Wolverhampton Wanderers (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 2
Molineux Stadium, Waterloo Road, Wolverhampton WV1 4QR
Saturday, 12th November 2022. Kick-off time: 7.45pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding, Cédric Soares, Fabio Vieira, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny, (Marcus Vinicius Oliveira Alencar) Marquinhos, Matt Turner.
Scorers: Martin Ødegaard (55 mins, 75 mins)
Yellow Cards: Thomas Partey, Gabriel
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 63%
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistant Referees: Harry Lennard, Darren Cann
Fourth Official: Tom Bramall
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Mike Dean; AVAR Neil Davies
Can this really be the last match before the enforced hiatus? A definite case for tempus fugit, obviously. In just eight days’ time, the 2022 World Cup kicks off in Qatar, and has there ever been a more controversial tournament such as this? Tonight’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux is our last first-class game until Boxing Day against West Ham United, some forty-three days’ hence. All we can hope for is that we can go into the Premiership interlude injury-free and that all of our players come home from Qatar completely fit and raring to go again.
Following an extremely moving Remembrance Day commemoration, which involved the playing of the Last Post by a solitary bugler, the match got underway with Gabriel Jesus passing the ball back to Aaron Ramsdale, who kicked it up the pitch, hoping that an Arsenal man could run onto it (which they did not). Within a couple of minutes into the game, Granit Xhaka went down on his haunches in obvious difficulty. He went off the pitch to contain himself, and returned soon afterwards, which was good to see. Shortly afterwards, Gabriel Jesus had a goal disallowed for offside, and then Adama Traore tried to run through the middle of the Arsenal defemce; he beat a couple of defenders but was then tackled firmly by Gabriel Martinelli, who neutralised the danger. Sensing a weakness, the home side tried to capitalise on the situation as Goncalo Guedes was deemed to be offside in the centre of the pitch as he was bundled over by William Saliba, in a heavy but fair tackle.After a couple of Wolves corners, we broke out and Bukayo Saka was unlucky not to score when his shot almost deceived the Wolves goalie, who pushed the ball behind for an Arsenal corner, which went absolutely nowhere. After fifteen minutes, Granit Xhaka was substituted for Fabio Vieira, as he was unable to continue, and the match went end-to-end with both teams having wasted chances at Molineux today. However, we started to get a grip and had a good, productive period. Ben White made an overlapping run and his cross was just nicked away from Gabriel Martinelli, and then Gabriel Jesus headed wide from a left-wing cross. We started to knock the ball around quite comfortably in the Wolves half, but as the ball went astray, our captain pulled back Joao Moutinho and was a wee bit fortunate to avoid a booking; the home side captain Ruben Neves told the referee such a thing as well. Just after the half hour mark, a Thomas Partey long throw led to a corner which was cleared by the Wolves defence. Gabriel Jesus had a great chance to score as he ran through the Wolves defence and cut inside, but his shot hit the crossbar and flew off into the crowd. Toti was booked for cynically tripping up Gabriel Jesus as he was running though with the ball, and a few minutes later, a Ben White cross saw Gabriel Jesus getting his feet mixed up as the ball bounced wide of the goal. Adama Traore picked up a loose ball on the edge of our penalty area and whacked a shot harmlessly over Aaron Ramsdale’s crossbar. A couple of minutes before the break, William Saliba played a blind back pass, which was nowhere near Aaron Ramsdale that saw Goncalo Guedes get the ball and curled a shot towards the far corner with Gabriel getting a crucial deflection for a Wolves corner that came to nothing, thankfully. Shortly after Boubacar Traore pulled back Gabriel Jesus, which saw him receive a yellow card, as referee Stuart Attwell blew the whistle for the half-time break.
For the second half, there were no changes, and right from the restart, both teams showed good intent to score with the match oscillating from end-to-end. Thomas Partey received a yellow card for a silly tackle on Nelson Semedo, and ten minutes into the second half, Gabriel Jesus found Fabio Vieira with a lovely classy pass; he drew goalkeeper Jose Sa out towards him, and then rolled the ball across the six-yard box towards Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka. They both had an open goal to score into and our captain got the final touch. The goal certainly fired us up, and the confidence was there for all to see, with crisp passing and good off-the ball running as well. The home side came back at us, and Gabriel received a yellow card for bringing down Adama Traore on the edge of our penalty area, with the resulting free-kick from Goncalo Guedes being easily picked up by Aaron Ramsdale. Gabriel Jesus controlled a long ball forward and at this pint, he was all on his own, not a team-mate in sight. He waited to feed Martin Ødegaard who hds made the run but Toti slid in to deny him a goal at the last minute. A couple of minutes later, Adama Traore and Aaron Ramsdale run into each other and our keeper needed treatment, but got back onto his feet shortly afterwards. With a quarter of an hour left of the match, Gabriel Martinelli beat Dexter Lembikisa on the wing and found Oleksandr Zinchenko, whose cross was deflected into the path of Gabriel Martinelli, whose shot was saved by the legs of goalie Jose Sa. The rebound landed to Martin Ødegaard, who neatly hit the the ball into the back of the net for our second goal. With six minutes of the match remaining, our hearts were in our mouths when Adama Traore skipsped past Oleksandr Zinchenko with some nice skill and then blasted a wild ball across our six-yard box; although there were two Wolves players hanging around, they did not connect thankfully. Although the home side did have one or two late chances, there was nothing to threaten Aaron Ramsdale at all. Literally, on the ninetieth minute, Mikel Arteta brought on Mohamed Elneny, Reiss Nelson and Cédric Soares for Bukayo Saka, Fabio Vieira and Oleksandr Zinchenko, just to shore things up for the four minutes’ injury time, during which, we employed game management which ensured that we ran out winners by two goals to nil and remained top of the Premiership tonight, and on Christmas Day also!
Although it was tough at times, the proof of the pudding was very much in the eating here at Molineux tonight. Losing vice-captain Granit Xhaka so early in the match certainly unbalanced the boys, although they did get it together after a while, his absence was keenly felt. However, under some intense pressure at times, we held it toegther, worked for each other and got the ultimate reward at the end of the match. It certainly is a fabulous feeling being top of the Premiership for Christmas, let’s hope that when we reconvene on Boxing Day at the London Stadium we can continue where we left off. Have a great Christmas everyone, enjoy the World Cup, and we will meet again on Boxing Day for part two of this incredible season.
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: West Ham United at London Stadium on Monday, 26th December (Boxing Day) at 8.00pm (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