Monday, 26 December 2011

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Wolverhampton Wanderers Previewed.

Arsenal were due to take on Wolves today in the Premier League, but thanks to a tube strike in London the game has been postponed until tomorrow. It's the first of three games in seven days which Arsenal will be expected to win. Nine points in those games are an absolute must in my opinion if Arsenal are going to continue their challenge for a Champions League place this season.

The bad start they had to the season is well and truly behind them, and the recent defeat to Manchester City was dispelled by beating Aston Villa in their last game. The victory may not have been overly convincing at times, but their ability to keep fighting until the last minute saw them home. In the next three games that ability should only really be needed for the trip to Fulham in a week.

Wolves had a better start to their season than Arsenal did, and they took seven points from their first three games. Since then they have only taken eight points from 14 games, and all of those points have come in their home games. They have lost six away games in a row, and it's the form of a team heading for the relegation zone.

Wolves' next game is away to Bolton on Saturday, and it's a game that's probably a lot more important for their season. Bolton are one of only three teams below them in the league, and Wplves will feel they have to get something from that game. They will still try their best to get a result against Arsenal of course, as they always do no matter who they are playing.

Arsenal's injury woes are still showing no signs of abating, and Arsene Wenger will have to pick from the same players who were available against Villa. There is a slight chance of Johan Djourou returning to the squad, but it would still leave Arsenal with no full backs in their team. Wenger admitted that the lack of full backs has meant Arsenal have had to have a new approach in recent games.

I have commented a few times on how the lack of proper attacking full backs has limited the team at times, and the return of all four of them cannot come quickly enough. It looks like Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs might be ready to play by the end of January, and Carl Jenkinson soon after that. Andre Santos will be another couple of months at least, and the possibility of signing a left back has to be foremost in Wenger's plans for the January transfer window.

Arsenal will lose both Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh in January, as they will be playing for their countries in the African Cup of Nations. There are players capable of replacing Gervinho in the team, and the Chamakh of this season is no loss to the squad. However, their losses along with the list of injuries will mean the squad will be stretched to it's limits.

Wenger has considered signing Thierry Henry on a temporary loan for a couple of months, and I would imagine his decision will be made very soon. Despite Henry no longer being the player he was in his prime, I still think he might have something to offer to Arsenal. His inclusion in the squad might just take some of the pressure off Robin van Persie, and that cannot be a bad thing for the team.

RVP has to score three goals in the next two games to beat the record set by Alan Shearer for the most Premier League goals in  calender year. I've seen Wolves play a few times recently, and I think their defence will give him enough opportunities to get all of those goals against them. If he doesn't manage the task against them I'm sure he will start against QPR on Saturday to try to do it then.

Arsenal's next game after the QPR game will be only two days later, as they take on Fulham at Craven Cottage. I would be very surprised to see RVP start that game if has played against both QPR and Wolves. I don't know if the paperwork to take on Henry on loan could be completed by then, but it would be a great sight to see him in red and white yet again in that game.

Wolves have a couple of wide players who could cause Arsenal's stand in full backs the odd problem, but without the ball that won't be an easy task. Arsenal have the ability to take this Wolves team apart, and really put them to the sword if they so choose. They are long overdue to really destroy a team at home, and I hope Wolves are that team.

I know it's never a good thing to predict an Arsenal clean sheet, but they have only conceded five goals in eight home games this season. Two of those goals came late on at home to Liverpool when Arsenal were down to ten men, and only leaders Manchester City have taken more home points than Arsenal. However, Arsenal have been a little goal shy at home by their own high standards, and that's something which will hopefully change.
Alex Song will return to the team after his suspension for the Villa game, and the big decision for Wenger will be who he plays at right back. Francis Coquelin played there against Villa, but I think Laurent Koscielny might get the job against Wolves. That would mean Ignasi Miquel would play at left back, and Thomas Vermaelen alongside Per Mertesacker in the centre of defence.

I love to see Vermaelen marauding forward from his central role, and I think he is far less effective when he fills in a t left back. I fancy him to score a goal against Wolves, and I fancy RVP to edge closer to the record too of course. There is a possibility of a few changes in the team's attacking players, but RVP will not be one of them.
Over the next week I would expect to see Yossi Benayoun, Andrey Arshavin and Aex Oxlade-Chamberlain get a few chances to play. It will be very interesting to see which ones of them step up and impress when their chances arrive. I am pretty sure both Chamberlain and Benayoun will do all they can to create an impression, but I'm not so sure about Arshavin.

Rumours of an exit for him in the January transfer window are widespread, and his influence in the team has diminished over the past few years. When he arrived three years ago he was sensational at times, but he very rarely shows his class now. His work rate is questioned by the fans, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in leave in January or next summer.

 My prediction for the Wolves game is a 3-0 win for Arsenal, and RVP moving ever closer to that record. I think he will get the goals he needs between the Wolves and QPR games, and Arsenal will have another record breaker on their hands.

That's it for today.

Here's the goals from an Arsenal victory over Wolves a few years ago featuring another record goalscorer.

See You Tomorrow.

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