Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Arsenal
If Premier League matches this season ended at half-time, Wolves would be bottom of the table.
That stat certainly shocked this SBOBET observer, especially as Wolves have been one of the teams of 2019/20 and went into this game against Arsenal with the chance to move (even if only temporarily) within goal difference of a highly sought-after top-four spot.
So, it seemed there was little reason for Wolves fans to worry about being behind at the break.
Yet this time, it turned out to be a rare occasion when they really were below par and weren’t coming back.
For in a match of few Premier League 2020 highlights, this was Arsenal’s night.
Highlights of the game
Home coach Nuno Espirito Santos had a fully-fit squad to select from in what was his 150th match in charge of Wolves.
One hundred and fifty matches in which he has made a name for himself and the club as one of the most promising around.
He made just the one change from last weekend’s narrow win at Aston Villa as Adama Traore replaced Diogo Jota, who was named among the substitutes.
Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta made three changes to his Arsenal side from their midweek victory over Norwich.
Defender Cedric Soares was rewarded for his goal against the Canaries with a first start for the Gunners, while striker Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka returned to the starting line-up.
Interestingly, neither Matteo Guendouzi nor Mesut Özil, whose commitment to the cause had been questioned by Arteta this week, made the squad at all.
Wolves started as slight favourites on the Premier League 2020 betting odds: no surprise given they were on the back of an eight-match unbeaten league run, winning five, drawing three and keeping seven clean sheets in the process.
Furthermore, the Gunners had failed to win their last 17 Premier League away games against sides starting the day above them in the table.
I did not see an away win coming until just before the break.
That was when Saka drove the ball cleverly out of the reach of Rui Patricio.
After Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found Manx-born Kieran Tierney (I am also Manx but that is where any footballing similarities end!) on the left, the full-back found Saka and the 18-year-old showed composure to net his first Premier League goal for the club.
Less than 10 minutes earlier, a deflection fell kindly for Nketiah, whose strike forced the alert Patricio to superbly divert the ball onto the post with his leg.
Into the second half and the hosts showed more urgency.
Raul Jimenez found substitute Jota, who wriggled into the box. His shot needed a fine block by David Luiz before the ball was hooked back into the danger zone, where Jimenez was a fraction away from converting an equaliser.
The lively Jota then found Adama Traore, who was clean through but more alert goalkeeping, this time from Emiliano Martinez, made the angle too difficult.
If either of those efforts had gone in, many would have backed Wolves to go on and win.
That they didn’t, gave Arsenal renewed hope and Joe Willock found another sub, Alexandre Lacazette, whose first touch took him clear and the Frenchman slotted the ball home just three minutes after entering the fray.
But for a goal-line Ruben Neves clearance, Arsenal would have enjoyed an even bigger winning margin as Lacazette and Aubameyang combined to play in Willock.
It didn’t matter and Wolves, despite being above both clubs in the table, had been beaten at home by north London giants again.
Arsenal have won nine of their past 12 matches in all competitions.
Saka is the second youngest English player to score a Premier League goal for Arsenal, after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (v Blackburn in February 2012).
Before his strike, Wolves had gone 448 minutes without conceding a league goal.
This win means Arsenal have secured back-to-back away league victories for the first time since August and three successive Premier League clean sheets for the first time since November 2017.
This was also their first away league victory against a side starting above them in the league table since September 2015.
The match-clinching second ended a run of 16 Premier League away appearances without a goal for Lacazette.
It’s fair to say this match triggered the start of a crucial 11-day period for both clubs.
Wolves travel to Sheffield United on Wednesday night (July 8), host Everton next Sunday (July 12) and then travel to Burnley three days later.
It’s an equally hectic schedule for Arsenal and an even tougher run of fixtures.
They host Leicester on Tuesday night, travel to rivals Spurs for the latest instalment of the north London derby next weekend and then are at Newcastle before facing Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final.
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