A determined Arsenal side beat Wolves 2-0 after a sweet first half strike from Bukayo Saka and a late Alex Lacazette finish sealed victory writes Layth Yousif at Molineux.
Mikel Arteta’s side showed grit and concerted effort throughout a hard-fought 90 minutes as they dampened down the home side’s intense pressing from the top to clinch their fourth win on the bounce.
The win moves the north Londoners up to seventh, five points off Chelsea in fifth spot as their excellent late season form continues while also dealing a blow to the Old Gold’s chances of qualifying for a Champions League spot.
Arteta made three changes for Arsenal following their 4-0 rout over Norwich at the Emirates in midweek with Eddie Nketiah, Cedric Soares and Saka starting against Nuno Santo’s side who boasted a number players who have consistently impressed this season including the mesmerising Adama Traore.
With the prospect of facing such a disciplined pressing side there was no surprise that Mesut Ozil was yet again missing from the squad, as was Matteo Guendouzi, with the pair relegated to Arteta’s equivalent of the naughty step.
Wolves had been hoping to build on an impressive restart to the Premier League but knew the pressure was on following Leicester and Manchester United’s victories before kick-off.
Wolves vs Arsenal first half
It was Traore, the former Barcelona B attacker who nearly scored with only a matter of seconds on the clock after his powerful right-footed shot was saved by Emi Martinez in the Gunners goal.
Martinez, again standing in for the injured Bernd Leno, looked solid throughout the match, while the Arsenal backline of trio of Sead Kolasinac, David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi, flanked by Cedric on the right and Kieran Tierney on the left as auxiliary wing-backs offered a reassuring solidity, repelling the intensity of the home side during an absorbing 90 minutes.
The visitors offered a threat going forward with Saka in an advanced position on the right, Nketiah central and Aubameyang bearing down the left channel, while Granit Xhaka gave another assured performance alongside the creative Dani Ceballos in the middle.
Nketia nearly scored for Arsenal ten minutes before half time but his shot thudded off Rui Patricio’s left hand post and away to safety.
However, as the clock ticked down towards the break, Saka fired home a superb left-footed volley from the edge of the area to put the Gunners 1-0 ahead. It was the least they deserved after their heartening display - made even more satisfying in the knowledge that it was the first goal Wolves had conceded for 448 minutes.
Wolves vs Arsenal second half
The home side upped their tempo after the interval as they pressed hard pushing the Gunners back deeper and deeper, prompted by the tricky Traore who was engaged in a absorbing duel with Tierney, before the former Celtic defender was replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Traore, whose performances this season put him in the frame for the Premier League’s player of the year, constantly harassed the Gunners left flank, beating Kolasinac to set up Raul Jimenez’s header which went narrowly wide.
Traore could well have scored himself after breaking through the middle after Diogo Jota’s clever pass but he lifted his shot over an onrushing Martinez and over the bar for the relieved visitors.
It was a missed chance Wolves would rue as Lacazette’s emphatic right-footed shot flew past Patricio with five minutes remaining.
Prior to that, with 13 minutes remaining Nketiah could have scored but his header from a Ceballos cross flew over as Arteta’s gritty side clinched a deserved victory.
With four victories in little over a week the two miserable defeats at Manchester City and Brighton have been banished. Perhaps a look at the fact that four Arsenal players were booked in Luiz, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles and Lucas Torreira, this afternoon in the west Midlands gives an indication of the increased levels of commitment shown by Arteta’s men.
With a welcome renewal of effort and intensity no wonder there fails to be a place afforded to Ozil – while the north Londoners rounded off a good week following the new long-term deals handed to goalscorer Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.