When Wolverhampton Wanderers visit the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon, Arsenal will put an end to a spectacular Premier League season.
With the Gunners well established in second place and Wolves only able to improve their position in the bottom half of the table, neither team will be competing for anything other than pride in North London.
Mikel Arteta‘s Arsenal could not have left the away dressing room quickly enough as the survival party started at the City Ground, leaving the toothless Gunners to regret what might have been in the Premier League title fight.
After 248 days at the top, Manchester City have been crowned champions. To keep the title race alive for another day, Arsenal needed to defeat Nottingham Forest. However, they were defeated by Taiwo Awoniyi‘s winner and were unable to respond against a well drilled Tricky Trees backline.
Arteta’s team has surpassed expectations this season, and the Champions League will soon shine down on the Emirates turf once more. While the Gunners have now penned an unfortunate chapter in Premier League history no side has spent so long at the top without winning the league they have punched above their weight.
There is a sense of recollection in North London, though, as Arsenal fans have seen their team win just two of their last eight games while losing both of their last two games without causing the net to ripple. This is in part due to their end-of-season capitulation last year, which caused them to miss out on a place in the top four.
But as last year’s 5-1 thrashing of Everton on the final day of the season showed, Arsenal can turn up the heat when the pressure is off. With just one more victory, the Gunners would reach 26 for the season, surpassing only the 2003/04 Invincibles and the 2001/02 Premier League champions in that category.
Wolves have lost each of their last five final day games since edging past Sunderland 2-1 in 2010 while Arsenal’s tendency for winning on the final day is well-known. The Gunners have an all times high 70% win percentage in gameweek 38.
Julen Lopetegui, the head coach of Wolves, is reportedly considering his future at Molineux after learning of the spending restrictions that will hinder his team this summer. The ex Sevilla coach will not be anticipating a fond farewell at the Emirates if recent history is any indication.
When Lopetegui’s Sevilla were routed 6-0 by Arsenal in the 2022 Emirates Cup, it was a sign of things to come for the Palanganas before things started to turn around. The 56 years old’s mood could not have been any better last week when a last second Yerry Mina goal equalized a Hwang Hee-chan goal in a 1-1 draw with Everton.
The Colombian’s late equalizer ended a four games winning streak for 13th placed Wolves at Molineux. Depending on other results, Wolves could finish as high as 11th or as low as 15th, but their road performance hasn’t been the deciding factor in their survival. Wolves have lost their last seven away games and have only performed better than Leeds United and Nottingham Forest on rival grounds this season.
In their final pre World Cup Premier League match, Arsenal easily defeated Wolves 2-0 in the West Midlands. This victory extended the Gunners’ winning streak over Lopetegui’s team to three games, the second of which saw a late Jose Sa own goal cause chaos at the Emirates in a 2-1 victory for the Gunners 15 months ago.
As the season draws to a close, the Arsenal medical team has been working extra hard since long term knee patients Takehiro Tomiyasu and Mohamed Elneny are still recovering, and because William Saliba (back), Oleksandr Zinchenko (calf), and Gabriel Martinelli (ankle) are also hoping to be ready for preseason action.
Reiss Nelson missed the match against Forest for the Gunners as well due to illness, but many initially assumed it was due to a contract dispute before the real cause was disclosed. The forward should be back this weekend for what may be his final game for the Emirates.
After his failed Thomas Partey and Jakub Kiwior full back experiment at the City Ground, Arteta should return to a more comfortable system, and Nelson may even enter his thoughts for a starting role with the title already gone. The same can be said for Fabio Vieira and Emile Smith Rowe due to Bukayo Saka and Leandro Trossard‘s injuries.
Chiquinho and Sasa Kalajdzic, who are both suffering from significant knee injuries and will watch from the sidelines here, are the only Wolves players left in the treatment room.
Raul Jimenez should be given some playing time in North London, where he infamously fractured his skull in a sickening head on collision with David Luiz during the 2020/21 season. Lopetegui has demonstrated a willingness to rotate with nothing but pride on the line, and after admitting guilt over depriving the Mexican striker of a proper Molineux farewell, he should do so.
Given the caliber of the opposition, Lopetegui might be tempted to add Matheus Nunes and Matheus Cunha back to the starting lineup, but Daniel Bentley ought to hold Sa, who might move on this summer, at bay in goal for the third straight game.
Aresenal possible starting lineup
Ramsdale, White, Kiwior, Gabriel, Tierney, Odegaard, Xhaka, Jorginho, Nelson, Jesus and Smith Rowe.
Wolverhampton Wanderers possible starting lineup
Bentley, Semedo, Kilman, Dawson, Toti, A. Traore, Lemina, Neves, Nunes, Cunha and Jimenez.
We predict: Arsenal 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Expect a low key final day duel between two teams who are already thinking about next season, with Wolves lacking attacking inspiration the entire season and Arsenal appearing uninspired when Saliba and Zinchenko are absent.
This deadlock may be resolved by a single goal, and considering Wolves’ history of road failures, it should go in Arsenal’s favor as Arteta’s team ends a rocky springtime run with a flourish.