Arsenal (0) 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers (1) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Thursday, 24th February 2022. Kick-off time: 7.45pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Cédric Soares, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Rob Holding, Nicolas Pépé, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Zak Swanson, Omari Hutchinson.
Scorers: Nicolas Pépé (82 mins), Alexandre Lacazette (90+5 mins)
Yellow Cards: Bukayo Saka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 55%
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistant Referees: Lee Betts, James Mainwaring
Fourth Official: Kevin Friend
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR John Brooks; AVAR Stuart Burt
For the second occasion in fourteen days, we meet Wolverhampton Wanderers tonight, which is the rescheduled match from 28th December, of course. For this important match, we have Gabriel Martinelli available again after suspension, and as every match is, from now until the end of the season, a must-win game if we are to capture the most coveted fourth place on the final day.
Just after the kick-off, we had a penalty shout turned turned down when Gabriel Martinelli was clattered to the floor by Nelson Semedo, and already things were starting to get a little spiky so early in the game. Just after five minutes, the visitors got the ball in our net, but thankfully it was disallowed; but sadly, just five minutes later, Gabriel was put under pressure by Raul Jimenez and he played a panicked back-pass to Aaron Ramsdale, but it fell short and Hwang Hee-chan just nicked possession before scoring the opening goal of the night from a tight angle. The match then started to pick up due to the early goal, and it became very much an end-to-end game, with chances wasted by both sets of strikers. We started to wake up and had a good spell with plenty of possession, and then slowed everything down to try and find some space but Wolves gave us very little width to work with. The match started to get frenetic, with Arsenal constantly trying to break through the Wolves midfield, but to no avail, and although we were not having too many shots on goal at this time, we were spending most our the half trying to find a new approach through the Wolves defence, which was standing strong despite our constant pressure. Ten minutes before the break, after a mistake by Conor Coady out on the left, the ball fell to Alexandre Lacazette, who quickly slotted the ball to Gabriel Martinelli, whose first-time shot went narrowly over the bar, as did Thomas Partey’s twenty-yard effort a couple of minutes later. Bukayo Saka got booked for a petulant foul on goalscorer Hwang Hee-chan, and the corresponding Wolves free-kick saw Nelson Samedo beat Kieran Tierney out on the right wing, but thankfully, his cross went into fresh air. Three minutes before the break we played some clever play around the Wolves’ defenders, but Gabriel Martinelli’s attempted lob was clawed out of the air by the visitors’ goalkeeper, Jose Sa. In the two minutes injury time at the end of the first half, both sides had their chances, but the scoreline remained.
We kicked off the second half, and it became evident from the start that we needed to break down this organised Wolves defence, but within a minute, Hwang Hee-chan neearly scored a carbon copy goal of the one he put away back in the tenth minute. The supporters in the stadium could sense our frustration out there, and gave good vocal support to the boys, who started to respond positively. We started to build up more pressure on the visitors’ defence, but we still found it difficult to break through despite some excellent strong and intelligent play. Gabriel Martinelli did some great work out on the left wing; he crossed it into the middle of the Wolves penalty area, and Alexandre Lacazette somehow managed to turn and shoot, but only for his shot to fly over the bar from close range. We were awarded a free-kick just outside the Wolves’ penalty area just after the hour, when Alexandre Lacazette was brought down after a good run, but our centre-forward’s effort was plucked out of the air by the visitors’ goalkeeper, after it bounced off the defensive wall. This was so frustrating for us, we gave away a stupid goal early on and then faced an incredibly resilient defence for the rest of the match. Gabriel Martinelli was replaced by Nicolas Pépé with twenty minutes remaining, and with fresh legs on the pitch, we continued our pressure on the Wolves goal. Ben White had a great shot that went narrowly wide, and as the match started to ebb away, so our chances seemed to as well. Eddie Nketiah replaced Cédric Soares with fifteen minutes of the match remaining in order to change formation into a more attacking one, and we appeared to be throwing everything at the Wolves defence now. And finally, it happened. With eight minutes left on the clock, we finally found a way through the Wolves defence when Eddie Nketiah cut the ball back for Nicolas Pépé, who turned inside the box before sweeping the ball into the back of the net for his first Premier League goal of the season. The visitors came back at us, and Neto’s shot went just wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s post which was a lucky break for us. With three minutes of the match remaining, Martin Ødegaard’s shot bounced off the top of the crossbar, and confusion reigned when the visitors appeared not to be able to get their subsitutions right, and then suddenly we were in six minutes injury time. An injured Kieran Tierney was replaced by Nuno Tavares and we continued on regardless. With just two minutes of injury time remaining, we grabbeed the winner when Alexandre Lacazette played an intelligent one-two with Nicolas Pépé before his close range shot deflected off Jose Sa’s hand and into the back of the net for the winner! Such excitement!
Incredible match. Our resilience was there for all to see, and we never gave up hope either; we continued hammering away regardless, and in the end our perseverance and hard work paid off. We are now fifth in the Premiership, a point behind Manchester United with two games in hand, with fourth place a distinct possibility now. A good evening’s work, all in all.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Watford at Vicarage Road on Sunday, 6th March at 2.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.