Martin Odegaard’s brace was enough to get Arsenal over the line in a 2-0 victory away to Wolves on Saturday night, extending their gap as Premier League leaders to five points.
Arsenal could’ve done more to break beyond an incredibly defensive Wolves throughout a slow-paced first half that was one-way traffic for the most part, between the occasional counter attack, but had their stride disrupted by Granit Xhaka’s early substitution.
Mikel Arteta’s side had to be patient after the break, but crucially up the tempo, and they did, particularly after drawing ahead. Odegaard tapped in a square ball after 55 minutes, but Wolves continued to be defiant, prompting Arsenal to move through the gears.
The Gunners had the ball in the back of the net just five minutes after the first whistle, but the score remained goalless with Gabriel Jesus’ effort being judged as offside. Two minutes later, Goncalo Guedes burst through down the other end and appeared to be barged over inside the box by William Saliba, who was saved by the offside flag.
As expected, Arsenal dominated possession from there on which Wolves were happy to allow, with their game plan clearly to release an unorthodox strike duo on the counter. It showed signs of working, too, with Guedes firing over from a seamless breakaway after 20 minutes.
Jesus came close again after 35 minutes, rattling the crossbar after picking the ball up from Bukayo Saka’s slick pass and cutting inside onto his right foot, but was again flagged offside anyway. Wolves had a golden opportunity of their own nine minutes later, though, when Guedes pounced on William Saliba’s blind pass, but saw his curled effort blocked for a corner.
Status quo was maintained after the break, except Wolves were beginning to find their way forward with more regularity. Their front two always looked a threat when set through on goal and had Arsenal’s number for pace, but lacked the numbers to truly punish the visitors.
A clever, reversed pass from Jesus into the feet of Fabio Vieira after 53 minutes set the early substitute in behind Wolves’ defence for what felt like the first time. He took the ball to the byline before playing a sublime, dinked ball across the face of goal for Martin Odegaard to tap in for 1-0.
Traore showed his brutish strength as Wolves upped the ante with 20 minutes to go, desperately stretching for a searching cross but only colliding with Aaron Ramsdale in his venture.
With 15 minutes to go, Arsenal had wrestled back control. Dispossessing Wolves in their own half, they swarmed the box and found a second when Odegaard rifled in a rebound for 2-0.
Steve Davis’ side made a good account of themselves in a well-contested defeat ahead of Julen Lopetegui taking charge after the World Cup. They sit at the opposite end of the league table to Arsenal, though, and need to stop the rot swiftly to avoid getting left behind.
GK: Aaron Ramsdale – 6/10 – A very quiet night for Ramsdale. Called into action at the death to bat away an effort from Daniel Podence.
RB: Ben White – 6/10 – Defensively sound and did his best providing support for Saka, but just doesn’t offer the same quality as other full backs.
CB: William Saliba – 7/10 – Swept up with composure whenever Wolves looked to break very coolly – sometimes too coolly.
CB: Gabriel Magalhaes – 7/10 – Confident display from the Brazilian, who quietly strutted his stuff ahead of a month or so without any football.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko – 5/10 – A timid performance; would’ve helped Arsenal if Zinchenko could’ve ventured forward more to create overloads.
CM: Thomas Partey – 5/10 – Sat at the base of midfield to stifle counter attacks, but Wolves seemed to manage to find a way forward whenever they liked.
CM: Granit Xhaka – N/A – Forced off after 15 minutes with what looked to be illness. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, especially with the World Cup around the corner.
CM: Martin Odegaard – 8/10 – Showed a different side to his game. Less influential in possession, but positioned well to strike when the iron was hot. A good trait to have.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 7/10 – Sharp down the right flank and looked a threat whenever he was given the ball in an advanced position. His teammates should’ve released him more often.
ST: Gabriel Jesus – 6/10 – Missing his shooting boots, and you can tell. When he wasn’t offside, he was off balance. Brilliant reversed pass into Vieira to start off Arsenal’s move for the opener.
LW: Gabriel Martinelli – 5/10 – Needed to show more desire to run beyond the last line and try to beat his man. Too predictable and not enough quality.
SUB: Fabio Vieira (15′ for Xhaka) – 5/10 – Struggled tremendously to get into the game, but then provided a run in behind and an incredible moment of quality to assist the opener. Sums up his streaky start to life as a Gunner.
SUB: Reiss Nelson (90′ for Saka) – N/A
SUB: Mohamed Elneny (90′ for Vieira) – N/A
SUB: Cedric (90′ for Zinchenko) – N/A
Manager: Mikel Arteta – 7/10 – Showed extreme trust in his XI, only changing Xhaka out of necessity. And that patience paid dividends. The Gunners weren’t at their best, but they continued to grow and grinded out a deserved win.
GK: Jose Sa (5); RWB: Nelson Semedo (7), CB: Max Kilman (5), CB: Nathan Collins (6), CB: Toti Gomes (6), LWB: Hugo Bueno (6); CM: Boubacar Traore (5), CM: Ruben Neves (7), CM: Joao Moutinho (5); ST: Adama Traore (6), ST: Goncalo Guedes (7)
SUBS: Daniel Podence (6), Dexter Lembikisa (4), Matheus Nunes (N/A)