Wolves Pose a Foxy Threat: Pre-match and Predicted Line-up

Fox and Wolf: two predators with the same plan

Just over a month ago we got mugged by the Leicester Fox, hitting us on the break and taking all three points after soaking up our (mostly toothless) pressure.

Tonight we entertain the Wolf, and his game plan is going to be very similar: defend deep and pounce when we are over-exposed. 

Leicester did it with Jamie Vardy. Wolverhampton Wanderers will be hoping to pull the same trick with Raul Jimenez, who is another dangerous striker.

What’s the old saying, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me? Well, will be fooled twice? Will we be cursing the sucker punch again come the final whistle this evening?

Given our recent league form, Wolves will be feeling pretty confident about keeping a clean sheet.

But if El Patron can just release the handbrake even a little, I think they could be in for a spanking. In fact, I am going to make the bold prediction that we will win 4-1.

Yes, I know, the idea of us bulging the onion bag four times in 90 minutes when we haven’t managed it once from open play in nine hours of EPL action does seem a bit bonkers. But when a damn breaks, it breaks big. And our scoring drought is due to end with a flash flood of goals. Or even a flood of flash goals, which will do just as well.

I believe this will happen even though we are likely going to be depleted in terms of available players.

Partey, Saka and Willian are all doubtful through injury and Pepe is suspended. Kolasinac and Elneny are both in the Plague House (although asymptomatic) having been in contact with someone with Covid.

However, this gives El Patron an opportunity to change a few things and to try and inject into the Premier League side some of the positivity we have seen in the Europa League team. One way of doing that would be to include some of the players who have been doing so well in Europe.

It’s way past time that our goal scoring problem was addressed and we know that Arteta will have been devoting every waking minute (and probably some dreaming minutes too) to figuring out how to do it.

I’m going to assume that the ‘doubtful’ players will not be in the starting eleven (although hopefully one or more may be on the bench) and predict the following line-up:


Bellerin – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney

Willock – Xhaka – Ceballos

Nelson – Nketiah – Aubameyang

I would like to see a starting role for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but I can’t see Arteta being that cavalier. He will probably stick with Xhaka and Ceballos.

Ceballos is a strange player. In some games he is the best player on the pitch; in most games he works very hard and is, well, average. If he could get more consistent he could become one of the first names on the team sheet: he certainly has the potential. Maybe tonight?

Right, here’s hoping we send the wolfpack scurrying back to the Midlands with their tails between their legs.



80 Responses to Wolves Pose a Foxy Threat: Pre-match and Predicted Line-up

  1. LBG says:

    Thanks Rocky
    2-0 will do me. So disappointing that Partey and Elneny are not available as I am afraid Dani and X dont move the ball quickly enough to split a Wolves team that will sit and try to hit on the break.
    So get an attacking midfield four of
    A M-N Willock Smith-Row and Saka
    on the park ( I think Saka may have become available), with no holder, and play Nelson and Eddie closer together in a two. (Ainsley and Saka can provide the width).
    Sure its radical, but exciting and a dour performance will bring more complaints which are becoming irritating.
    Mikel states he will need perhaps two more windows to get the change he wants. (Most thought that at start of his reign, didnt they!)
    The beloved “Star” ragpaper says Pepe is to be eased out, trying to avoid an Ozil situation. Bah humbug!

  2. LBG says:

    Course I realise my selection leaves out our Captain. Why wont a bomb make him more determined to show us?!!!

  3. RockyLives says:

    Bad news on the injury front – apparently Willian is fit.

  4. RockyLives says:

    Elneny is now available after being confirmed Covid clear.

  5. RC78 says:

    Thanks for the pre-match. I think the line-up you have indicated will be close to Arteta’s line-up as well well except maybe for El Neny and WIllian joining as they seem to be OK to play.

    Wolves will be tough to play but Jimenez is no Vardy on the counter. Wolves wingers are the dangerously fast players. I would definitely play a back 4 if I were Arteta and I would play AMN and Tierney as my FB.

    Leno – AMN, Holding, Gabs, Tierney – Willock, Xhaka, El Neny -Willian, Auba, Nelson

  6. RC78 says:

    @Sue – If PSG do not qualify for the next stage of the CL, the coach will be sacked apparently. Actually, there is a rift between Tuchel and Leonardo and also Tuchel is now also being dropped by some players like Navas, Paredes and Di Maria. Allegri would replace Tuchel.

