If there was an FA Cup semi-final hangover in recent displays against Southampton and Brighton, Wolverhampton Wanderers were back to something approaching top form on Wednesday evening.
Wolves’ record against the “big six” this season has been impressive (only three defeats in 11 league fixtures, plus wins over Manchester United and Liverpool in the FA Cup) and Arsenal became their latest scalp at Molineux last night.
More importantly for Fantasy managers, Wolves’ assets looked to have rediscovered some of their swagger heading into the season run-in.
Watford are next up for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side in Gameweek 36 and we discussed the Hornets’ defensive frailties in our Scout Notes article yesterday.
An appealing home fixture against Fulham then follows although curiously, Wolves have only won one of their five league matches against the sides in the bottom three in 2018/19.
A trip to Liverpool rounds off their season and, while daunting on paper, Wolves’ record against the top half-dozen clubs could be significant at Anfield – especially if nerves are a factor for the Reds on what could be the decisive day in the Premier League title race.
Arsenal’s dismal away form continued, meanwhile, and there will be plenty of Fantasy managers deserting the Gunners’ assets given that they are on the road twice in the remaining three Gameweeks and are in Europa League semi-final action around those fixtures.
We discuss last night’s match further in our Scout Notes article below.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 Arsenal
- Goals: Ruben Neves (£4.9m), Matt Doherty (£5.3m), Diogo Jota (£6.2m) | Sokratis Papastathopoulos (£5.1m)
- Assists: Jonny (£4.3m) x2 | Granit Xhaka (£5.2m)
Raul Jimenez (£6.9m) emerged from Double Gameweek 35 with nothing but appearance points after a second successive home blank on Wednesday evening.
Jimenez had twice as many shots than anyone else on show at Molineux but it was simply one of those off-days in front of goal for the Mexican striker, who attracted 19.4% of the vote in our Gameweek 35 Captain Poll and who was handed the captaincy by 22.08% of the top 10,000 FPL managers.
Jimenez twice blazed wildly off-target from the left-hand side of the Arsenal box and could only shin over a Willy Boly (£4.7m) flick-on from close range as the former Benfica striker failed to test Bernd Leno (£4.9m) with any of his four efforts.
A frustrating night was compounded when Diogo Jota (£6.2m) was unable to control Jimenez’s fizzed cross with just Leno to beat, depriving the Mexican’s owners of even a consolation assist.
Those who invested in Jota for Gameweek 35 had a happier evening, as the Portuguese attacker registered his 15th attacking return of the season (14 of which have come in his last 17 appearances) by scoring Wolves’ third goal just before the break.
While there was an element of fortune in that the goal came from Jota’s only effort of the evening and that Leno ought to have saved the shot, the Portugal under-21 international deserved any slice of luck that came his way.
Jota was outstanding all evening, registering more than three times as many touches as Jimenez in the final third and attempting more take-ons than any other player on show.
Arsenal’s defence struggled to handle the “out of position” FPL midfielder and Jota’s goal came about when he pounced on a loose pass and left Sokratis Papastathopoulos (£5.1m) for dead before firing low under Leno’s grasp.
The potentially good news for owners of Jota and Jimenez is that both players were substituted in the final quarter of an hour of yesterday’s game, with Santo perhaps preserving their legs for Saturday’s trip to Vicarage Road.
While there was no word from the Wolves boss last night on possible rotation this weekend, it is worth reminding ourselves of comments he made in March about a three-game week:
“When you have a tough cycle of games in a week, the third one is the one we believe requires some attention.”Nuno Espirito Santo speaking after the Gameweek 29 win over Cardiff City.
Matt Doherty (£5.3m), Jonny (£4.3m), Ruben Neves (£4.9m) and Joao Moutinho (£5.2m) were all rotated against Cardiff in Gameweek 29, so we might expect to see a handful of changes at Vicarage Road on Saturday given that Wolves’ next match takes place less than 72 hours after their game against Arsenal.
There are only three fixtures left of the season, of course, so the counter-argument to that would be: what would Santo be resting his players for?
Out of the FA Cup and with a three-month break approaching, there isn’t a greater goal (other than Santo giving his squad players a chance to impress) that can be aided by wholesale rotation at Watford.
