Classic Encounter: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Arsenal
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 24: Ruben Neves of Wolverhampton Wanderers scores a goal during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal FC at Molineux on April 24, 2019 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

A lot has changed in almost two years time, as once high flying Wolverhampton Wanderers now find themselves struggling to find a win in the Premier League.

In April of 2019, Wolves put Arsenal to the sword at Molineux, in what arguably was one of their most complete first-half performances since returning to the Premier League, winning the game 3-1.

Ruben Neves’ superb free-kick was the standout from the match, as the Portuguese midfield maestro opened the scoring just before the half an hour mark.

  • Dominant first-half display

Wolverhampton Wanderers have been renowned for starting slowly but coming on strong in the second half under boss Nuno Espírito Santo, however in this game it was completely the opposite.

Ruben Neves’ stunning free-kick from around 30 yards out left Bernd Leno scrambling across his goal before picking the ball out of the net. After that strike, the Molineux was rocking and Wolves looked strong.

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Only nine minutes later, Matt Doherty doubled Wolves’ lead as he got on the end of a cross from Jonny Otto, and fired past Leno. 

Wolves were firing and so was the stadium. Arsenal under Unai Emery had looked poor during the season and were there for the taking, which the hosts took advantage of.

Diogo Jota added a third just before the half time break as he skipped round a few Arsenal defenders before shooting low and beating the German keeper.

  • Solid defensive display was the key

Despite firing on all cylinders going forward in the first half, it was important that Wolves stayed switched on to take all three points.

Wolves threatened again in the second half with Raúl Jimenez, as he flashed a shot past the left-hand post. 

One notable defensive display was the performance of Willy Boly. He was dominating in the air, winning the majority of the headers that came his way.

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Halfway through the second half, Matteo Guendouzi drove over the halfway line and slipped through Alexandre Lacazette before he was crowded out by the French man-mountain Boly.

The back three won almost everything that was there to win, including headers and second balls. Arsenal’s only goal in the match came from a towering header from Sokratis Papastathopoulos in the 80th minute.

  • What Wolves can learn from this performance

In recent weeks the Old Gold and Black of Wolverhampton Wanderers have struggled. They are winless in eight matches and are in desperate need of not only three points, but a good performance.

When the Midlands side came into this fixture in 2019, they had one win in four matches, having dropped points against the likes of Brighton and Hove Albion

The way that the home side took the game to Arsenal in the first half was something that set the tone for the rest of the match. Wolves will have to do this again if they want to get anything out of the fixture this week.

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Players such as Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence will have to take on the Arsenal defence, who have shown signs of weakness this season.

Striker Willian José will also be of huge importance for Wolves. If he is able to hold up the play, and pick up positions in between the Arsenal backline, then he has the ability to hurt the Gunners.

More importantly however, is the solidarity of the Wolves defence. The back three have to ensure that they don’t get bullied by the strikers of the visitors and they also have to make sure they are fully focussed throughout in order to not give away any needless errors.

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