Heading into today’s Arsenal-Wolves match, I wrote that I’d be happy to nick a draw at the Molineux. Wolves are a disciplined, organized team (and they were again today), and Adama Traore is one of those players that makes you hold your breath in fear every time he’s on the ball. But Arsenal matched them punch for punch -— Bukayo Saka delivered a big body blow and Alexandre Lacazette got the knockout punch. And Arsenal managed another clean sheet, by the way.
Thoughts on the match:
- Emi Martinez played another great game. Came off his line quickly twice, once 30 seconds into the first half and again in the second half, to stop/put off Adama Traore. I still think Bernd Leno is the better keeper, but the gap is not nearly as significant as I thought. Martinez definitely commands the area/cuts out crosses better, too.
- Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz quietly had solid games. You’re going to get the occasional (or maybe more than occasional) moment that makes you want to pull your hair out with one or both of them, but they are more than capable of being “good enough” to get results for Arsenal.
- Sead Kolasinac had a stinker. He’s not suited to a LCB role in a back three because he’s too much of a defensive liability. He also looks a step or two off the pace of the game right now. He’s fine as a squad player, but nothing more than that.
- Cedric Soares had some good moments and some not as good ones. He reads the game well, has a great workrate, and hits a nice pass, but he also had some very loose touches today, which is understandable given that it was his first start and second appearance in months.
- Kieran Tierney has me convinced — he’s going to be a mainstay in the lineup for a long time. He’s just a good player, at least above average in every category and has an unbelievable motor. He came off in the 55th minute, but I suspect that was just because of the amount of running he’d done defending Traore combined with how many minutes he’s played recently.
- Bukayo Saka actually had one of his poorest matches in a while. He’s out of place playing from the right, and it showed today. But that goal was magnificent. That volley he hit is incredibly hard to pull off, and he made it look as easy as a training ground warmup.
- Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka had fine games. Neither of them did anything particularly noticeable, but when your team scores two and doesn’t concede, the base of your midfield probably did their jobs.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to be somewhat wasted on the left. He was even more limited going forward today because of the shift he put in defensively helping to contain Traore and the right side of the Wolves attack.
- Eddie Nketiah worked hard but didn’t have much to show for it. I was impressed with his snatch-shot that required a smart save from Rui Patricio to force onto the post — it was a good “striker’s instinct” play.
- Joe Willock moved the ball well and hit a few longer, searching passes that made me think “oh wow, that was a nice one.” He also played a smart pass into Alexandre Lacazette for the second goal.
- Lucas Torreira didn’t do much in a brief cameo appearance, but it’s nice to have him healthy and back in the fold. He did pick up a silly yellow card for time wasting, but that’s more on Michael Oliver than him — the Wolves player was encroaching in the corner. Torreira was well within his rights not to play it until the distance was respected.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles was fantastic in relief of Kieran Tierney. Adama Traore looked really threatening to open the second half, and AMN shut him down when he came on. He was quick to close down and tackled well. He showed tenacity and bite in his game that I didn’t know he had. Great to see him put in a good shift after being out in the cold for so long.
- Alexandre Lacazette finally scored away from the Emirates. He tallied the all-important insurance goal to seal the points for the Gunners. And it was a quality one too. He took it past his marker with his first touch and slotted it off the inside of the post with his next one. Hopefully seeing one go in touches off a run of scoring form. And I’ll just leave this here.
You. Are. All. Welcome. https://t.co/Utj9Jk07UW— The Socially Distanced Fuse (@TheShortFuse) July 4, 2020
This was a massive, massive win for the Gunners. Four wins on the trot (three in the PL) have Arsenal in a good position to qualify for the Europa League next season, which, say whatever you want about the competition, is important for the club. The Champions League is still very much a longshot, but a loss today would basically have extinguished any remaining embers of hope. If one or both of United or Chelsea collapse, Arsenal are in a position to take advantage with a run of form. I’m not holding my breath, but stranger things have happened.