It’s fair to say that the past few weeks have been a little topsey-turvey for Arsenal fans. A narrow and nervy win over FC Zürich saw them claim top spot in Group A of the UEFA Europa League and avoid the Round of 32 play-offs. This was followed by a stupendous win over Chelsea and then a humiliating defeat in the League Cup at the hands of Brighton.
What will have given Mikel Arteta and his men hope, is the fact that Chelsea slumped to a 1-0 loss away to Newcastle and, most importantly of all, Manchester City, their closest rivals in the race for top spot, slumped to a surprising 1-2 defeat at home to Brentford.
A win over Wolves would see Mikel Arteta’s men enjoy a five point cushion over Pep Guardiola’s side heading into the World Cup.
The first-half was a frustrating and anti-climactic affair. Arsenal spurned multiple chances, and looked decidedly lightweight against Wolves’ physical monsters.
Granit Xhaka, Arsenal’s most consistent midfielder this season, was forced to withdraw early on. Xhaka’s substitution looked to be down more to a stomach cramp than anything else, but he needed to withdraw and Fábio Vieira took his place.
Xhaka’s withdrawal meant that Arsenal lost the physical edge they needed in midfield.
Thomas Partey makes for a competent double-act with the Swiss international, but his absence meant that the talented buy delicate form of Fábio Vieira was asked to do a job he is not equipped to do.
Arsenal’s first-half was a stagnant half, one in which most of the midfield seemed to be running into each other, compounded by Oleksandr ZInchenko and Martin Ødegaard’s seem lack of understanding of their roles.
Wolves countered Arsenal on a number of occasions, but were unable to really test either Aaron Ramsdale or the wobbly-looking backline of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães.
The second-half saw a decidedly different performance.
This was a half in which Gabriel Martinelli saw more of the ball and began to wreak havoc on Wolves’ right-hand side.
The Brazilian linked up well with Zinchenko and the two began to force errors.
The joy Arsenal had allowed Vieira to grow in confidence and he too took up residence on that side.
A superb run from Gabriel Jesus allowed him to fee an inch-perfect ball through to Vieira. Vieira could have potentially taken the chance himself, but the Portuguese opted instead to dink the ball over José Sá into the six-yard box for Martin Ødegaard to tap home for the game’s much-needed opener.
The aspect of the game changed from there.
Wolves now knew that their low-block tactic would, by and large, need to be abandoned if they were to get anything from this game.
They slowly began to commit more men forward and to aid Adama Traoré, but they were unable to make any of their chances count.
Soon, the game was done and dusted.
Arsenal broke the Wolves ranks once more. Gabriel Martinelli’s disguised pass allowed Zinchenko time and space on the wing, and the Ukrainian played the ball across the penalty area; no Arsenal attacker was able to turn it home. The ball soon fell to Martin Ødegaard who took aim and lashed home his second to kill the tie completely.
The final whistle signalled an end to the game and the beginning of the celebrations from the Arsenal fans as they gained a significant advantage over Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.
It was hardly vintage from Arsenal, at least in the first-half, but they soon began to turn things around and, overall, can be fairly happy with the result.
Wolves looked very second-class on the day in defence, but were made to look a lot better by Arsenal’s poor finishing.
The biggest standout on the day had to be Gabriel Jesus.
While he may lack a goal at the moment, the former-Manchester City man proved just how important he is to the cause at Arsenal.
The Brazilian striker was throwing himself into every challenge, every 50:50 and was taking up pockets of space that created unendurable overloads for Wolves. Any other day, he may have had a goal or two to his name too.
Manchester City’s loss at home to Brentford earlier had meant that Arsenal would be assured top spot by Christmas, but a win over a lacklustre Wolves has allowed Arsenal a comfortable gap between them and City and they can head into the break exceptionally proud of their efforts.
Wolverhampton Wanderers team:
1.) José Sá
22.) Nélson Semedo (Lembikisa 67′)
4.) Nathan Collins
23.) Max Kilman
24.) Toti (Nunes 79′)
64.) Hugo Bueno
8.) Rúben Neves (c)
6.) Boubacar Traoré
28.) João Moutinho (Podence 67′)
37.) Adama Traoré
17.) Gonçalo Guedes
Wolverhampton Wanderers subs:
13.) Matija Sarkic
14.) Yerson Mosquera
81.) Dexter Lembiska
3.) Rayan Aït-Nouri
25.) Connor Ronan
59.) Joe Hodge
10.) Daniel Podence
27.) Matheus Nunes
77.) Chem Campbell
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
4.) Benjamin White
12.) William Saliba
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
35.) Oleksandr Zinchenko (Cédric 90′)
5.) Thomas Partey
34.) Granit Xhaka (Vieira 16’ (Elneny 90’))
8.) Martin Ødegaard (c)
7.) Bukayo Saka (Nelson 90′)
11.) Gabriel Martinelli
9.) Gabriel Jesus
30.) Matt Turner
16.) Rob Holding
17.) Cédric Soares
3.) Kieran Tierney
25.) Mohamed Elneny
21.) Fábio Vieira
24.) Reiss Nelson
14.) Eddie Nketiah