That’s right, Arsenal actually do have a match this week. It will have been 18 days since the nil-nil draw against Burnley and will be just the third league match in 2022 for the Gunners. The latest international break and the end of the transfer window saw another round of cleaning out the squad, but the lack of incoming transfers has left Mikel Arteta will a thin team to see out this season. It was a grim January on the pitch, but a pair of matches against Wolves and the home tie versus Brentford offers the chance to restart positive momentum and stay in the chase for European football next season.
This past weekend Wolves were knocked out of the FA Cup 1-0 by Norwich. But prior to the international break, they were on a fine stretch of form. Wolves won all four of their matches in January, including at Old Trafford. You have to go back to December 11th for their last league loss, 1-0 to Manchester City, in which they only gave up a second-half penalty after going down a man right before the half. Form and history are against Arsenal heading into this match, as the Gunners lost both league fixtures against Wolverhampton last season 2-1.
After the long break will Mikel Arteta make any major changes?
- Eddie Nketiah
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Albert Sambi Lokonga
- Mohamed Elneny
- Nuno Tavares
- Rob Holding
- Bernd Leno
- Left Out: Arthur Okonkwo.
- Out: N/A
- The matchday squad is set unless Arsenal suffers an injury or another red card. With just enough senior players to fill out a starting XI and the bench, Arteta’s decisions are limited. The only real option he has on the bench regarding potential starters is Emile Smith Rowe. After the long break will he give this front four another go or insert Smith Rowe from the start? And if so, who makes way? The likes of Pepe, Nketiah, and Lokonga have some work to do before they can make their case at deserving another start over this XI.
- Having the likes of Smith Rowe, Pepe, and Nketiah on the bench is important to adjust formation or freshen up the attack in second halves, but beyond them, it’s a steep drop-off. With Folarin Balogun now on loan at Middlesbrough, Arteta will be forced to use U23 players with even less experience training with the first team.
- The only real question mark I see heading into Thursday is Mohamed Elneny. Given his run to the AFCON Final, will he be straight back into the Arsenal squad or will he be given a few extra days rest? If so, Charlie Patino probably gets that extra midfield spot on the bench, and Elneny returns for the Brentford home match on the 19th.
- The club only has the Premier League left to worry about, but with any forced absences, fans may get to know a few U23 players a bit more this spring. Beyond Charlie Patino, keep Mika Biereth, Salah Oulad M’Hand, Omari Hutchinson, Zak Swanson, and Joel Lopez on your radar.
How to watch
Thursday (2/10) at 2:45 pm ET / 11:45 am PT on Peacock Premium.
Arsenal - 1
Wolves - 1