Arsenal cap off memorable start to season with forgettable Wolves win to keep Premier League title charge


During this first half of the season, Arsenal have delivered many magical and memorable performances, but this one at Wolves will not be remembered for long.

It may not have been a memorable performance, but it was a memorable win for Mikel Arteta’s side who capitalized on Manchester City’s loss to Brentford earlier in the day.

The win ensured Arsenal would be top on Christmas Day but, having won 2-0 here at Wolves thanks to two goals from Martin Odegaard, their lead over Pep Guardiola’s side will be five points instead of two.

There is still a long, very long way to go in this title race, but given that the players may well be emotionally and physically fatigued after the World Cup, getting as many points on the board as possible now seems vital.

And Arsenal had to work for their three points here because they certainly weren’t at their bright and smooth best.

Their cause was not helped by Granit Xhaka’s departure after just 15 minutes, reportedly through illness, and the whole Arsenal squad seemed a bit off.

Wolves were also making it difficult for them and in the early stages it was clear what the pattern of play would be. The hosts were sitting deep, playing with a back-five, and the challenge for Arsenal was to find a way to do that to break.

They struggled to do so in the first half, their only real chance coming when Wolves lost possession at the top of the pitch. Finally, their defense was stretched and Arsenal took advantage, with Bukayo Saka feeding Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian, who is now 11 games without a goal, did everything right, but the crossbar prevented him.

When the breakthrough finally came for Arsenal, it was thanks to a moment of real quality, with Jesus showing his greatest value to the team.

The striker cut from the left, slipping Fabio Vieira – who then scored a cross for Odegaard to tap home in the 55th minute.

This calmed the nerves of Arsenal and in particular Vieira, who had been struggling since joining for Xhaka at the start.

Wolves tried to go forward but lacked any real edge and it was clear to see why they sat at the bottom of the Premier League. New boss Julen Lopetegui, who was introduced to the fans ahead of the game and who starts on Monday, has a lot of work to do.

Arsenal were looking for a second goal to kill the game and once again it came from another real quality moment. Those had been rare in this game, but when they came Arsenal took advantage.

Once again he went down the left, with Gabriel Martinelli tailing the ball to play Oleksandr Zinchenko. Martinelli followed his pass and found himself at the end of the cross and, after his shot was saved, Odegaard showed composure to finish.

With 15 minutes to go, it sucked the life out of Wolves and Molineux. Arsenal’s title charge, however, is alive and well.

standard Sport

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