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Arsenal v. Wolverhampton Wanderers preview: business as usual

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A match will be a welcome distraction from everything else going on at Arsenal these days.

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Liverpool FC v Arsenal FC - Carabao Cup Round of 16
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With all the drama swirling around Arsenal these days, it’s nice to have a match to talk about and distract us, even if only briefly, from the other junk. Wolves visit the Emirates on Saturday, and the Gunners could do with a win both for club morale and to keep pace with the top four. Arsenal (16) are closer in points to 10th place West Ham (13) then they are to Chelsea and Leicester (20).

Wolves sit 12th in the table and haven’t lost in the Premier League in a month and a half. They also haven’t won in the league since shocking Manchester City at the Etihad in early October. Make of those things what you will, but they have clearly demonstrated they can go on the road to a big club and get a result. Last season, Wolves beat Arsenal 3-1 in April at the Molineux Stadium and drew at the Emirates in November.

Wolverhampton are developing a potent one-two attacking punch with Mexican international striker Raúl Jiménez and young winger Adama Traoré. Traoré struggled to find his footing last season after joining Wolves from the famed La Masia but appears poised to break out. He netted a brace in their win over Manchester City and probably could have had more — he was a nightmare to defend the entire match. Traoré leads Wolves in successful take-ons; he can beat you with trickery or with blistering pace.

I’m looking forward to the matchup between him and Kieran Tierney. The young left back has been impressive in the cup competitions this season, but he hasn’t really been tested defensively. That will change on Saturday. Will Tierney still be able to provide an attacking threat without leaving the Gunners exposed at the back?

Wolves might also elect to attack down the Arsenal right and go at the out-of-position Calum Chambers instead of Kieran Tierney. Chambers should get the start over Héctor Bellerín, who played the full 90 minutes against Liverpool. It is likely too early in his return for him to play Thursday-Saturday.

Unai Emery confirmed that Granit Xhaka will once again be dropped for Saturday’s match and suggested that Mesut Özil will be involved. My guess, and Nathan’s as well in his predicted 11, is that Özil gets the start. The German playmaker was impressive in his 65-minute appearance against Liverpool. He adds a creativity and threat through the middle of the park that the Arsenal attack has sorely lacked.

Arsenal need a win on Saturday. As mentioned, they are already in danger of losing touch with the top four, and they travel to Leicester next weekend. Draw-loss or draw-draw would put the Gunners in a tough spot heading into the holiday period.

WHAT: Arsenal vs. Wolvers

WHERE: Emirates Stadium

WHEN: Saturday, November 1st 7:30 AM PT | 10:30 AM ET | 2:30 PM BT

US TV: CNBC. Stream here.

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