    Allegri will be asked to play
    – with Neymar playing centrally behind the striker (Icardi or Keane);
    – with Mbappe on the left;
    – Verratti-Paredes in midfield;
    – Marquinhos-Kimpembe in central defense

    Allegri would probably ask for a new CB, LB and FW.

    Option 1:
    Navas – Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Bernat – Paredes, Verratti – Di Maria, Neymar, Mabppe – Icardi

    Option 2:
    Navas – Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Bernat – Raphina, Paredes, Verratti – Neymar, Mbappe – Icardi

    Option 3:
    Nacas – RECRUIT, Marquinhos, Kimpembe – Florenzi, Paredes, Verratti, Bernat – Neymar – Icardi, Mbappe

  7. Red Arnie says:

    Thank you, Rocky. Dont know any more what to expect, 1-0 to the good guys will do me fine.

    Delightful post yeaterday, sorry was not around.

  8. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky

    I think if Saka is available he should play from the right side of attack with Auba to the left of Nketieh or Laca. Might be interesting then to play Nelson centrally in the ACM role with 2 of our holding midfielders behind.

    That attacking 4 could really take the game to them but could all change if Saka isn’t available as then Nelson likely needs to play from the right which isn’t quite as ideal.

  9. RC78 says:

    I agree GoonerB – if Saka is fit to play, we should play him. He is our most dangerous player at the moment. I d like to see him as part of a midfield 3: Willock, El Neny, Saka and we could have Willian, Auba, Nelson as our front three…

  10. LB says:

    This is what I would like to see.


    —Hector, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney




    Holding for Luiz is fine but the Brazilian gives us more attacking options (as odd as that sounds)

  11. Sue says:

    Hi RC.. His days are numbered! You wouldn’t mind Allegri coming in?
    I read Liverpool are looking to bring Mbappe to Anfield….
    Just watched Cavani bang in a brace for the Mancs… 2 well taken goals.. what a bummer he went to Manchester 😄

  12. RC78 says:

    @Sue – I really wanted Arsenal to go for Cavani. He has the desire and work ethics that would have been helpful plus he is a reliable goal scorer…I miss him at PSG and am annoyed to see him as Utd for sure but at least he didnt go to Spurs…As for Allegri, I am not overjoyed but he is definitely a good pedigree coach and will bring in a new voice to the team. I think at the moment we need structure and Italian coaches certainly bring that.

    Mbappe will first go to the EPL before making his move to Real so Liverpool would be a good option but I think he may be tempted by Man City too.

  13. RockyLives says:

    So… I guess we’re temporary Chav supporters for the next couple of hours…

    Or is a draw the result we should be hoping for?

  14. LB says:

    Spuds are playing a bit too well for my liking, as uncomfortable as it is, I think we have to go full chav today.

  15. GoonerB says:

    I like your team LB but would have 1 different player and a slight tweak in line up to the following

    —————- Leno
    — Hector, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney
    ——- Ceballos —– Elneny
    — Saka ——- Nketieh —— Auba

    I’m more relaxed about whether its Nketieh or Lacazette through the middle and whether Xhaka or AMN are one if our 2 deeper CM’s. The important thing for me is 1 of our 2 hard working 9’s play centrally and pester their CD’s while Saka and Auba can attack from wide and cut in in their stronger foot.

    Nelson could be worth a try centrally just behind those 3 where he can get running at their defenders and ghost into the box as a goal threat.

  16. GoonerB says:

    So the line up suggests that Auba plays number 9. Not sure I agree with that but we shall see. I think he gets isolated and gets limited touches on the ball and is better getting on the ball facing the opposition goal. Is he going to work with his back to goal with CD’s right on him?

    The line up also indicates Willian or Willock will play the left wing forward position. Not sure but maybe Willock could be tried there with Willian playing the attacking central position.

    Or I’ve got it completely wrong and none of them play anywhere I suggested 🙂 looking forward to finding out and how we look in whatever formation it is.

  17. Aaron says:

    Some people wanted moaninho, dammmn.

    1 shot on target and people bitch about our club. FGS give me Leeds any day of the week, anything other than that utter dross of a game plan.

    Good result for AFC.

    However who cares about them, just win ours!

  18. LBG says:

    Sorry Mikel, unacceptable that Nelso and Nketiah are not starting. Hope you have got it right, for your sake!

  19. LB says:

    It is a very easy switch if he needs to.

  20. RockyLives says:

    Time for Willian to prove me wrong, I hope.

    He owes us a performance.

