Arsenal (0) 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (1) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 11th November 2018. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno: Bellerín, Mustafi, Holding, Kolašinac; Torreira, Xhaka; Aubameyang, Özil, Iwobi; Lacazette.
Substitutes: Cech, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Nketiah, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan.
Yellow Cards: Bellerín, Özil
Referee: Stuart Atwell
It seems somehow hard to believe that the last occasion that we hosted a match against today’s visitors was on 27th December 2011, when Gervinho scored for us in a forgettable one-all draw. Can it really be seven years since we last heard that distinctive Black Country patois on our terraces, with their unique humour and song? More to the point, a club as big as Wolverhampton Wanderers should never have gone away in the first place. Anyway, it just so happens that the Molineux men and us share a unique piece of football history; in another time and place, eighty years ago last summer, Arsenal signed 25-year-old Bryn Jones from Wolves for the princely sum of £14,000, which was the second highest transfer fee in the world at the time, and a price tag that is now worth £915,000 today. And for a top international footballer as well! Ponder on that information and do feel free to research the subsequent fate of Brynmor Jones at your leisure if you will.
Those of us of a certain age would surely remember an old Rolling Stones record called Off The Hook; well that sentiment would surely apply to Arsenal today. Not good in defence, inept in midfield, blunt in attack. Wolves, however, started the match fresh, and keen to impress the Emirates crowd, which they did almost from the start.
They exposed Arsenal’s weaknesses and their pace and close passing led to confusion in the Gunners’ defence. After just fifteen minutes, fired up by their loud and unrelenting supporters, Ivan Cavaleiro scored from close range at the end of a fast movement that Arsenal should really have neutralised back in midfield. Arsenal were just coasting for the rest of the first half, and although they had one or two chances to score, they went into the half-time break not only one down, but spritually tired as well.
Arsenal normally get into gear in the second half, but not today. They looked lacklustre, bereft of any pattern and their sloppiness in midfield became evident for everyone to see. As usual, late in the game, Mr. Emery made vital substitutions, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey for Mesut Özil along with Hector Bellerin, but even with inspired legs, Arsenal still did not look like scoring, although to be fair, they did come close on several occasions. The final breakthrough came on 86 minutes when a cross from Henrikh Mkhitaryan beat the Wolves goalkeeper to level the score. In the final minutes, Wolves became the more likely side to score with Diogo Jota’s shot blocked by Bernd Leno, and literally at the death, 18-year-old Morgan Gibbs-White’s shot hit the underside of the crossbar before bouncing down and out and back into play. The final whistle went minutes later and both sides went away from this match with a point each.
Although Arsenal have extended their unbeaten run to 16 matches, today’s game was a close call. For the most part they looked sluggish, and unable to break down the Wolves defence, and in doing so embarked on a period of horizontal passing which thoroughly bored the crowd, particularly in the first half. The players looked lost and confused and in need of some inspiration, which never came. The worrying part however, is that not only did anyone in Arsenal refuse to take responsibility and show leadership skills, they looked lost and uninspired for most of the game. Somehow they managed to drag a draw out of this match, but it is worrying to think that another club with a bit more quickness of thought could punish us badly. The next two Premiership matches are against our old rivals Tottenham Hotspur on 2nd December and Manchester United just three days later; although we are a team in transition, we desperately need to get points from these games if we are serious contenders for a top four position come next May. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.