Arsenal have endured a mixed return following the three-month footballing hiatus.
A 3-0 thumping at Manchester City was followed by a disappointing defeat at relegation-threatened Brighton, though their packed schedule has seen them record three victories in just seven days to offer hope to the Emirates faithful.
Despite multiple injuries and suspensions since the restart, Mikel Arteta will be pleased at the character and strength-in-depth shown by his squad as they look to secure European qualification.
Saturday’s trip to Molineux sees the Gunners face one of the teams threatening to replace them as one of the Premier League’s top-six sides. Wolves have enjoyed a terrific campaign under the stewardship of Nuno Espírito Santo, and look well set to register their place in next year’s Europa League competition at the very least.
With just one place and six points between the two sides, this clash could prove crucial come the season’s final reckoning. Here’s how Arteta may set up as he prepares for arguably the most crucial game of his Arsenal tenure so far.
Emiliano Martínez (GK) – Since conceding twice against Brighton in his first league start of the season, the Argentinian has since kept two clean sheets, with the only goal conceded coming against Sheffield United in the FA Cup. While Bernd Leno’s injury is not as bad as first suspected, Martínez is expected to deputise for the remainder of the campaign.
Héctor Bellerín (RWB) – The Spaniard looked impressive at wing back against Norwich, with the more advanced position definitely suiting his offensive style of play. Expect the Arsenal boss to experiment yet again as he looks to find a system to best suit his better players.
Shkodran Mustafi (CB) – Another defender who looked better suited in the new role against the Canaries. Mustafi’s defensive capabilities have been called into question during his time at the Emirates, though the added security of an extra centre back could see the German produce his best football.
David Luiz (CB) – If Mustafi’s defensive capabilities have been called into question, then Luiz’s have been lambasted. The Brazilian’s best form of his career came under Antonio Conte at Chelsea as the central figure in a back three, and Arteta may see this as the way forward with Luiz signing a new deal at the club.
Rob Holding (CB) – Far from Arsenal’s first-choice centre back, though the former Bolton man is doing his bid for a regular place in the first team no harm. With the permanent signing of Pablo Mari confirmed and a new deal signed by Luiz, Holding is under pressure to prove he belongs at the top level.
Kieran Tierney (LWB) – The former Celtic man has endured a rough first season at the Emirates. With first-team opportunities limited due to injury, the Scotland international is finally being afforded the chance to show just how good a player he can be.
Lucas Torreira (DM) – With Arsenal still fighting on two fronts and the Premier League fixtures coming thick and fast, Arteta could utilise some of the players who didn’t feature against Norwich despite the fine performance. Torreira has been confirmed fit for the weekend’s clash and is expected to make a return.
Granit Xhaka (CM) – The Swiss midfielder notched his first league goal of the season at the 25th time of asking on Wednesday evening. After facing the brunt of the Arsenal fans’ frustration for much of the season, a few more performances like the one he produced against Norwich will no doubt go a long way to repairing relationships.
Dani Ceballos (CM) – With Mesut Özil looking surplus to requirements at the Emirates, the creativity and drive of the Real Madrid loanee looks even more crucial if the Gunners are to secure a place in the Europa League.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – Arteta has tended to push Aubameyang into a wide position to accompany his preferred 4-3-3 formation, though the introduction of wing backs could see the frontman moved inside. Regardless of where he plays, the Gabon international will no doubt be central to any success Arsenal enjoy between now and the end of the season.
Alexandre Lacazette (ST) – There’s been much clamour from the Arsenal fans for Lacazette to be brought back into the starting XI. Though he couldn’t cap his return to the league XI with a goal on Wednesday evening, his movement looked good and he really needs to start firing if he’s to prove his worth.