A scintillating display of brilliant football this Arsenal against Wolves match was not. It was played mostly in the middle third and without much goal threat on either end. Gabriel Magalhaes banged home a dirty, scrappy goal off a corner (Wolves’ first goal conceded from a corner this season, by the way). 10-man Arsenal defended well in the second half, kept the clean sheet, and claimed three massive points to move into 5th in the table (with games in hand to take them into 4th).
Much of the focus from the match will be on Gabriel Martinelli’s shocking double yellow incident, but before we get there, I thought Arsenal played quite well. They managed 1.5 xG and held Wolves to .7 xG, sub .5 before the sending off. Arsenal could have (should have) added a second goal but Alexandre Lacazette missed the target completely on a clear-cut breakaway. It didn’t hurt the Gunners today, but not putting away chances like that will come back to bite them at some point. With how well he’s been playing (and once he’s back from his one-match suspension), it might be time to try Gabriel Martinelli leading the line.
Martin Ødegaard had another fantastic game. He has really settled in and made himself the maestro of the Arsenal attack that we hoped he would. He has a knack for popping up in the right places to receive the ball, whether that’s advanced in the middle, dropping deep, or coming wide. He combined well with Bukayo Saka, who looked as if the time off did him a world of good. Saka was a menace down the right. He’s dangerous on the dribble. He passes and moves well. I would not fancy having to defend him.
Massive credit to the Arsenal defense for holding onto the points. Gabriel had a solid game. He got beat once or twice but since he scored, I’ll call it a wash. Ben White was fantastic. Cedric played fine to well. Kieran Tierney did his job. Aaron Ramsdale did his as well, including one or two really good saves.
And Rob Holding, take a bow sir. The centerback was massive coming off the bench cold to help Arsenal hold onto the points.
Rob Holding— James Benge (@jamesbenge) February 10, 2022
- 19 minutes
- Nine clearances (no one else made more than six)
- 3/3 duels won
- One interception, one shot blocked
A lot of tempting options in the defence but he's man of the match for me pic.twitter.com/Kefl5sebOY
Mikel Arteta’s post-match comments on the double yellow that saw Gabriel Martinelli sum it up quite well: “I never seen something like it. The rules might say it is possible but you have to be very willing to do it.”
Michael Oliver made choices. He chose to let yellow card worthy fouls in the first half (committed against Martinelli and Saka, and by Cedric) go unpunished. He didn’t have to give both yellows, especially because the first incident was as much a flailing flop by Daniel Podence than anything else, but he did.
Arsenal have received 13 red cards in the Premier League since Mikel Arteta took over. The second closest is Southampton with 8. I’ve said it before: that’s not how football happens. That discrepancy is not natural. For me, it is indicative that Arsenal are refereed differently than the other clubs. Case-in-point: a double yellow like Martinelli’s today almost never happens. And yet it happened to Arsenal.
It looks as if Mikel Arteta has had enough, too. The Arsenal manager told reporters after the match that “we need explanations” for some of the calls that went against the club. He apparently reiterated his point that the double yellow sending off is something you have to “want to give” as well.
Good for him. He should demand accountability. Is anything going to come of it? Probably not. But I’m happy to see him sticking up for the club and his players.
And at the end of the day, Arsenal won. A hard-fought, important victory. This bunch are just so darn likeable. They play hard and they play for each other. I enjoy watching them celebrate good plays during the game and with the fans after matches. It’s fun to be an Arsenal supporter right now, regardless of the results, and it’s even better when they win games. The future is bright and also here now. I love it.