Arsenal v Wolves: Disrupted campaign proving a real challenge for Nuno Espirito Santo

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo admits the constant threat of disruption is making this season the most challenging he has experienced.

Wolverhampton Wanderers' Conor Coady
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Conor Coady

Nuno will welcome back skipper Conor Coady for tomorrow night’s trip to Arsenal but remains without Romain Saiss, who is still self-isolating after contracting coronavirus while on international duty with Morocco.

The added pressure of a heavily-congested fixture list and the impending return of supporters to some grounds but not others are further variables in a season which, to this point, has proved wildly unpredictable.

Nuno said: “It’s very hard to answer and predict anything. It has been a very disrupted season and a disrupted time in our society.

“We can guess, for instance, the impact fans coming back might have? When they are back, will anything change?

“It is truly unpredictable in terms of having a stable situation where you can expect a team to have certain performances.

“Sometimes you might start the week with the squad and in the middle of the week you can lose three, four or five players. Our decisions are subject to positive tests on coronavirus.

“Imagine how disruptive situations can be during just one week? For sure, this is the most testing period I have experienced.”

Nuno believes the unusual nature of the season so far means that, even now a quarter in, it is too early to properly assess any team.

There seems little question, however, the next month should tell us a lot more about Wolves, who will face four of the current top seven and Manchester United before the new year arrives.

Coady’s return is likely to see a switch back to a more familiar back three for tomorrow’s trip to the Emirates, after Nuno experimented with a back four for the first time in his reign during Monday’s 1-1 draw in Southampton.

Yet the boss has not ruled out using the latter system again at some point and during the course of yesterday’s pre-match made the concession his team can at times be too predictable.

“I think with time, it can be something useful even inside of the game,” he said, when addressing playing four at the back. “If we have the right players – and we have versatile players – then we can change it inside of the game.

“This can be a big step in our development because we can sometimes be predictable and so in this aspect, we need some advantages.

“I think we have versatile players. I think all of the players need to understand what is being asked of them.

“As long as you ask reasonable things – because you can ask the same things with different players – but you have to try to adapt your ideas to the players you have available.

“As the games go by and we’re involved in situations that are not so clear, the more answers we have, the better our future will be.”

Just one point separates Wolves and Arsenal, who finished seventh and eighth respectively last season, in the early season table. Their recent form has been unerringly similar too, with a disappointing defeat heading into the international break followed up by a solid if not entirely convincing point last weekend.

The Gunners, who claimed a 0-0 draw at Leeds, also have a Europa League campaign to contend with and saw their preparations for Wolves’ visit hit when fog delayed their return from Norway after Thursday night’s tie against Molde.

But Nuno said: “I am not sure that will be an advantage, the schedule of the teams who compete in Europe is very demanding.

“I’m aware their flight was delayed due to fog but I know Arsenal have a good squad and full of talented players who can produce. We cannot ever think any aspect will take the difficulty of the game away.

“I’m expecting a very tough game against very good players and manager. We have been able to compete well against Arsenal and we have to do it again.”

Saiss will be allowed to return to training next week if he returns a negative coronavirus test.

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