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Match report: Arsenal 1, Wolves 3

What is defending?

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Wolverhampton Wanderers handed Arsenal their second loss in as many games, scoring three to the Gunners’ one. Arsenal looked utterly gassed, the entire defense had a bad game all at once, and no one had any new ideas for the second half—whether that’s because of injuries (Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang) or just down to Unai Emery I don’t know, but either way, it was bad.

Wolves came out swinging, earning themselves an early free kick that luckily went straight to Bernd Leno and repeatedly forcing Arsenal to track back and defend. Arsenal were able to stay mostly out of danger after that, but at the same time, they had no real chances themselves. The Gunners looked to be slipping into the type of intricate, indecisive play that has hurt them before—Mesut Özil or Alex Iwobi would get something started, but someone would hold onto the ball too long or misplace a pass.

Arsenal got a wakeup call with just over twenty minutes gone—a strong shot from João Moutinho that went just wide of the post—and then another as Raúl Jiménez volleyed the ball over the top of the goal. Both were a sign of things to come. After getting a free kick just a few yards outside of Arsenal’s box, Rúben Neves hit a curler just over the wall and into the bottom left corner, putting Wolves a goal up.

Wolves got a second free kick in almost the same place a few minutes later, and this time the wall got just enough of their heads on it to deflect the ball over the goal, but it was not Arsenal’s day when it came to defending set pieces. After Alexandre Lacazette got himself into a good position on the other and then blasted his shot into the stands, Wolves brought it back down the pitch and earned themselves a corner. Matt Doherty avoided the offside trap and headed home from close range.

And to cap it all off, Diogo Jota scored a third for Wolves in extra time on a breakaway. Molasses-like defending and shoddy goalkeeping cost Arsenal again, and they went into the break in desperate need of a new game plan.

But when the second half started, they didn’t really look to have one. A few loops of the ball through the back line, and Wolves snatched the ball and took it all the way to Arsenal’s box in a matter of seconds (although that chance didn’t come to anything).

The Gunners had looked tired since the opening whistle, and with half an hour to go, Sead Kolasinac and Matteo Guendouzi came on for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lucas Torreira. Those two provided fresh legs but not much in the way of tactical change. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, one of the fastest players on the team, could barely keep up on another Wolves breakaway—that’s fatigue, and it slowed the whole team down today.

Sokratis pulled one back with ten minutes of regular time to go—Wolves’s first big mistake of the game gave Arsenal a corner, and our center back out-jumped everyone and headed the ball past keeper Rui Patrício. The Gunners were in the midst of a good few minutes, earning themselves a few set pieces and getting some better looks at the Wolves goal, but with time running out quickly, that would be their only consolation.

Arsenal have a bunch of important matches coming up—three more chances to improve their Premier League position, and a tie with Valencia in the Europa League semifinals—and they have a lot of resting and a lot of thinking to do before then.