They don’t score many goals, but they don’t give up many either - they have the 5th best xG differential in the league. That said, they’ve suffered a dip in form lately, losing their last three matches.

Wolves’ success hinges on the play of central midfielder Ruben Neves. Our own Scott Willis (@oh_that_crab) took a look at Neves’ performance this season and found that he isn’t your traditional attacking midfielder. He doesn’t get into the box much. All 29 of his open play shots have come from beyond the 18, and he has the longest average shot distance of all players with more than 15 shots. He has had one touch in the box all season - a penalty last week against Tottenham.

Shots from distance are generally not high-danger events. To wit, Neves has only scored 1 of his 29 attempts. With Lucas Torreira in the center of the park to limit his time and space, Arsenal will probably allow Neves a shot or two from distance to retake possession when (inevitably? hopefully?) the shots don’t come off.

It’s always important to score the first goal, but it is imperative that Arsenal do so on Sunday. In 14 games in all competitions, Wolves have conceded 2+ goals only three times. If Wolves score first, they will be able to sit back in the defensive posture that has brought them success this season. If Arsenal hit first, Wolves will have to (at some point) commit more men forward and open themselves up to the counter / break, which has been effective for the Gunners this season.

Sunday’s match with Wolves is the only thing standing between the Gunners and the international break, which couldn’t come at a better time. The injuries are really starting to pile up at Arsenal. Danny Welbeck suffered a potentially season-ending injury against Sporting at the midweek and Stephan Lichtsteiner tweaked his hamstring. The two of them join Mohamed Elneny, Dinos Mavropanos, and Laurent Koscielny on the trainer’s table, although those three are all expected back in full training after the break. Lichtsteiner has an outside shot to be fit for Sunday.

Nacho Monreal is doubtful for the match with the hamstring injury that has kept him out the past few weeks. There is speculation that he may play, but with Sead Kolasinac healthy (and playing well, I might add), why risk re-injury? Of course if Monreal is fully fit, there is no reason for him not to play.

Coming out of the break, Arsenal have league matches away to Bournemouth (6th), against Tottenham (4th), and away to Manchester United (7th). The Gunners could easily go 0-2-1, 0-1-2, or even 0-0-3 over that stretch. Getting three points on Sunday against Wolves is important.

WHAT: Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

WHERE: The Emirates

WHEN: Sunday, November 11th 8:30 AM PT | 11:30 AM ET | 4:30 PM BT

US TV: Not broadcast. Streaming on NBC Sports Gold ($$).

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