Wolves’ interim head coach Steve Davis will take charge for the final time when they host Premier League leaders Arsenal on Saturday, but he is excited by the prospect of Julen Lopetegui taking over.
Wolves are mired in the Premier League’s bottom three and embarked upon a drawn-out search for Bruno Lage’s replacement after opting to make a change in the dugout last month, but Sevilla’s former Europa League-winning boss Lopetegui will take charge after this weekend while set for a watching brief against the Gunners.
“We got the person we wanted to get in, which is great news,” Davis said. “I look back on (his run as interim coach) as really good experience, something I never dreamed would happen as a kid.
“I’d like to think some legacies have been left in terms of young players getting chances, and in terms of methods in training to get more intensity for players. You can see that in the performances and the way they have changed that mindset. They were changes we wanted to make in a short period.”
Arsenal know a victory at Molineux will ensure they remain top of the Premier League table at Christmas, but Mikel Arteta’s men saw their momentum hit by Wednesday’s EFL Cup loss to Brighton and Hove Albion.
With the January transfer window rapidly approaching, Arteta discussed the limitations of the Gunners’ squad.
“We know where we are. We know that at the moment we have certain injuries, the squad is already very, very short, and we have tried to manage that in the best possible way,” he said. “If everyone is available and everyone can play the minutes, we are okay, but at the moment we have some injuries.
“We know what it is, but it’s nothing new. I said it the first day after the transfer window.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wolves – Ruben Neves
As well as having the fewest goals (eight) and lowest shot conversion rate (4.8 per cent) in the Premier League this season, Wolves have had fewer different goalscorers than any other side (four). Neves has scored half of their goals so far this campaign, and he may need to step up once more if Wolves are to threaten the league leaders.
Arsenal – Bukayo Saka
Saka – whose first ever Premier League goal came against Wolves at Molineux in July 2020 – has been involved in 10 goals in his last 10 Premier League games (four goals, six assists), with no Gunners player having a hand in more league goals this season.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Wolves lost home and away against Arsenal in the Premier League last season, having lost just two of their previous eight games against them (W3 D3).
– Arsenal have had three players sent off across their last two Premier League away games against Wolves, with Gabriel Martinelli seeing red last season, while both David Luiz and Bernd Leno did so in a 2-1 defeat in February 2021.
– Victory for Arsenal will mean they are top of the Premier League table at Christmas for the first time since 2007-08. However, the Gunners haven’t gone on to win the title in any of the last five campaigns in which they’ve topped the table at Christmas (1951-52, 1986-87, 1989-90, 2002-03 and 2007-08), last doing so in 1947-48.
– Wolves have won just one of their last eight Premier League games, drawing one and losing six. They’ve conceded at least three goals in four of those eight games, as many times as they had in their previous 49 matches in the competition.
– Arsenal have had five players create at least 20 chances in the Premier League this season, no other side has had more than three (Saka – 26, Martin Odegaard – 25, Gabriel Martinelli – 23, Gabriel Jesus – 22, Granit Xhaka – 20).