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Arsenal 2-1 Wolves: Late, Late Drama

Jose Sa's late own goal gives Arsenal dramatic late win over Wolverhampton  Wanderers - Eurosport

Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Arsenal 2-1 Wolves (Pepe 82′, Sa OG 95′ | Hwang 10′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Cedric (Nketiah 76′), White, Gabriel, Tierney (Taveres 90′); Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli (Pepe 71′); Lacazette

I expected an unchanged lineup from the Brentford game in my preview post, but a stomach bug prevented Emile Smith-Rowe from a starting berth, allowing Gabriel Martinelli to return to the starting XI in what would prove to be a pivotal encounter in the Champions League qualification race.

Arsenal and Wolves were in a rich vein of form, and Wolves are renowned for having one of the meanest defenses in the competition, so the Gunners had it all to do, when the opening goal arrived thanks to yet again another defensive blunder from Gabriel. The defender was under pressure from Raul Jimenez and sending the ball to Row Z was a plausible option, but he chose to pass the ball to Aaron Ramsdale without having any awareness of the Hwang Hee-Chan on the prowl.

Wolves star Hwang scores from Gabriel and Ramsdale mix up

The Korean forward received the ball on a platter, skinned the Arsenal goalie before sidefooting the ball from an acute angel to an unguarded net. A bad start almost became worse when Jimenez received the ball in between the center pairing of Gabriel and Ben White, but his usually exquisite finishing let him down on that occasion.

Wolves matched the Gunners pound for pound and it was always going to be an uphill task getting something from the game against a side known for protecting their leads. Arsenal kept probing but at the end of 45 minutes, the visitors still remained ahead and one imagined it was going to be one of those nights. Hwang almost got a brace when he crept in behind the defense and was one on one with Ramsdale, but the Arsenal goalie had the smallest of touches that guided the ball away for a corner. 

The Gunners didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the second half and kept pressing but Jose Sa in the Wolves goal kept making important saves after saves. Martinelli was the first player to be yanked off with Pepe replacing him, causing the manager to switch tactics with Saka moving to the left to allow the Ivorian strut his stuff on the right. Up next was Cedric for Nketiah with the Gunners going for broke and one wondered if Wolves were eventually going to crack – and crack they did!

The equalizer arrived when Pepe showed off his amazing technique to receive a ball from Nketiah on the turn and slot it in with his left before Sa had any chance to close him down. Martin Odegaard dinked the ball over the defense to Nketiah’s path that wasted no time in providing a carefully-threaded cut back to Nicolas Pepe that had to calm the ball down on the turn before guiding it home.

Arsenal vs. Wolves score: Nicolas Pepe inspires Gunners to vital three  points in race for Champions League - CBSSports.com

The goal lifted the crowd at the Emirates as they spurred on the lads to push for a winner. Arsenal was on the ascendancy so a second goal was very possible, and the team’s cause was helped when the fourth official raised his board and six minutes were given.

The circumstances around the match winner, so late in the game, were very pulsating, as the Wolves goalie had just saved a goal bound shot from Saka. Pepe charged on the ball to protect it from going out as a corner, then combined with Odegaard and Lacazette, before prodding the ball to Lacazette’s path on the edge of the area. The Arsenal captain let it rip and the ball somewhat deflected off Romain Saiss’ feet and somehow bundled its way pass Sa in goal to make it 2-1, sending the Emirates into raptures.

EPL: Sa's own goal gives Arsenal dramatic win | The Nation

The celebrations for the goal and the final whistle showed how badly everyone connected with the club wanted this. The manager was full of praise for his lads and stated that the match winning goal belonged to Lacazette in his mind, even though the statisticians have tagged it as a Jose Sa own goal.

The victory put Arsenal on 45 points, one behind Manchester United in fourth place with two games in hand. Yes, there is still a lot of football to be played between now and May, but you can just smell that Champions League aroma you want to taste it! There is no Premier League football for the Gunners this weekend, so Arteta and his men will have enough time to prepare for the home clash against Watford next weekend.

Till then, let’s just bask in the euphoria of what has been another well earned victory following some late, late drama.

Sayonara.

