Wolves vs Arsenal: Predicted line-up
Daniel Podence, Willy Boly, Pedro Neto and Adama Traore celebrate the winning goal of Wolves' visit to the Emirates in October. All four of them should start if Wolves hope to win the return fixture | Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images.

Wolverhampton Wanderers are in a seriously rough patch of form at the moment. Without a Premier League win since a scrappy 2-1 home victory over Chelsea in December, Nuno Espirito Santo's men need to start picking up points, fast. Otherwise, based on current form, a slide towards the relegation battle seems inevitable.

Their next challenge comes in the shape of Mikel Arteta's Arsenal, who travel to Molineux in exceptional form, undefeated since before Christmas and having scored 14 goals in 7 league matches in that time.

The opposition

Embed from Getty Images

Arteta will probably use the same 4-2-3-1 formation that has served him so well in his side's unbeaten run. With the fitness of Kieran Tierney uncertain due to a calf issue, Hector Bellerin and Cedric Soares will probably start at full-back, wide of David Luiz and Rob Holding, who impressed at centre-back in the goalless draw against Manchester United on Saturday. Bernd Leno will almost certainly start in goal.

Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey will likely keep their places in central midfield, behind Martin Odegaard. Emile Smith-Rowe has been a revelation for Arsenal this season, but the 'Croydon De Bruyne' has earned a rest and the Gunners' newest attacking reinforcement will be eager to show off his creativity by exploiting the space between Wolves' defensive and midfield lines.

Alexandre Lacazette is likely to start up front, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cutting in from the left flank and Nicolas Pepe from the right. Crystal Palace caused Wolves a lot of problems on Saturday by progressing the ball to an area behind the wingback before cutting infield in front of the outside centre-backs, and Arsenal have exactly the right players to replicate that strategy. Bukayo Saka is still doubtful due to a hip problem, but could appear off the bench.

Dani Ceballos and Pablo Mari (both calf) are both injury doubts, and while Aubameyang's eligibility to start is not yet certain due to quarantine rules, his recent training session with the rest of the Arsenal squad suggests that he will play.

Tactics and formation

Embed from Getty Images

Wolves have looked almost harmless going forward with a 3-4-3 setup in recent weeks, as all the brilliant wing play ultimately counts for nothing when only the centre-forward is free in the box and the central midfielders are forced too deep to be threatening by the formation. An expected goals total of 0.00 in the first half at Selhurst Park is testament to this.

If Nuno hopes to create a goal from open play, he should ditch his back three in favour of a more attacking 4-2-3-1. Such a formation would allow Adama Traore to wreak havoc on the right wing without having to worry too much about defensive duties, while freeing Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto to switch between the left wing and central attacking midfield instead of constantly having to move between both wings, attacking midfield and the second striker role.

The creativity of all three, combined with the Raul Jimenez-esque attacking focal point provided by Willian Jose, the midfield safety net of Leander Dendoncker and Ruben Neves (not forgetting the latter's brilliant passing range), and the underlapping runs of Nelson Semedo from left-back, would provide a huge challenge for the Arsenal defence. Willy Boly and Max Kilman would form a solid central defensive pairing, with the off-form Conor Coady dropping to the bench.

However, such a lineup seems unrealistic. After United kept a clean sheet against Arsenal's brilliant attack, Nuno will most likely keep going with the same tactics as he has used in recent weeks, parking the bus in an attempt to grind out at least a point, while committing minimal numbers forward in attack and hoping for an individual moment of genius to win the game.

Romain Saiss picked up a minor knock in training before the FA Cup tie against Chorley and was replaced by Kilman for the Palace trip; not needing any more long-term injuries on the left side of defence, Nuno will probably start Kilman ahead of Saiss, even if the Moroccan is feeling up to playing.

With all three senior left wingbacks out injured, Semedo will likely play there and undercut Neto when he advances up the pitch, with Ki-Jana Hoever again filling Semedo's regular place at right wingback.

Neves didn't feature against Palace due to the birth of his third child on the day of the match, but he will likely replace Joao Moutinho after the Portuguese legend's uncharacteristically weak performance last time out. Dendoncker was equally unimpressive and sometimes clumsy in defence, so while he is likely to partner Neves, it wouldn't be surprising to see Owen Otasowie given a chance to start.

As usual, Rui Patricio will start in goal.

Embed from Getty Images

Predicted line-up: 3-4-3

Patricio; Boly, Coady, Kilman; Hoever, Dendoncker, Neves, Semedo; Traore, Jose, Neto


Embed from Getty Images

Without a formation change, it is hard to see Wolves getting much out of this game. That being said, Willian Jose grew into the game against Palace, his link-up play looked solid, and Wolves managed four shots on target in the second half. Perhaps a rapid Traore dribble down the wing and a cross in to the Brazilian will unlock the Arsenal defence.

Arsenal have been hard to break down recently - if they remain defensively strong and Wolves park the bus, this game could easily finish 0-0. Arsenal would move level on points with 9th-place Aston Villa (though the Birmingham club would have three games in hand), while Wolves would remain in 14th.