Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette scored as Arsenal closed ground on the top five with a gritty and complete 2-0 win over Wolves at the Molineux on Saturday.
Mikel Arteta’s project looks to be going well as Arsenal moves seventh with 49 points, three back of Wolves and four clear of rivals Spurs, who have a match-in-hand.
Wolves saw a four-match clean sheet run spoiled by Saka’s first-half goal. The sixth-place Wolves lose ground in the battle for a top four place and now sit two points behind Chelsea, who plays later Saturday. They are three back of Manchester United and six behind Leicester City.
Three things we learned
1. Arsenal begins gauntlet with promise: The Gunners need wins, not draws, if they want to creep up the table and into the European places by season’s end. Saturday was the first of three chances to take three points from a team it’s chasing, with a visit from Leicester City coming Tuesday before July 12’s North London Derby at Spurs. A team they won’t catch, Liverpool, follows so… get those points now and get your form sorted.
2. Saka celebrates new deal in style: Arsenal’s 18-year-old wonder worker on the left side came from the right to score his first Premier League goal. Kieran Tierney’s deflected cross gave Saka a chance to show his technique, and that left-footed side volley oozed the good stuff. Saka now has four goals and 10 assists in all competitions, and does not turn 19 until Sept. 5.
3. Wolves falter: Raul Jimenez was fine, which is substandard from his usual prowess, while Adama Traore didn’t do much after a lively start up top. Injections of Diogo Jota and Pedro Neto yielded little as you’d call this a certified dud. When Conor Coady is getting cooked, you know something’s not right.
Man of the Match
The best player on the pitch for either team might have been Ruben Neves. Wolves’ Portuguese midfielder had a goal-mouth clearance and sprayed long balls around the field as if he was four yards, not 40 away from his target.
Wolves – Arsenal recap
The first half did not live up to the billing of two offense-first teams, although Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah came close after the half-hour mark.
The best chance at the other saw a hesitant Raul Jimenez trouble Wolves’ promising rush into the 18.
Adama Traore drew a dangerous free kick off Sead Kolasinac that led to nothing as the match neared halftime.
It was Saka who stroked Arsenal in front in the 43rd minute, celebrating his new contract with a terrific left-footed side volley after Kieran Tierney’s cross was deflected into his path.
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Traore came close for Wolves after the hour mark but Arsenal was staunch in its final third.
Arsenal got its second when Lacazette roasted Conor Coady with a slick first touch of Joe Willock’s pass as the Gunners needed a half-dozen moves to produce a goal from a David Luiz-won header at midfield.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang nearly had Willock on the board with a third Arsenal goal after Lacazette keyed a move in the final third, but Ruben Neves cleared the shot off the line.Follow @NicholasMendola