Arsenal’s first-team squad will still be looking at qualifying for the Champions League, believes former left-back Ashley Cole. The Gunners went into today’s clash with Wolves sat nine points behind fourth-placed Manchester United.
After back-to-back wins over Southampton and Norwich, with an FA Cup win over Sheffield United in between, Arsenal have restored confidence having previously suffered successive defeats to Manchester City and Brighton.
But with six games to go, at least prior to kick-off at Molineux, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta will have been well aware of the huge task facing his side to finish in the top four for the first time since 2015-16.
Yet going into their clash with Wolves, Cole thinks Arsenal’s players will still be full of belief that playing in the Champions League next season is a feasible goal.
But the former England defender has warned that they need top goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to be at his absolute best in order to claw back their rivals and get a seat back at Europe’s top table.
The Gabon striker scored twice in the 4-0 mid-week win over Norwich to take him up to 19 league goals for the season as he chases the Golden Boot.
Asked if the improvement under Arteta since his December arrival will have met expectations, Cole told Sky Sports: “That they hope for? I would probably say yes.
“I think defensively he’s made them a little bit more stronger and sturdy.
“But again, I still think they’re looking at the Champions League to be honest.
“I think as players you always see and think, ‘If we win four [of the last six] games, we can get there.’
“But they’re going to need him on fire because he’s so important to this team.”
Jamie Redknapp added of Aubameyang: “He’s a world class player, make no mistake about it.
“There’s not many players in the Arsenal team you can say that about.
“I like [Bukayo] Saka, tremendous young talent Ashley isn’t he?
“But he’s the one player [Aubameyang] that if they win this game, he’ll be on the scoresheet.”
Arsenal manager Arteta admitted pre-match that his side cannot afford any more mistakes in the fight for a top-four finish.
He said: “Certainly it’s [the outlook] better than two weeks ago but we know were we are coming. We are ready to compete.
“We don’t have any margin for error. We are trying to compete as well as we can and win as often as we can.”
Arsenal were without Nicolas Pepe for the trip to Wolverhampton, with his wife having gone into labour earlier in the day.
The north London club confirmed that the Ivorian was absent “due to personal reasons”.
Pepe had scored against Brighton and Sheffield United, starting three of their five games since elite football in England restarted in mid-June.
Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi were once again entirely absent from the team too.