We last faced Wolves in the Premier League on 29 November – a 2-1 defeat at the Emirates that turned a sticky run of form into a full-blown slump.
Scarcely two months on and we’re now in our best run for 18 months and have turned that slump into a surge. The turnaround has been remarkable and testament to the persistence, perseverance and sheer will of Mikel Arteta and his squad.
However, if that turnaround can teach us anything, it’s that form and fortunes can change in an instant. The space of 45 minutes can change the course of a week, a month, or a season. Put simply, we don’t want to risk going back to that November night last year.
So when we visit Molineux tonight, we must guard against complacency at all costs. For their own part, Wolves are having a hugely inconsistent season but have shown themselves capable still, of producing big results with their backs to the wall. We don’t want to fall victim to one such performance.
The returns of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Dani Ceballos, Pablo Mari, and Bukayo Saka mean our options look a little healthier tonight, with precious minutes under the belts of Thomas Partey, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard too.
If we are to get through this compacted season with any measure of consistency, we will need all the options available to us. To that end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little rotation this evening, perhaps with Gabriel coming into the defence and some well-earned rests for Emile Smith Rowe and Alex Lacazette.
That said, continuing to pick up points while we are playing well is vital so the balance will be a difficult one to strike for Mikel, who dare not cause another injury in his desire to force the win.
Not so long ago, I would have looked on this fixture with trepidation but, with or without rotation, it feels like we have a good opportunity tonight to come away with a positive result. A draw certainly wouldn’t be a disaster but, if we are intent on challenging for European places next season, it will have to be a win.
The teams around us – the likes of Spurs, Chelsea and Leicester – have started to hit sticky patches of their own and it is in those moments that we have to make up ground that we lost in our difficulties last year.
This match, then, will serve as something of a barometer for us – a test of where we are now and where we are headed for what remains of this campaign. The business done in the transfer window has put us in a healthy position to challenge but only performances and points will take us there.
Come on you Gunners!