The Warm Down: Arsenal fans left scratching their heads
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Referee, Craig Pawson shows David Luiz of Arsenal a red card during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal at Molineux on February 02, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Nick Potts - Pool/Getty Images)

Arsenal kicked off the game with a feel-good factor around the club and, in the first 44 minutes, that showed on the pitch as well. Bukayo Saka was put through early on by Thomas Partey, with the 19-year-old English winger rattling the post with his effort. Saka then found the net with a cool finish which was later ruled offside due to Alex Lacazette being beyond the final defender in the build-up. 

The Gunners then dominated possession with Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey dictating the play in the middle of the park. Arsenal domination in attack and control of the game finally paid off when Nicholas Pepe hit a sweet strike into the top corner in the 32nd minute. 

The Gunners dominated the rest of the half until stoppage time when David Luiz caught Willian Jose, bringing him down in the box. This controversial incident resulted in the Brazilian centre back being sent off and Wolverhampton Wanderers being awarded a penalty. The penalty kick was cooly dispatched by Ruben Neves, who rifled it into the top corner.

Second half disappointment

The Gunners came out for the second half with Gabriel replacing Lacazette and youngster Emile Smith-Rowe moving into the false 9 role. Before this already wounded Arsenal side had time to settle, Joao Moutinho struck an absolute wonder strike from way outside the box into the top corner, leaving Bernd Leno with no chance. Arsenal then found themselves 2-1 down against a Wolves side that enjoyed sitting back and retain possession of the ball. 

The rest of the second period involved Wolves keeping possession of the ball and Arsenal working hard to retain their shape. Wolves with the extra man left Arsenal chasing shadows and a ball over the top to Adama Traore triggered a moment of madness from the Arsenal number one Bernd Leno. The German keeper sprinted out as the “Sweeper Keeper” and misjudged the flight of the ball, resulting in him handling the ball outside the box and being dismissed by referee Craig Pawson

The Gunners then sacrificed Thomas Partey for back up keeper Alex Runarsson and set up their nine men in two banks of four in front of the Icelandic goalkeeper. Wolves were keen to protect the possession of the ball for the final period of the game and claimed all three points as Arsenal’s eight outfield players struggled to put a dent in Wolves' full-strength team.

Lively return to the side for Bukayo Saka

Young Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka had a lively return to form with the young winger causing all sorts of problems for the Wolves defence from the very first minute. Saka’s direct runs and powerful drives with the ball unsettle defenders. The Englishman simply must be part of the travelling squad for the European Championships with England in the summer as he has been invaluable for the Gunners this season and arguably their best player. Saka would provide top quality competition and depth for the likes of Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling.

Xhaka and Partey superb again

The Xhaka and Partey midfield pivot was solid once again as Mikel Arteta appears to have found his preferred midfield combination for his team. Partey and Xhaka complement each other to the highest level with the duo showcasing quality passing and having the perfect balance between defence and attack. The two Gunners midfielders also link-up neatly with young attacking midfielder Emile Smith-Rowe.

Looking Ahead

Arsenal face a trip to in-form Aston Villa away at Villa Park in the early kick off in the Premier League on Saturday.  Arteta and his side will hope for a return to winning ways and an immediate response from his team. The Gunners will be without goalkeeper Leno and their Brazilian centre back David Luiz. Australian Mat Ryan and three-time player of the month Gabriel will be expected to fill-in for the missing players who will serve a suspension for their red cards. Arsenal will also await a late fitness test on Kieran Tierney before the weekend to see if the Scot will feature in this fixture.