Once again the Europa League provided an escape from Arsenal’s Premier League attacking struggles and the chance to see new faces make their case for more minutes. Following his first career red card Pepe was eager to make up for Sunday’s mistake. Arsenal’s best player on the night, Pepe scored the opener and is now tied with Aubameyang atop the Gunners’ goal scoring chart. But now Mikel Arteta must figure out how to turn Europa League success into tangible results in the Premier League despite the step up in difficulty.
Trying to view the early season defeats in tandem with the relative compact league table gets harder each week for the hopeful. After picking up just one win in their last five Premier League matches Arsenal sits in 12th place, five points out of the Champions League positions and eight off the top. The gap to fourth is completely manageable if Arteta can restart the attacking side of play that has seemingly come at the cost of Arsenal’s improved defense.
Up next is 10th place Wolves who like Arsenal have found their attack lacking. They have only scored more than one goal twice this season which bodes well for another steady performance from Tierney, Gabriel, Holding & Bellerin. But how does Mikel set up the attack when so many options have been underperforming this season and the continued step forward of some of the young Gunners in the Europa League.
Predicted Starting XI
- Joe Willock
- Eddie Nketiah
- Reiss Nelson
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles
- Shkodran Mustafi
- David Luiz
- Alex Runarsson
Notes on the XI:
- Left Out: Emile Smith Rowe, Calum Chambers, William Saliba, Cedric
- Out: Pepe [red card], Thomas Partey (Thigh Injury), Mohamed Elneny (COVID), Sead Kolasinac (COVID), Pablo Mari (back in training), Gabriel Martinelli (back in training)
- Despite the 4-2-3-1 setup last week the attack still struggled, even when all 11 players were on the pitch. So I expect to see Arteta revert back to his usual tactic and once again rely on the defense.
- After last week’s clean sheet against Leeds United, and for much of the match a man down, the backline returns. I’ve added in Bukayo Saka at the left midfielder / left wing-back if he is fit to play following his dead leg last Sunday. In the event Saka isn’t fit, I imagine Arteta opts for a 4-3-3 with either Maitland-Niles in front of Tierney on the left or using Willock as the attacking center mid option.
- At the time of writing Elneny is still ruled out with COVID and the club’s official update on Partey’s injury won’t be out until sometime tomorrow. So Xhaka and Ceballos, who split time on Thursday, return as the midfield core against Wolves. Even if Partey is available, they may ease him back in on the bench, seeing him come on as a second half sub to get some minutes but without risking him from the start, which could potentially push him back too fast and use up an early sub.
- In the attack of course Aubameyang starts. Lacazette seems likely to get a return to the #9 spot after missing last weekend, subbing out in the Europa League and Willian’s ineffectiveness in the false nine role against Leeds.
- So what to do about the final attacking spot? Pepe’s out with his red card suspension. If Saka is fit he could play on the front line, using his spot as mentioned above for AMN or Willock. Reiss Nelson had a solid game against Molde and no one would be upset with him starting against Wolves over Willian. Nketiah is an option, but he rarely plays out wide and what formation can Eddie & Laca start up top with Aubameyang also floating around? A 10 with no wingers? The expected, and a bit disappointing, answer is that Willian gets another go on the right flank. After what we’ve seen lately Nelson and Willock deserve to be in the Arsenal starting XI ahead of Willian, but Sunday will tell how confident the manager is in their grwoth over Willian’s experience.
- If Partey remains on the injury report and there are a few surprise inclusions, such as Saka and Willian missing again, then we could see Emile Smith Rowe or Thursday’s late scorer Folarin Balogun moved up to the bench.
How to watch
Sunday (11/29) at 2:15 pm ET / 11:15 am PT on NBCSN.