Premier League

Wolverhampton-Arsenal Preview

The crises of football in north London are not the exclusive domain of Tottenham Hotspur.

Lurching from match to match and infurating supporters in the process, Unai Emery and Arsenal try again to get it right Saturday when they host a Wolverhampton side looking to start collecting wins instead of draws.

The two clubs are holding their own in Europa League group play, with Arsenal (4-4-2) claiming the maximum nine points from their three matches and Wolverhampton (2-6-2) second on six points and two home matches remaining in the last three.

But even the most recent contest in Europe's second-tier competiton had Gunners fans frothing at the mouth as Arsenal needed a brace by Nicolas Pepe in the final 10-plus minutes to rally past Portuguese side Vitoria de Guimaraes. That marked the opening act a frantic week of football that left many questioning whether Emery - in his second season in charge - is truly the man to lead Arsenal long-term.

Last weekend saw talisman Granit Xhaka - his captaincy alone a polarising topic - have a meltdown as supporters jeered off him the pitch as Arsenal frittered away a 2-0 lead at home in settling for a draw versus Crystal Palace as a potential match-winner was chalked off by VAR.

Emery addressed this issue head-on during Thursday's news conference, telling the team's official website, "He is now devastated, devastated and sad. We spoke yesterday and on Sunday night I also spoke. This morning, he trained as normal with the group but he is devastated and he is sad about the situation.

"He is down and the most important thing now is that we look after him, his family. Look after him, the club, the team and also recover our best Granit Xhaka."

That controversy had barely died down ahead of Wednesday's Carabao Cup tie at Anfield versus Liverpool. Mesut Ozil made his first appearance in any competition in over a month in his usual No. 10 role in a match that saw both evergreen sides overturn good portions of their XIs to have some of their younger players get playing time.

The match was completely off the rails as Arsenal shook off an early own goal by Shkodran Mustafi only to throw away leads of 3-1 and 4-2. Even after Liverpool leveled the match at 4-4 just after the hour, Joe Willock looked like he gave the Gunners a path to victory with a belter on 70 minutes. Yet Arsenal conceded right before the death, and the match went directly to penalties.

In a group of clinical finishers, Dani Ceballos' attempt that was stopped by Liverpool keeper Caoimhin Keller proved decisive as Arsenal exited in the round of 16.

Teenage starlet Gabriel Martinelli continues to be a ray of hope amid the madness, netting his seventh goal in as many matches across all competitions in Wednesday's loss. He has just 45 minutes of Premier League play in three substitute appearances but did join Ronaldo as the only Brasilian-born players to score seven goals in their first 400 minutes of play in Europe.

As for Ozil, who was surprisingly lifted in the 65th minute, Emery said the former Germany international will be a part of this contest, though he did not exactly specify if he would make his first league start since Arsenal's 2-2 draw at Watford on Sept. 15.

"We decided before the game to only play him for that amount of time," Emery told talkSPORT after Wednesday's match. "Yes he will feature [vs Wolves]. We have a match on Saturday and we will look at the possibility to use him again alongside other players and this is the way sometimes."

While Wolverhampton are unbeaten in their last five league matches (2-3-0), they are looking to regroup from their Carabao Cup exit Wednesday following a 2-1 loss at Aston Villa. Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo opted to turn over most of his side as three academy players made their senior team debuts and was pleased with what he saw despite the defeat.

"I think they worked hard. We were organised, worked hard, young boys, I've told them to keep on working next time because the chance will come, they must believe more in themselves, there is a lot of talent," Nuno told Wolves' official website.

"They do it in the training sessions every time, so let's work hard keep on bringing players, but the game was hard for us. Villa are a good team, they had good possession of the ball, but I don't think they harmed us too much and we had chances, so I'm proud of the boys."

Patrick Cutrone gave Wolves a flicker of hope with a goal in the 54th minute to level the contest, but the Midlands side conceded three minutes later off a set piece.

Goals have still been a struggle in league play - Wolverhampton have just 13 in their 10 matches as Raul Jimenez has yet to truly fire despite leading the team with three. The Mexico international has matched that total in Wolves' five Europa League matches when including the final round of qualifying matches ahead of group play.

Wolves have claimed draws in their last two trips to the Emirates, including a 1-1 deadlock last term. The Midlands club recorded their first Premier League win in 10 tries (1-2-7) in the most recent fixture, a 3-1 victory at Molineux as Ruben Neves, Matt Doherty, and Diogo Jota all scored in the final 17 minutes of the first half.

Updated October 31, 2019

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