What’s on offer today? Three points and an opportunity to be top of the League on the only day of the year when Father Christmas goes to work. There’s no denying it, Mikel Arteta and his young squad have got people talking about whether or not we are serious title contenders. All the time we’re top of the League, the answer has to be yes, but we’re not even half way through the season.
I thought this was interesting from Pep Guardiola yesterday:
Mikel, we worked together three years but he was taught since he was born and has experiences in England. Maybe I learned more off him when we worked together. Arsenal has the work ethic, the talent, the support. Mikel had the bad moment in the beginning, but people see how he works every day, the commitment. He’s patient, all the managers want time to build something. Arsenal have given it to him, the rest is the position they have.
When a manager as successful as Guardiola, admittedly, greatly assisted by having vast amounts of money to spend at each club he’s managed, says he learned things from a rookie, any sceptics out there might think differently about our manager. If there are any sceptics left that is. The way the team have been playing should be enough to convince even the harshest of critics that Arsenal are very much improved. Enough to win the title? Title talk in November always seems odd to me because so much can happen over the next seven months. Injuries, suspensions and referees to name just three. What, if anything, Arsenal can do in January is another.
But wouldn’t it be great to still be topping the table at Christmas? Of course it would but we need to beat Wolves to achieve that. Saying that, if Brentford pull off a shock result at The Etihad this lunchtime, regardless of what happens at the Molineux Stadium.
A few stats for those interested:
- Victory for Arsenal will mean they are top of the Premier League table at Christmas for the first time since 2007. However, it’s 1947-48 since they last led the top-flight table at Christmas and went on to be champions.
- Arsenal have their best record after 13 league games of a season, with 11 wins and 34 points.
- They are the only side to have scored in every Premier League match this season, while they also have the joint best defensive record.
- The Gunners have kept a clean sheet in five of their seven Premier League away fixtures this season. They only managed six in the entire 2021-22 campaign.
- Gabriel Jesus has gone five league appearances without a goal but he has scored five times in four starts against Wolves.
Mikel Arteta was asked about being top at Christmas and to no surprise, he’s only focused on the here and now:
The focus is to play better every single day and to try to play better tomorrow than we did against Chelsea. If we do that, our chances to win the game will increase and that’s where our focus is.
Wolves might be sitting one place off the bottom of the league but I think the players need to be careful. It’s the last game in charge for interim head coach Steve Davis whilst new manager new boss Julen Lopetegui will be watching on from the stands before taking over on Monday so every Wolves player will be out to impress.
Wolves – Raul Jimenez, Sasa Kalajdzic, Matheus Nunes and Toti Gomes are all ruled out through injury, Jonny is and doubt and Diego Costa is banned.
Arsenal – it’s just Emile Smith Rowe and Takehiro Tomiyasu who are missing.
With the World Cup just a few hours away for many Arsenal players, ten I think at the last time of counting, more about the numbers on another day, the last thing they’ll want today is an injury. Mikel Arteta touched on this and I agree with his theory. A player is more likely to pick up an injury if he’s trying to avoid doing so.
We’ve discussed that topic before and I always said to them, if you are thinking about an injury, it is probably going to happen. I don’t know if it’s going to happen today, the next day, or the first day of your preparations for the World Cup, so get it out of your minds. You are professional athletes, and this risk is always there for you. Do your job and commit yourself to everything that you do in every action, and the risk will be less.
England need Ben White, Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale so perhaps referee Stuart Attwell will see any bad challenges on them more clearly than he might otherwise. Wolves do have an England player in their squad in Connor Coady but he’s currently on loan at Everton.
A factoid, Wolves are the dirtiest club in the League in the Premier League Fair Play Table and I strongly suspect we’ll see evidence of Wolves ‘strong tactics’ this evening. Strong but fair is fine but overstep the mark and I hope Attwell gets his cards out of his pocket. That applies to both teams but especially Arsenal as we don’t want to give Wolves any kind of advantage. We don’t want to give Attwell a decision to make either, or Mike Dean on VAR.
See you in the comments.