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Wolves Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

Wolves 0 Arsenal 1: Gabriel goal sends Gunners up to fifth despite  Martinelli's crazy red card

Arsenal had lost some form in January but the month of February has seen Mikel Arteta’s men pick up vital wins against Wolves and Brentford to aid their charge for a Champions League finish. The last meeting between Arsenal and Wolves in Molineux was marred by that bizarre red card that was brandished to Gabriel Martinelli, forcing the Gunners to put up a defensive masterclass for the rest of the game. That victory also put Arsenal ahead of Wolves on the table, making tonight’s fixture all the more juicy. 

Wolves are two points behind the Gunners and are currently vying for a Europa League berth, so any good result against Arsenal will see their ship steer to the right direction of European qualification. The Gunners would be wary of this fixture, having failed to beat Wolves at home in their last four encounters but the home side will look to the likes of Bukayo Saka and Smith-Rowe that are in good goalscoring form.

Arsenal Team News

Arteta will have a clean bill of health heading into this game with Takehiro Tomiyasu edging for a return to first team action. The Japanese full back has been nursing a calf injury and the experienced Portuguese fullback, Cedric Soares, has decent in his stead, so Arsenal might not be in such a hurry to thrust him into action. The Gunners will also have Martinelli back from suspension, and it’s going to be interesting to see whether he returns to a starting berth, or waits on the sidelines for the club’s leading scorer, Emile Smith-Rowe. The manager has waxed lyrical about his star player, stating that his scoring numbers aren’t a coincidence

“The numbers should be looking something like this and that’s not a coincidence. “He’s practicing every day, he is working, he has willingness to do it because he knows he has the qualities and the capacity to do it. That’s what we have to demand from players whether they are 19 or 20 or 35.

“I think it’s [down to] a combination of everything. It’s in his nature, he needs to feel that confidence and that trust around the coaching staff that we are the right people to guide him and to take him to the next level.
 
“He needs his team-mates, which are big contributors to what he can do on the pitch. He needs to feel love, he needs to have the right environment around him, his family, girlfriend or whatever next to him, and when that happens, he has got a good chance.”

These are some big words that would do wonders to the confidence of ESR, so I doubt if he’d be hyped like this and sent straight to the bench. Everyone isn’t Pep Guardiola.

Arsenal Predicted Lineup

Wolves Team News

The Wolves gaffer, Bruno Lage, has confirmed that his wing back, Rayan Ait-Nouri, should be fit enough to play after being hauled off at half time in the win over Leicester. However, the manager can count on the Brazilian, Marcal, to deputize in Ait-Nouri’s stead. Those two have locked horns all season for the left wing back slot, and with the injury scare to the French defender, the Brazilian might just get the nod on this one.

On the injury front, Yerson Mosquera and Willy Boly are progressing from the lengthy layoffs, while Pedro Neto made his long awaited comeback in the narrow win over Leicester. 

Wolves Predicted Lineup

Injury / Suspension Updates

Arsenal: None

Wolves: None

Form Guide

Arsenal Form

  • Last Five Games: W L D W W
  • Last Result: Arsenal 2-1 Brentford (Smith-Rowe 48′, Saka 79′ | Norgaard 93′)
  • Leading Goalscorer: Emile Smith-Rowe (10)

Wolves Form

  • Last Five Games: W W L W W
  • Last Result: Wolves 2-1 Leicester (Ruben Neves 8′, Podence 66′ | Lookman 41′)
  • Leading Goalscorer: Raul Jimenez, Daniel Podence (5)

Gooner Daily predicts a 2 – 1 Arsenal win.

Kick Off – 8.45pm (GMT +1) at Emirates Stadium.

Sayonara.

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Wolves 0 Arsenal 3: The Gunners Tame the Relegation-Bound Canines

How cheeky can you get?

The English Premier League is widely regarded as the most viewed, most exciting and probably the best football league on Earth. Fans from all over the globe unite for a single cause offering their support to the 20 teams in the division.

However, the standard of officiating in recent times have become very shambolic. Week-in-week-out, some unfortunate teams are always on the end of some shocking decisions that change the shape of every game. I don’t want to start with the decisions that have gone against Arsenal, because the outlay is large enough to start up a new blog with.

Call me a hater, a beef-monger or whatever you must, but the refereeing decisions that have favored Manchester United this season has certainly left a bitter taste in the mouths of the lovers of the beautiful game.

