After an underwhelming performance from Arsenal on Sunday, they travel to Wolves on Wednesday, needing 3 points to keep in sight of Chelsea. Wolves have gotten rave reviews in their last 3 games; the played well away to Chelsea, beat City at home, and it took United 94 minutes to seal the 3 points last weekend. They defend well, work hard, and are a tough, physical team. Last year, Arsenal sustained lots of pressure in the corresponding fixture before winning comfortably 4-1, while at the Emirates, Wolves defended for 95 minutes before Nicklas Bendtner scored from Bacary Sagna’s cross.
The chalkboard above shows two different styles of play from Wolves. Home to City, where the impetus was to score, they bypassed the middle, where City had the two defensive midfielders, Toure and Barry. Instead, they played with incredible width, with the full backs, Ward and Foley getting forward a lot, as City’s two wide players, Milner and Silva, playing as inverted wingers, drifted into the middle. They were successful from the wide areas as well, creating several chances, with both goals coming from crosses. Against United, they were more compact in the midfield, as they tried to prevent United from scoring; also, it must be noted, the two wide United players, Evra and Park are much more responsible defensively than Silva and Milner, with Evra being a left back by trade. For Wolves, this style almost worked, as United, despite dominating possession for most of the second half found it hard to break Wolves down.
For Arsenal with their known weaknesses in defence, it seems like Wolves will go for the approach they used against Manchester City, while remaining compact when they don’t have the ball. It will be tough for Arsenal to break Wolves down, and they must take their chances and score the first goal. Alex Song will have to rein in his attacking instincts, as Wolves have the pacey players who can catch Arsenal on the break. And with the obvious defensive deficiency of Andrey Arshavin, perhaps Emmanuel Eboue should start on the right, with Samir Nasri on the left. Also, Arsenal must play with width; that doesn’t mean they have to cross it in the air for Chamakh every time, but playing through the middle is easy to defend against if you remain compact like Wolves, and requires a moment of magic to break down, something which has been lacking with Arsenal’s play over the last week.
It will be a tough game, but Arsenal have the quality players that should be able to break Wolves down.