  21. RockyLives says:

    Weird thing is, if we win we’re only 3 points behind Chavs in third

  22. Aaron says:

    Perplexed that AMN did not even make the sheet.

    Is he sick?

  23. RockyLives says:

    I agree with LB’s thought that Luiz (over Holding) improves our attacking options.

    Aaron – agreed. AMN needs more minutes. Maybe he picked up a minor knock.

  24. RockyLives says:

    Right – let’s see the real Arsenal

  25. LB says:

    Ooch that looked painful.

  26. LB says:

    Yes, I agree, Willian is due a half decent game.

  27. RockyLives says:

    No replays on Sky so it must be bad

  28. LB says:

    Rewind it, it looks very bad

  29. GoonerB says:

    Fingers crossed the lads ok. Not even sure Luiz should be carrying on. Delayed concussion could be a factor. I was all for the 5 subs and / or head injury subs. Football always seems so slow to modernise in the right way.

  30. Aaron says:

    Man, if we capitulate here, a la the Villa game, will have to go for a lot of walks this year!

    Not, the happy, good for your health kind, but maybe good for my health.

  31. RockyLives says:

    Well, looking good for my 4-1 so far 😀

  32. LBG says:

    Isolated Aubang
    Dani on the right of midfield????? Xhaka, nothing to say. Willian owes us but I am not convinced he can offer it……and yet.
    Hope you had a little flutter on your 4-1 Rocky. Couldnt resist myself and got 50-1.

  33. LBG says:

    Luiz is not recovered.
    The drive and lack of fear from Thursday is missing.

  34. LB says:

    Betting against Arsenal lads, hmmmmm 🙂

  35. LB says:

    Agree Luiz is a passenger in defence.

  36. fatgingergooner says:

    What is this shite. We are so boring. Where’s the attacking intent!? So average and so frustrating.

  37. RockyLives says:

    LB – I think he was saying he bet on Arsenal winning 4-1

  38. LB says:

    Gallows humour……

  39. LBG says:

    Good question! How are we trying to hurt Wolves?

  40. RockyLives says:

    Ah – sorry LB – missed that

  41. RockyLives says:

    Our MF has no shape and no control. I’d bring ElNeny on for Ceballos at HT, use Xhaka-Neny as MF anchor and Willock to break forward.

  42. RockyLives says:

    For once, Willian has looked pretty sharp.

  43. RockyLives says:

    But we’re a team crying out for centre forward.

  44. fatgingergooner says:


  45. LBG says:

    Three subs
    Holding for Luiz, Nelson for Willian, Nketiah for Dani. 4 1 3 2 and please play Eddie alongside Aubang, Mikel

  46. LB says:

    Our attack has all the fluidity of a post match interview with Unai Emery in English.

  47. RockyLives says:

    LB 😀

  48. jjgsol says:

    Willian has been looking sharp? You must be joking.

    This is pure unadulterated rubbish, from goalie to striker.

    Rocky, we are a team crying out for a team.

    Is this the players’ fault, or the manager’s?

    I am afraid to say, I firmly believe it is the latter.

    Today is the 1st anniversary of Emery’s departure.

    Can anyone honestly say that we are better now than then?

    Certainly not.

    Much worse, in my view.

  49. RockyLives says:

    Holding on for Luiz – we should have done that after the clash of heads

  50. LB says:

    Straws are being clutched jj

  51. GoonerB says:

    Once again I’m going to bore the pants off everyone in questioning why we have Saka on the attacking left and Willian on the right. They become deliverers of dangerous balls into the box but are a minimal threat as goal scorers…….But who are they delivering to?

    Do we have a Shearer, Drogba or Giroud for these balls into the box to be effective. No we don’t so why aren’t we setting up our wide attackers to be a bigger goal threat and cut in on a goal scoring foot?

    I have to say I am becoming seriously worried about many of Mikels decisions.

  52. RockyLives says:

    Oh ye of little faith.

    4-2 to us I reckon.

  53. RockyLives says:

    Spot on GoonerB

  54. RC78 says:

    Tasteless so far…I think Nketiah or Laca must surely come in for Ceballos and maybe Nelson for Willian?

  55. Las says:

    Pffff at last. Nelson is on.
    And please Elneny fir Xhaka.

  56. LBG says:

    What has Rui Patricio had to do?
    “Crying out for a centre forward.”

  57. Las says:

    I do think that Arteta should go for the youngsters. I know there are so many injuries and they might miss the experiences but at least hey are fighting relentlessly. Willian was an expensive mistake.

  58. RockyLives says:

    Any of you masochists fancy writing a match report?

