Arsenal kept up their hopes of Champions League football with a 2-0 win over fellow European hopefuls Wolves at Molineux.
Mikel Arteta’s side showed an often-missing steely side to claim another three points, through goals from Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette.
Wolves dominated the first-half possession, with Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves to the fore.
But it was the away side who had the best opportunity to take the lead after 35 minutes, Eddie Nketiah denied as his snap shot was stopped by a combination of Rui Patricio and the post.
However, Saka made no mistake two minutes before the break, arriving into the penalty area to meet Kieran Tierney’s deflected cross and hook it past Patricio.
Wolves, who had been 0-0 in their previous three matches at the break before going on to win, created little in the first period to really test Emiliano Martinez and Nuno Espirito Santo will no doubt have wanted more thrust from his side.
The arrival of Diogo Jota as a substitute 10 minutes into the second period did just that, and in the 64th minute he played Adama Traore clean through, only for him to harmlessly chip his shot over Martinez and the crossbar.
But Arsenal managed to come through the hosts’ pressure, found a second wind, and sealed victory late in the day via substitute Lacazette.
The France No.9’s smarly-taken finish made the three points safe, handed Arsenal their first away win against a top-half opponent this season, and ensured a fourth straight victory for Arteta’s men.
Here are five talking points from Molineux…
1. Saka again proves to be Arteta’s flexible friend
After signing a new long-term contract in midweek, teenager Saka was once more in the Gunners lineup in the West Midlands.
He has emerged as a key man for Arteta since the Spaniard’s arrival, and has shown real tactical intelligence by thriving in a number of different roles.
An attacking player by trade, he initially impressed deputising at left-back and has since been used as a left wing-back, on either side of a front three, and in a No.8 role.
Here he was almost filling two roles simultaneously.
From an inside right position, he was asked to both support the attack and drop into central midfield to look after Joao Moutinho when Arsenal were out of possession.
And he arrived right on cue to fire home the opening goal, backing up play into the penalty area, before expertly arcing his left-foot shot past Rui Patricio and into the net.
Still only 18, he really is a star in the making.
2. David Luiz joins the ‘Traore club’
Along with Adama Traore’s rise to greater prominence in the Premier League this season have come fouls.
Lots of them.
And what follows fouls? Well bookings of course.
So it was no surprise that when David Luiz crudely took out Traore at 0-0, Michael Oliver reached into his pocket and dished out the yellow card.
In doing so, Luiz became the 33rd player to be booked for a foul on the Spaniard this season.
3. Martinez impressing in Leno’s absence
There’s no doubt that Bernd Leno will remain Arsenal’s No.1 when he returns to full fitness.
But Emiliano Martinez is certainly doing himself no harm whatsoever in the German’s absence.
The Argentine, a former Wolves loanee, is looking increasingly confident between the sticks, having waited so long to really get the opportunity to stake his claim.
He’s made a number of fine stops in recent wins, and he again did well here, commanding his area and showing bravery to race from his line when called upon.
4. Wolves tentative first half periods continue
Amid their push for the Champions League, it hasn’t escaped the attention that Wolves are statistically the worst first-half team in the Premier League this season.
If their opening 32 matches this term had only been 45 minutes long, Wolves would be rock bottom, with just 13 points.
Fortunately, they are must better in the second halves of matches, as shown with their three games since the Premier League resumed; all were goalless at the break, with Nuno’s side going on to win 2-0 at West Ham, and 1-0 against both Bournemouth and Aston Villa.
Behind here after another tentative showing, they were more commanding and much improved in the second half once more. If there’s one thing about this Wolves side, they don’t panic and stick to their task.
However, against better opposition here, and as they seek a place at Europe’s top table, it wasn’t nearly enough.
To get where they want to go they will ultimately need to become faster starters.
5. Lacazette breaks his duck
For Lacazette, he must have been thinking ‘finally’.
The French striker hasn’t exactly been prolific since Arteta’s arrival, and has been somewhat usurped by Nketiah.
But off the bench here, he made his mark, making the game safe with an expertly-taken goal, touching away from a defender brilliantly and then firing across goal and in off the post.
It was his first away goal in the Premier League since February 2019.
And with that, and these three points, there is renewed hope for Arsenal that they can still claim a Champions League spot for themselves.
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