Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Wolves preview: Round 2

Having just played Wolves a couple of weeks ago, we know what they’re all about, and we know how tough this one is going to be.

If they win tonight, they go above us in the table – albeit having played a game more – while victory for us would pull us 5 points clear of them and above West Ham into 5th place. There’s a lot to play for as we continue this top four push. Mikel Arteta made it clear his players know exactly how important it is this evening, especially as it’s a home game.

In terms of the team news, there are no new injuries or worries on that front, so you imagine Takehiro Tomiyasu must be in contention this evening having returned to the bench on Saturday. To be fair, Cedric played well in the last couple of games, but I’d have Tomi back in once he’s 100% fit. The only other ‘issue’ for the manager is Gabriel Martinelli’s availability again following his suspension.

Emile Smith Rowe came in for him against Brentford and scored a fantastic opening goal, and I think his performance in general is one which demands he keep his place. The idea of playing Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard at the same time is one that has been floated of late, and the manager admits he’s given it some though, saying:

I am tempted, yes, because they want to play and when you see players training and playing the way they do, you want to throw them all on the pitch. Unfortunately, 11 is the limit.

I don’t think he’ll do it for today’s game but that it’s something he’s thinking about it isn’t a surprise when you consider the centre-forward situation. Alexandre Lacazette hasn’t scored from open play since December 11th, but he did notch a penalty against Norwich on December 26th. Arteta provided some public backing for him, but also made it clear that putting the ball in the net is part of the job the centre-forward is asked to do:

He knows as a striker what is demanded of him, and that is to be involved in goals and the chance creation of the team. He is doing a lot of things right in attack, and out of possession as well. He needs to continue to do that.

The ball will go in the net very soon. He has been unlucky because he has had the chances to score as well, some goals in the last few weeks. He needs to continue to do that, to generate those chances for his team-mates, to be in front of goal in the positions we ask him to be in. The goals will come.

It is possible to acknowledge that Lacazette is working hard for the team but that his inability to find the back of the net with any consistency is a problem. Tonight would be a very good night for him to get back on the scoresheet, because Wolves are a relatively tough nut to crack. The last thing we want to do later is give them something to defend, because that’s what they’re good at, so if an early chance comes our way and our striker can do what a striker needs to do, then all the better for the way this game will play out.

With a bit of hindsight, that 1-0 at Molineux was such an excellent result. Afterwards, Wolves then went on to beat Sp*rs (haha) and Leicester in their next two games, so to hang on with 10 men and defend that one goal lead was massive. That’s why there were such celebrations. The players knew how difficult it was.

And in some ways, it should provide us with confidence going into tonight’s game. If – and I realise this is an extraordinary thing to consider – but IF we can keep 11 men on the pitch, we should have what it takes to win this one. The return of Martinelli gives us another attacking option, from the bench or otherwise, and the performance against Brentford was far more impressive than the final scoreline suggested. Pick up where we left off, go again, and I think there’s enough about this team to take all three points.

As ever you can join us this evening for live blog coverage, and all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News.

There’s a Patreon preview podcast out now too, so head on over to get that in your ears.

Catch you later for the game.

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