Monday, May 20, 2024

Wolves preview: Lots of reaction, not too many changes

Morning all.

It feels a bit odd that after such a disappointing week, which has brought pain and introspection on levels we haven’t had for some time, that Arsenal can go top of the Premier League later on if we beat Wolves. But sometimes reality is odd, and that’s the truth of it.

At his press conference yesterday, Mikel Arteta was asked about responding to the defeats to Villa and Bayern, and framed it in a way that I don’t think many of us would have, but in one that you can probably understand:

I think the players and staff are very lucky to have the week that we have had. This is the week that we want and we have been seeking for many years to have at Arsenal. You have to deal with them. If you want to be in this position, you have to go through it. It is going to be tough against those opponents. The margins are minimal and you have to go to compete and try to be better than them. And maybe even if you are better, you don’t win.

It can happen at home, against Bayern and against Villa. Are you ready to react to that? If not, you’re not ready to be living these kind of weeks. We want to be living these kind of weeks. The answer to the question is, is it difficult or tough? Don’t feel sorry for yourself, you want to be here, be prepared, because this is a possibility.

Which is a roundabout way of saying the reason it all feels so painful is because it means so much, because the stakes are high, ambitions are high, and expectations have been raised. Losing a game that means you stay in 8th place is no fun either, but in the context of winning something or being successful, it doesn’t matter nearly as much.

And in simpler terms, referencing today’s game and the title race, he said:

We have a real chance here, let’s go for it with the games to go, we have to make that happen, that’s our job.

As for today’s team, despite the fact there has been so much talk of rotation and fatigue, I don’t expect too many changes. If certain players haven’t been trusted to play recently, I don’t quite know what might have changed in the meantime as we go into one where the margin for error is less than zero. If I had to guess, we might see some change in the front there, where players like Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard, who didn’t start in midweek, might be included from the get go.

Maybe Jorginho drops out and you start Emile Smith Rowe again like the Luton game, and there’s probably a decision to be made in one of the full-back positions. Tomiyasu could start at right-back to give Ben White a much-earned rest, and that would probably mean Oleksandr Zinchenko on the left, where Arteta might feel an away game is a little less pressure for a player whose form hasn’t been at its best of late.

But the idea that Mikel Arteta might make a host of changes seems fanciful to me, that’s not what he does. It’s also worth pointing out that we have to think about what some of these players want too. I’m sure even with tired legs, they’ll be desperate to get out there and play, and put things right. You can’t pick yourself up and go again if you don’t get out on that pitch.

I don’t take much comfort from the fact Wolves have load of players missing through injury. They are down to bare bones, and it’s obviously better for us that they’re missing the likes of Matheus Cunha, Pedro Neto and Nelson Semedo, with Rayan Ait-Nouri and Hwang Hee-chan not fully fit but just about ready for inclusion. However, they’ve had a very good season under Gary O’Neil, and you take any team in this league for granted at your peril.

I have no worries that Arteta will impress that upon his team. I do have some worries about how much this week has taken out of us, but let’s hope that we get a performance and a result which makes us all feel better about things at the end of the 90 minutes.

As ever, you can join us for live blog coverage later, and all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News. The preview podcast is on Patreon right now – and just to remind you, this month we’re donating 100% of our Patreon revenue to UNICEF to help kids all around the world who are affected by conflict, famine, and disease. So if you sign up, you get great content, and help a great cause.

Right, I’ll leave it there for, and catch you later for the game. Come on you reds!

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