  59. Las says:

    Nelsooooooon…… oh my

  60. RockyLives says:

    He bottled it

  61. RC78 says:

    Why aren’t Nketiah or Laca coming in? Not so much time left really

  62. LB says:

    If anyone can find more positives than Gabriel was a very good signing they are a better man than me.

  63. RockyLives says:

    LB – crowd has been noisy

  64. LB says:

    Can’t wait to renew my season ticket.

  65. LBG says:

    Dont agree with Jigsol, BUT believing that Luiz, Xhaka, Willian and Dani are “first picks” is a recipe for mediocrity at best and worse if we are not careful.
    Aubang is lost and Laca not much better. We need a significant change in selection policy, Mikel.

  66. RockyLives says:

    Funny thing is LB, I believe you 😀

  67. fatgingergooner says:

    We are at the stage where it’s not the managers fault. Just average players. The midfield is so ordinary. Liverpool get away with it because their attack is unbelievable….but ours is not. Either we find an answer up top, or we change the idea that our midfield only needs to be workmanlike.

    Personally, I’d like to see at least one midfielder hitting 10 goals a season, but it does t seem to be fashionable these days.

  68. LB says:

    It will take a miracle to avoid embarrassment next week.

  69. LB says:

    Mikel’s to do list is very, very long.

  70. RockyLives says:

    Goodnight all

  71. LBG says:

    Gabriel is a very good signing, Tierney is a very good signing. Holding is a worthy centre back. Saka and Willock ( and possibly Nelson) are youngsters to build on. Full stop.

  72. fatgingergooner says:

    Where are the goals?!? Limp.

    Awful in attack once again. Chances created but nothing put away.

  73. RC78 says:

    Hi Rocky – just posted a new post with the post-match report

  74. jjgsol says:

    LBG. What part of what I said do you not agree with, please?

    Did you think, perhaps, it was a good performance by our team?

    No shots on target in the 2nd half and only 2 in the first, one of which was a goal, and the other would not have troubled a 3-year-old goalie.

    So please, tell, what was there about that performance you will take away with you that gave you hope for the future or our club?

    Yes, Gabriel was ok, but not marvellous and was missing for their first goal when Dendonker had a free header.

  75. RC78 says:

    New post everyone

  76. Gööner In Exile says:

    My plan was to come on read the comments and give my wisdom. Seems LBG is already banging the same drum as me. PEA reminded me of last season BSR and Sanchez, not interested unless pass was perfect and certainly not too interested in getting hurt with that golden opportunity for a header at the end that should have been buried. The only thing I would say is when Wenger went, Nuno was on my list having watched his Wolves teams, look at the players he had at his disposal today Neto, Podence, Traore, Moutinho, all would walk in to our team, let that sink in, Wolves players would walk in to an Arsenal team!

    If I was to go through that 11 and pick who I would bother with going forward it would be a very short list…..
    Leno (he is the best we have)
    Tierney, Gabriel, Holding

    That leaves out PEA, why because you can’t start PEA and Saka in a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3, Saka is the future.

    Willock looked much better second half, and Nelson was lively when he came on, seriously can’t judge him as a finished product but he has ability that can be shaped and moulded.

    How about this:

    Hector …. Holding …. Gabriel ….. Tierney
    Nelson ….. Nketiah …. Saka

    That does me, that’s a future we can build on. Surely there is no better time, if you are prepared to sit Ozil down for a season and if it is purely based on football, then you have to be brave enough to sit others out too. They are not doing it give the kids a chance.

    PS on Ozil, why does his off ball work rate matter? I have to ask, as I did under Emery, if we were playing a high press I would understand why he would not be considered, but potentially the only time we pressed was in the last fifteen.

    And finally while I like Gabriel I would look at Liverpool, Van Dyk was the final piece of the championship winning jigsaw. Klopp got everything else right first. Mikel is trying to make us harder to beat first. But harder to beat does not make us very attractive to watch.

  77. GoonerB says:

    Fgg, I’m certain we need upgrades in some areas but also I’m fairly certain we are not getting anywhere near the performances that we are capable of, so Mikel is massively under the spotlight here.

    Arteta did a great job in stabilising us and making us less porous than we were before he arrived. We have needed a better structure for years. Even under Arsene we were more free in our play but lacked the discipline in our game to ever be a challenger across the season.

    The team that wins the league is generally balanced and strong in all parts. We weren’t that with Arsene (in latter years) and certainly not with Emery but I really felt that Mikel might be that best of both worlds. Despite championing him for the job I am now having major doubts.

