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Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers: consistency is key

The Gunners look to build off a big midweek win in the Champions League.

Arsenal FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal host Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Emirates today in what will be a tricky, testing match for the Gunners. Gary O’Neill has Wolves playing good football. They’ve played the top teams well, beating Manchester City and Tottenham and drawing Newcastle, and should have, by O’Neill’s count, 7 more points than the 15 they’ve earned. Like Arsenal, Wolves have been on the wrong end of some questionable / admittedly incorrect VAR decisions.

The Gunners smashed Wolves 5-0 when the two sides met on the final day of last season. Wolves were already on the beach and Arsenal seemed determined to put on a show for their home supporters to draw the sting of the title challenge that fell short. It was also Julen Lopetegui at the helm for the visitors, who departed the club in early August after his relationship with the club disintegrated.

On the other hand, Wolves’ 23 goals conceded are tied for 4th-worst in the Premier League, although there are a bunch of sides clustered in the low-20’s against. That’s a “true” number, too. They’ve surrendered just about 23 xGA.

Mikel Arteta will be hoping that the attack will feast against one of the weaker defensive units in the league. Arsenal’s 6-0 shellacking of RC Lens in the Champions League was the first time all season that Kai Havertz. Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, and Gabriel Jesus had all played together. All five scored in the first half, including four goals in a span of 14 minutes. That quintet would likely have been Arteta’s preferred attacking group from the off, but injuries kept them from playing together.

Wolves have scored in every Premier League match this season since being shutout by Manchester United in the season opener. Hwang Hee-chan is the dangerman, with goal contributions in nine different matches, only Mo Salah (11) has been involved in the scoring in more PL matches this season. The South Korean attacker has stepped up in the absence of Pedro Neto, who picked up a significant thigh injury a few weeks ago. Neto had been having an excellent season and was being linked with a January move to North London.

Gary O’Neill will also be without the backbone of his midfield — both Mario Lemina and Joao Gomes are suspended. Left back Rayan Ait Nouri is unavailable with an ankle problem. But Wolves’ defense will be bolstered by Craig Dawson’s return from suspension.

Arsenal have no new names on the injury list. Fabio Vieira is out for several weeks recovering from groin surgery. Mikel Arteta is hopeful Emile Smith Rowe (knee) will be available in the next few weeks. Thomas Partey (thigh) has an outside shot of returning before January but is more likely to be out until the new year. Jurrien Timber is out long term recovering from a torn ACL. Ben White, who had been nursing a small knock, was fit enough to play 45 minutes as a substitute midweek.

Arsenal - Raya, Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Rice, Trossard, Ødegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Jesus

Wolves - Sa, Semedo, Dawson, Kilman, Toti, H. Bueno, Doyle, Traore, Bellegarde, Hwang, Cunha

WHAT: Arsenal vs. Wolves
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Saturday, December 2nd 7 am PT | 10 am ET | 4 pm BT
US TV: USA and UNIVERSO.

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