Result: Wolves 0-2 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 4 July 2020
Venue: Molineux Stadium
Starting lineup: Martinez, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Soares, Ceballos, Xhaka, Tierney, Saka, Nketiah, Aubameyang.
Subs: Macey, Bellerin, Holding, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Willock, Nelson, Lacazette
Bukayo Saka and Alex Lacazette bagged the goals as Arsenal kept alive their chances of qualifying for Europe with a vital 2-0 win over Wolves at Molineux.
Saka lit up a scrappy first half with a brilliant strike just before the break and a backs-against-the-wall performance was capped when Lacazette came off the bench to lash in a second.
The win takes us up to seventh in the table and closes the gap on today’s opponents to three points ahead of Tuesday’s clash against Leicester.
Cedric Soares’ reward for his goal-scoring cameo against Norwich was a first start for the Gunners. The Portugal international replaced Hector Bellerin as one of our wing-backs. Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah were the two other changes from Wednesday night. They replaced Reiss Nelson and Alex Lacazette. Lucas Torreira was a welcome addition to a bench that was missing Nicolas Pepe, whose wife went into labout this morning. Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi were again left in London.
Against a side in good form and one with a reputation for dangerous counter-attacking football, you always sensed that the Gunners would operate conservatively in the opening stages.
An early scare aside – Martinez was alert to block a Traore effort after 20 seconds – we were compact, competitive and cautious. Our pressing was eye-catching; players often doubling up on danger men to snuff out threats early.
We dominated possession for long spells but Aubameyang and Nketiah looked isolated and we really struggled to create any chances. 26 minutes were on the clock before Aubameyang tested Rui Patricio. It was a tame effort too, a half-hearted hit after the ball fell to him from a corner.
Wolves weren’t much better. As expected, Traore was lively on the ball but veered between dangerous and wasteful. He lashed over high and wide with one ambitious effort and also drew a foul from Luiz that saw the Brazilian end up in the book.
It didn’t really feel like either side was that fussed about scoring so Rui Patricio wasn’t the only one surprised when Nketiah tried his luck with a well-struck low drive. The Portuguese keeper ended up doing well to save the ball onto his post.
We took heart from that moment and with our next attack, two minutes before the break, we broke the deadlock. In the week that he signed a new contract at the club, Saka delivered a moment of quality, pouncing on a loose ball in the box to spin onto a volley that flew into the top corner. It was a lovely finish after we’d scrappily worked the ball from Cedric on the right to Tierney on the left via Aubameyang. (1-0)
Wolves were bright after the restart. Traore did Kolasinac for pace on the touchline and delivered a cross that Jimenez dived for at the back post. He claimed a nudge from Cedric but referee Michael Oliver dismissed his claims for a penalty.
Possibly wary of Traore’s threat, Arteta threw on Maitland-Niles on for Tierney, who looked like he might need a breather after a lot of football in recent weeks.
Wolves continued to tighten the screw. Luiz did well to block a Jota shot after Cedric had slipped at a vital moment and on 64 minutes Traore missed a gilt-edged chance, dinking over Martinez but also the bar.
Mikel Arteta was very animated in the drinks break as he tried to get final instructions across to his players. It looked like we were about to bring on Willock and Bellerin, in fact, the duo had to wait another five minutes on the touchline before they were introduced for Saka and Soares. In that time, we weathered several set pieces from the home side.
Nketiah had another half chance to double our lead on 75 minutes but headed over after rising well to connect with a Ceballos free-kick. Our young striker ran himself into the ground and was eventually taken off for Lacazette.
Without an away goal in living memory, it really felt like the Frenchman was introduced to make a nuisance of himself. He did more than that. After great work by Willock, he nicked in front of marker Cody, took a touch and banged home off the post. (2-0)
As the Arsenal bench celebrated, Willock should have added a third. Played in by Aubameyang, the goal was gaping but Neves blocked his shot on the line.
Make no mistake about it, this was a brilliant result. An ugly but professional performance against a really decent side. That’s three league wins on the bounce. Keep it going boys.