    We are more defensively sound now, so credit to Mikel. However the top teams only are a challenger if they have a massive goal threat, the ability to put that ball in the back of the net.

    I have to say it again but we are not a big goal threat by overloading our left flank with left footers and our right flank with right footers, especially if we don’t have the type of strikers that thrive on whipped in out swinging balls into the box.

    Watch the game again and see both Tierney and Saka on the left and Bellerin and Willian on the right feeling their main option being to whip in a ball…..but to who exactly? What is the point of this without that right striker or two who thrive of that kind of delivery? It’s a bit mid table, old school British type football for me.

    Liverpool don’t have any more or less threat through the number 9 than us, but utilise the wide players as goal scorers, as most of the top teams do with that inverted wide player. We have the players to play that system and develop that way but are choosing something different. Why?

    I’m sorry but this rests with our manager and that comes from someone who massively touted him as the right person for us. His history, especially recently with City, spoke volumes for me despite his young years.

    He is credited with developing the young wide players at city but they were all, more or less, that modern inverted winger. Why the hell has he come to Arsenal and decided to go the other way round with us when there is the opportunity to develop the team in that other way.

    We can cry out for Ooear and the fellow from Salzburg or wherever but until we get that line up right this is all a load of rubbish. Mikel needs to change this now. He is starting to develop that habit of playing the same old same old and hope it gets a different result.

  78. Gööner In Exile says:


    Whilst I get where you are coming from regarding inverted wingers and your criticism of Mikel I have a question for you.

    Which foot is Pepe, and where does Arteta play him? What foot is PEA and before he played centrally where did Arteta play him?

    The issue we have is that we don’t have a Firmino who can take central defenders away from a central position because they offer a goal threat from outside and inside the box.

    So what do we have when we play inverted wingers? We have PEA and Pepe running into mobs of defenders because the central defenders don’t go anywhere because Laca or Nketiah offer zero goal threat from outside the box.

    We also only have the opportunity to play on the counter when other teams are prepared to press us, so we end up only being able to try and play through the midfield and centrally we just don’t have the personnel for that either.

    That is the reason I believe Mikel has come to this 4-2-3-1/4-5-1 formation, we can move the balls down the flanks whist not having to worry about our middle getting overrun. Having said that when available Pepe has continued to be picked on the right, Saka on left this reminds me of City more than Liverpool.

    Fact is we either have to rebuild or continue to drift, for me I’ve said all along since Arsene left that both Emery and Arteta should give the youth a chance, there has never been a better time with empty stadiums.

  79. GoonerB says:

    I get your argument GIE but feel there are considerations that still massively challenge the formation Arteta is using. I always maintain that, for the most part, you need the balance to be right all across the team for each part to look effective, else one part that is in fact right doesn’t look as right if another part isn’t, and if we keep subsequently righting a wrong part but at the same time changing a right part for a wrong part nothing still looks right and we start to question even the bits that might be right……still with me 🙂

    The thing is if you get the right side right but the left side wrong then one negates the effect of the other. Kind of like, after a puncture, putting one of those thinner spare wheels on the front right side of your car. It runs but not in a great way, but then change it and put the better tyre on the front right side and shift the thin not quite right one to the left and the cars still dysfunctional.

    If it were a Rally car then you also need the right driver (number 9) and right co driver (number 10 / ACM) as well as the right balanced front tyres to make it all effective.

    My question is, when have we had 2 balanced front tyres with the right driver and co-driver all at the same time? This is why it is difficult to analyse Pepe on the right as he hasn’t often played the role with the rest of the car balanced. In fact he hasn’t played the role that much at all really with any consistency, largely in preference of Willian mostly who is one of those thinner spare tyres on the right.

    We’ve seen today what happens when you overload the left side with left footers and the right with right footers all just looking to put a ball in. We put in quite a few dangerous balls but lack the type of front man / men to make that game effective, therefore why do it?

    I can’t remember a time when we have played (or at least played a couple of times in succession) a 4-3-3 with a left footed attacker from the right of the 9 and a right footer from the left with a number 10 type operating centrally behind. It perplexes me because City, where Arteta has served his apprenticeship, largely play that system with wide attacking players credited to Arteta for their development.

    Somehow though he now is trying the opposite with us. Do you think Klopp would allow Mane to play from the right and Salah from the left? Would Mahrez be shifted to the left or Sterling to the right? That pattern continues with all the top clubs and all their wing forwards….bar us.

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