Doherty and Jonny were both substituted against Southampton and Brighton, of course, so the hope for owners of the two marauding wing-backs is that they have had sufficient rest to line up again at Vicarage Road this weekend.
There was more joy for the pair against Arsenal.
Jonny won the free-kick that Neves subsequently converted and then supplied the teasing cross that Doherty nodded in to put Wolves 2-0 up, with both players leaving Gameweek 35 with double-digit hauls.
Perhaps surprisingly, Jonny’s two assists were only his third and fourth attacking returns this season. The wing-back would have completed a hat-trick of assists, too, had Jimenez not wasted his pass in the second half.
This was Doherty’s first league goal since Gameweek 16 and long overdue, given that he has had more shots in the box than any defender bar Shane Duffy (£4.8m) in the subsequent 19 Gameweeks.
This was a curious match, with Arsenal enjoying over 70% of the possession and having started the game the better of the two sides.
Speaking after the match, Santo said:
It was a good performance against a tough team. First half was very good, second half not so good, but very well played. If we look at all the game I think the boys worked very hard.
At the beginning of the game it was difficult to recover the ball, Arsenal have quality players, created some problems and we were able to break and the first moment we broke we were lucky enough to have this moment of talent and quality of Ruben’s.
From there on I think we controlled the game better, it put us on the front foot, so well played and it’s fantastic from the players, credit to them, they made a fantastic performance.
For all their dominance of the ball, Arsenal created little of note.
Sokratis headed in Granit Xhaka‘s (£5.2m) 79th-minute corner to deprive the home side of a clean sheet but that was the Gunners’ only shot on target, with Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m) barely given a sniff by Wolves’ impressive three centre-halves.
One wild swing at the ball after some good work to get into the home penalty box was Lacazette’s only serious attempt on goal, with the Frenchman starved of help from the disappointing Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£6.7m), Mesut Ozil (£7.9m) and Alex Iwobi (£5.4m) behind him.
Unai Emery said of Arsenal’s lack of goal attempts on target:
They are a good team, with good structure. Defensively they are very strong and they are doing a very good season because they have good players also.
We tried but didn’t take chances to score. I think one reason is because they worked very well defensively. We needed to be more calm and we know here it’s going to be very difficult, but we need to respect them with their moments and to be calm in the 90 minutes, impose our ideas and result against them.
Really, they were better than us and they worked and played more strongly in their gameplan and they beat us.
Lacazette led the line alone in Emery’s 4-2-3-1, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m) not part of the match-day squad.
Arsenal explained that the Gabonese forward had undergone a “small sinus procedure” and will now be assessed ahead of Sunday’s match at Leicester.
The dangers associated with owning an Arsenal asset were evident again last night, with Emery not only changing shape but seven members of his starting XI.
Sead Kolasinac (£5.0m) was one of the players to drop out and only emerged as a late substitute, with Arsenal chasing the game.
There was no Shkodran Mustafi (£5.4m) either after the German’s horror show against Crystal Palace but there was no real improvement in Arsenal’s defending, with even Leno having a rare off-day and culpable for two of Wolves’ goals.
Emery was asked about his goalkeeper after the match but said:
I don’t want to speak individually about the players. I think we need to continue together and not look at one player or the defence or attacking players like a group.
We need to think to recover our confidence and to recover our good moments for when we were in the worst moments. We can recover and take possibilities like we have now. Really, the last two matches we lost good options but the last three matches we are going to play in the Premier League we can and we are going to play our possibilities.
Those hanging onto Leicester assets such as Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) would have been further encouraged to see such shambolic Arsenal defending, with the Foxes hosting Arsenal on Sunday lunchtime.
Only five clubs have allowed more “big chances” than the Gunners when filtered by their last six matches, with Emery’s side also sitting in the bottom half of the table for shots in the box and efforts on target conceded during that time.
Arsenal’s shut-out at ten-man Watford in Gameweek 34 remains their only clean sheet away from home in 2018/19.
Wolves XI (3-5-2): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Jonny; Moutinho (Gibbs-White 90′); Jimenez (Adama 82′), Jota (Cavaleiro 78′).
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Torreira (Guendouzi 59′), Xhaka; Iwobi (Nketiah 71′), Ozil, Mkhitaryan (Kolasinac 59′); Lacazette.