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Wolves 0 Arsenal 2 – Report and pictures

By Joe Edwards | Wolves | Published:

Wolves lost ground in the race for Champions League football as Arsenal handed them their first defeat since the Premier League's restart.

With both Leicester and Manchester United picking up victories earlier in the day, the onus was on Nuno Espirito Santo's side to grab a positive result - but the Gunners struck towards the end of each half.

Bukayo Saka broke the deadlock before the break and Alexandre Lacazette made sure of the three points with a few minutes to go.

Wolves, who could have defended better for both goals, remain sixth in the table but are now three points behind United and six off Leicester, with Chelsea - two points ahead - kicking off against Watford at 8pm.

Analysis

After a full week to prepare, there was reason to be encouraged going into this clash with the Gunners.

But Wolves never really hit their stride. They had their moments - the first 20 was decent, and Diogo Jota's introduction improved things - but they weren't themselves.

Set-pieces were poor, simple passes went astray as the game went on and Arsenal, in fairness, punished Nuno's lot.

Saka put them ahead with a fairly emphatic strike and Lacazette took his goal well, too, but Wolves - after being so solid in the run of games previous to this one - did not cover themselves in glory at the back.

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Adama Traore was dangerous in spells and had a fantastic opportunity to make it 1-1 – agonisingly lifting the ball over the bar – but, on the whole, no Wolves player performed to their usual standard.

This was not Wolves' day and they will have to be much better than this to get back on track at Sheffield United on Wednesday night.

Match report

Nuno made one change to the side that won 1-0 at Villa, with Traore replacing Jota in attack.

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That meant Leander Dendoncker, who got the goal at Villa Park, retained his place in a 3-5-2 formation, while Leonardo Campana took Daniel Podence's spot among the substitutes.

It was a surprise not to see Podence on the nine-man bench - given the fact he cost £17million in January. Nuno, though, would later confirm it was due to the forward having to return to Portugal to take care of a personal issue.

The Gunners, meanwhile, were in a 3-4-3 and had Emi Martinez, who had a loan spell at Wolves in 2015/16, in goal again because of Bernd Leno's knee injury.

Martinez was called into action very early on, too.

With Wolves beginning at real speed, Romain Saiss clipped a long ball to Raul Jimenez, who chested it down sublimely and released strike partner Traore.

The Spaniard was able to get a toe on it but - fair play to Martinez - the Arsenal keeper was quick off his line and made the save.

Traore, seemingly keen to make the most of his starting berth, was looking lively in the early going.

The Gunners were on red alert, and rightly so, but he still managed to work the room to shoot from long range. The left-footed effort ended up sailing comfortably high and wide, but Traore's intentions were good.

Wolves were vigorously pressing high and aiming to pounce on any mistakes from the visitors.

Arsenal did have a chance when, from a corner, Matt Doherty - who grew up a Gunners fan - could only head the ball as far as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. His effort, though, was gathered without trouble by Rui Patricio.

At the other end, Traore sent over an inviting cross to Dendoncker, who rose well but could not get the direction on the header.

The away side, as the half progressed, imposed themselves a lot more, though, while Wolves' attacking presence waned significantly. Eddie Nketiah's low drive forced a superb stop from Patricio - tipping the ball onto the post.

That was a close call, and Nuno's side would end up conceding - for the first time since at Tottenham in early March - before the break.

Kieran Tierney's delivery from the left took a hefty deflection off Doherty and fell kindly to Saka, who made no mistake with a smart left-footed finish. Wolves, though, would have been disappointed to let it get to that point.

Having struggled to really get it together going forward, Nuno could have switched things up at the break - but he stuck to his guns for the start of the second period.

Traore, in trademark fashion, soon surged to the byline and found the head of Jimenez.

The Mexican ended up nodding it wide with the help of a nudge from Cedric Soares and appealed for a penalty - but Michael Oliver was not interested, at all.

Still, Wolves were not truly finding their feet in the final third, so Nuno turned to Jota - replacing Dendoncker in the 55th minute, and reverting to the less conservative 3-4-3.

And, it must be said, Wolves looked instantly better. The front three were linking up nicely, and Traore had a glorious opportunity to equalise.

Jota - just after having a shot blocked - put him clean through, but he chipped the ball over the onrushing Martinez, and also over the crossbar.

In an attempt to make up for that miss, Wolves went all out for a leveller. Pedro Neto came on for Doherty, and Traore went back to right-wing-back.

But instead of keeping up the pressure, the hosts proceeded to give the ball away on several occasions.

Passes were loose, frustration increased and Arsenal doubled their advantage.

Substitute Lacazette nipped in ahead of Conor Coady and found the far corner to put the result beyond any doubt for Mikel Arteta's men. Ultimately, a deserved win for the Gunners.

Teams

Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio; Boly, Coady (c), Saiss; Doherty (Neto, 71), Neves, Dendoncker (Jota, 55), Moutinho (Gibbs-White, 89), Otto; Traore, Jimenez

Subs not used: Ruddy (gk), Kilman, Buur, Vinagre, Jordao, Campana

Arsenal: Martinez; Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac; Cedric (Bellerin, 75), Xhaka, Ceballos (Torreira, 82), Tierney (Maitland-Niles, 56); Saka (Willock, 75), Nketiah (Lacazette, 82), Aubameyang (c)

Subs not used: Macey (gk), Sokratis, Holding, Nelson

Goals: Saka (43), Lacazette (87)

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

Joe Edwards

By Joe Edwards
Multi-Media Sports Journalist

Wolves fan turned Wolves correspondent for the Express & Star.

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