Give Burnley’s unexpected win over Tottenham the night before, Arsenal entered their match against Wolves with the prospect of pushing into a 6 point lead over their North London rivals.
The weekend’s win over Brentford had put the wind back in Arsenal’s sails and instilled fresh belief in the side. Despite the 5-day gap between games, Arsenal were without goalscorer Emile Smith Rowe and without right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu for the visit of Wolves.
Arsenal had already scraped past Wolves a week earlier and now they had the task of taking them on at home, without their in-form number 10 and without their usual, starting full-back.
Arsenal started off well enough. An early chance fell to Gabriel Martinelli and though the fans instantly jumped up to order a penalty, referee Martin Atkinson took no interest.
Despite the early pressure, it was Wolves who took an unexpected lead. An unbelievably poor back pass from the usually exceptional Gabriel Magalhães sold Aaron Ramsdale short and was gratefully pounced upon by Hwang Hee-Chan, who rounded the goalkeeper and slotted it home from a tight angle.
This is usually where teams tend to fail against Wolves. They are the only side in the Premier League to have not lost from a losing position this season and their impeccable record of the 2nd best defence in the league meant that Arsenal’s chances of snatching something from this game looked remote.
Arsenal continued to push hard, but they couldn’t quite break down the Wolves defence.
Gabriel Martinelli went closest, linking up well with Alexandre Lacaztte, but his dinked outside-of-the-boot finish soared over José Sá’s goal.
Half-time came and went and it was more of the same from Arsenal. The relentless pressure that the team had exhibited against Brentford looked to have ebbed through here too.
Though Wolves came close with Hee-Chan once again, Arsenal ultimately managed to contain them for the most part.
The timely introductions of Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pépé proved decisive.
Pépé was constantly looking to make things happen and his hard-work soon paid off when Eddie Nketiah broke into the Wolves penalty area and slotted it into Pépé, who turned on the spot and finished with his left-foot in one fluid motion to bring Arsenal level.
Wolves had spent most of the game time-wasting. Evidently, Bruno Lage and his staff knew just how important a win away at the Emirates Stadium would be and the Wolves team began to run the clock down as much as possible.
After Arsenal’s equaliser, they re-doubled their efforts. No matter how hard Arsenal tried, if the ball went out of play, Wolves would eat up 40 seconds with pointless time-wasting.
Bruno Lage himself seemed to induldge in the practice, seemingly intentionally messing up a substitution to waste even more time first asking to take off Raúl Jiménez and then changing his mind to bring off Daniel Podence instead.
The referee and his 4th official were not fooled and 6 minutes of stoppage time were added on.
Arsenal continued to pound on the Wolves door and Wolves continued to stand firm. Before the referee could blow his whistle, however, something miraculous happened.
Arsenal hustling all the time to win the ball back, finally had it in their possession. Their “now or never” moment had come, as Lacazette, Pépé and Martin Ødegaard all linked up to play Lacazette through. Quite what the Frenchman was attempting, no one but him knows, but his shot-cum-cross was flashed across the penalty area and was, unfortunaltey for Wolves, turned in by the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand to give Arsenal the lead in the dying embers of the match.
The stadium erupted and Lacazette was a hero in the stands. The passion that exuded from the captain nd his teammates was enough to wake the dead.
The unparalleled noise coming from the home support was only trounced by the noise made when the referee blew his whistle only a minute or so later.
They had done it.
No one quite knows how Arsenal had managed to snatch a victory there, but Arsenal won’t complain.
It was an outstanding performance that shows just how far Arsenal have come under Mikel Arteta. The Arsenal of old would surely have folded under such pressure.
Going a goal down to a team who rarely, if ever, surrenders the lead and then push on for all 3 points is a true testament of the growing belief in Mikel Arteta’s side.
The Emirates Stadium played it’s part as well. Gabriel Martinelli and Alexandre Lacazette were constantly flairing up to the fans getting them to keep pushing the team on and the Emirates, so often criticised for its lacklustre atmosphere, was a cauldron on the night.
The performances of players like Martin Ødegaard and Nicolas Pépé were essential as well. For the latter, it was a chance to grab his first goal and assist of the league campaign and for the former, it was yet another display that showed just how much of a bargain his £29m price tag was.
Arsenal have a short rest now and a well-earned one at that. Next up, a trip away to Roy Hodgson’s Watford, which has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Arsenal in recent seasons; but for now, they can bask in the reflective glory of a job well-done.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
17.) Cédric Soares (Nketiah 76’)
4.) Benjamin White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney (Tavares 92’)
34.) Granit Xhaka
5.) Thomas Partey
7.) Bukayo Saka
8.) Martin Ødegaard
35.) Gabriel Martinelli (Pépé 71’)
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
1.) Bernd Leno
16.) Rob Holding
20.) Nuno Tavares
69.) Zak Swanson
25.) Mohamed Elneny
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
82.) Omari Hutchinson
19.) Nicolas Pépé
30.) Eddie Nketiah
Wolverhampton Wanderers team:
1.) José Sá
23.) Max Kilman
16.) Conor Coady (c)
27.) Romain Saïss
22.) Nélson Semedo (Jonny 61’)
8.) Rúben Neves
28.) João Moutinho
3.) Rayan Aït-Nouri
10.) Daniel Podence (Dendoncker 91’)
26.) Hwang Hee-Chan (Neto 75’)
9.) Raúl Jiménez
Wolverhampton Wanderers subs:
21.) John Ruddy
11.) Francisco Trincão
39.) Luke Cundle
32.) Leander Dendoncker
7.) Pedro Neto
17.) Fábio Silva
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