Good morning top of the league enjoyers. I was at a wedding yesterday, so I haven’t yet had a chance to see much of the game.
I came home at about 1.20am and immediately put on Match of the Day. If I were to guess, I would say I remember about 2% of what I saw (the first Odegaard goal) and after that, it’s pretty much a blank. However, being the diligent, conscientious blog person I am, I asked somebody who I thought might be slightly less pissed than me to give us a recap of the match.
That somebody is Tim Stillman, and his slightly less pissed thoughts on the game are below.
With the possible exception of Nottingham Forest, this was very clearly the weakest opposition Arsenal have played all season. Wolves put Adama Traore at centre-forward which was the sort of Hail Mary tactic that summed up their approach to the game. They were hoping to try to patch things over and nick a draw before the World Cup break. Their new manager Lopetegui watched on from the stands and had the slightly awkward lap of of honour pre-match where he clearly didn’t realise where the away end was and gave the travelling fans a round of applause and a thump of the chest.
The first half was slow going, Wolves sat off, had no intention of pressing and collapsed into a 5-4-1 shape and Arsenal didn’t really move the ball quickly enough or with enough purpose to try to move them around. After the match, Mikel Arteta said he asked his team to move the ball more quickly and the first half was a bit of a non-event as Arsenal passed the ball pretty slowly from side to side in front of 10 gold shirts.
Their fluency wasn’t helped when Granit Xhaka had to come off half way through the first half, initially he sat down two minutes into the game needing attention before deciding he couldn’t carry on. Luckily for him, the issue was an upset stomach and nothing more serious that puts his World Cup in doubt. Fabio Vieira came on but it took him some time to get into the game and Xhaka’s role, of all the players in the team, probably does take some time to nail.
Vieira did make the difference though at the beginning of the second half. Gabriel Jesus hit the bar just before the end of the first period and I think you can tell he really needs a goal – he really could have squared the ball for a teammate, and I think he usually would have, but instead cut inside two Wolves defenders and smashed the ball onto the bar.
Both Arsenal’s goals came from the same area in the left half space with Zinchenko especially making more of a foray into the left half space. Arsenal found room there, Fabio Vieira got to the touch line, pulled the ball back and Odegaard scored. You sensed that Wolves weren’t creating a lot of threat and one goal would win it but Wolves did come back into the game at that point, a little bit, so there was always the sense a second goal would be needed.
Arsenal got it by attacking the exact same space as Zinchenko pulled the ball back and Arsenal needed a couple of bites of the cherry before Odegaard smashed the ball home and from there on, droves of Wolves fans began to leave which always tells you something. There was little belief from the home fans of a comeback even if Ramsdale had to make a good save in the last ten minutes. As a boyhood West Brom fan, he let the home fans know about it too. At one point he was injured after a painful collision and the Wolves fans chant of “let him die” just illustrated how much he got under their skin.
Apparently, Sky were very, very upset about a penalty not awarded against William Saliba in the first half but, having seen the incident back on my mate’s phone, it all looked a bit like a non-event and Saliba just blocked a cross. Sky just clearly trying to manufacture some controversy over what was, from the neutral’s perspective, a non event of a game. The team at the bottom of the league playing 5-4-1, Traore upfront and just trying to survive before the World Cup break.
With Manchester City losing earlier in the day there was pressure on the away side coming into this game and they dealt with it pretty well, albeit against a very poor team. Mikel Arteta revealed afterwards that several players were struggling with “tummy problems” and that stood to reason. It took Arsenal some time to get into this game but Wolves offered them the space and time to work their way into the game and, with a five point lead at the top of the table, the Gunners are sitting pretty for the break.
Thanks to Tim!
I’m gonna watch Match of the Day again with a coffee this morning, and enjoy the fact that we won, that we sit top of the league, and my Man City jinx at the start of yesterday’s blog worked perfectly.
Have a great Sunday. James and I will be recording the Arsecast Extra later on this evening. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.
We’ll have the pod for you at some stage later on. Have a good one.