On Sunday, Sir Alex Ferguson’s hordes hosted Queens Park Rangers but a contentious and appalling decision brandish a red card to Shaun Derry after a blatant piece of cheating from Ashley Young certainly changed the reflection of the match. Words can’t explain the decision to rule this goal out:

Unbelievable

However, the picture can be epitomized by this tweet:

Moving over to more relevant news, Tottenham’s demise against Norwich City gave Arsenal a big incentive going into this stroll in the park against Wolves. Arsene Wenger shuffled things a bit, drafting in Andre Santos for Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou for Laurent Koscielny (suspended). Eyebrows were certainly raised when Aaron Ramsey was selected over the in-form Tomas Rosicky.

Arsenal got off to a flyer when a Robin van Persie incisive through ball put Theo Walcott through but the winger was denied a clear-cut goalscoring chance by Sebastien Bassong. According to the FIFA Rule Book, the ref was left with only one decision to make, thereby giving Bassong a chance for an early bath.

Arsenal’s captain stepped up to score one of the cheekiest penalties you’ll ever see. Thierry Henry showed such class against Leeds United in the yesteryear.

For those who like numbers, that effort was van Persie’s 45th goal in 50 Premier League games, and he became the fourth player in Premier League history to score against 17 different teams in a Premier League season (after Andrew Cole 1993/94, Alan Shearer 1994/95 and Ian Wright 1996/97).

Arsenal’s captain turned from scorer to provider when he executed a neat one-two with his telepathic partner Walcott, that placed his effort past Wayne Hennessey with consummate ease. Wolves threatened from a Chris Berra header but the first half plummeted into mediocrity after that.

Arsenal didn’t take its foot off the pedal and would have gone three up but Ramsey’s poor decision making left the score line the way it was. He was sent through by van Persie but he chose to feint his shot when he was meant to pull the trigger only to be blocked afterwards. The Isreali Rabbi, Yossi Benayoun made himself available for a pass but Ramsey’s pass was wayward to say the least.

Wolves enjoyed a brief spell of possession and some intricate passing in Arsenal’s danger area saw Matt Jarvis swing a cross that was headed goalwards by Kevin Doyle. Up stepped Wojciech Szczesny to add another spectacular save to his impressive collection.

That was certainly a telling moment because Arsenal gave themselves some breathing space after some great work from the captain. Van Persie lost the ball initially before slaving hard to win it back. He sent a pass to Alex Song who in turn found the Rabbi that blasted the ball on the keeper’s blind side to make it three.

Wenger withdrew Walcott for the Ox while Carl Jenkinson got some minutes under his belt when he replaced Bacary Sagna. There was still time for Ramsey to miss yet again but the last goalmouth action came from the hosts as Nenad Milijas’ stinging shot was saved by Szczesny.

At the sound of the ref’s whistle, the Gunners sealed a victory that has sent them five points clear off Tottenham as well as seven points off Newcastle and Chelsea. Who would have believed this in August?

Szczesny (8.0) produced to top-drawer saves to aid his team.

Sagna (7.0) put up another efficient performance.

Andre Santos (6.0) disappointed me a bit and was very sloppy with the ball.

Djourou (7.0) deputized well for Koscielny and made some decent blocks to break up play.

Vermaelen (7.5) was very agile and was more than a match for the Wolves forward line.

Song (7.5) assists when he wants.

Arteta (7.5) continued his imperial form in midfield with another stellar performance.

Ramsey (7.0) missed a few chances but he had a 90% pass completion and he put up a 100% effort. It’s high time we get off his back.

Walcott (7.5) scored a well-taken goal but eased out as the game progressed.

Benayoun (7.5) made a good account of himself and capped it up with a decent finish.

Van Persie (8.0) ended his goal drought with a finish that epitomized his confidence in front of goal.

Oxlade-Chamberlain (7.0) had a decent touches and he showcased his pace and dribbling skills.

Jenkinson didn’t play long enough to get a rating.

For a team that has recorded 12 losses in 17 home games, relegation will certainly be deserved. This is also coupled with the fact that Wigan and Queens Park Rangers secured vital wins to help their cause to beat the drop.

It’s fair to say that the Gunners tamed the relegation-bound canines.

Sayonara.

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