Arsenal – Wolves saw Mikel Arteta’s Gunners suffer a third straight home defeat — and a fourth defeat in their last six Premier League games — as they were once again toothless and short on ideas.
[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]
2-1 was the final score at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, with all three goals coming in rather quick succession during the first half. Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence got the goals for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, sandwiching Gabriel Magalhaes’ equalizer.
With just 13 points from their first 10 games this season, the Gunners are off to their worst-ever Premier League start. Wolves, meanwhile, are up to sixth in the table.
3 things we learned: Arsenal – Wolves
1. Arsenal unprepared for Wolves’ width: Arsenal don’t scoring many goals these days, but a lot of that is down to their defensive shape and discipline — at least, that was the case coming into Sunday’s game. As far as Sunday’s game was concerned, Mikel Arteta’s side looked like it had never once reviewed film of Wolves in possession of the ball. The defend deep — much like Arsenal — and try to quickly launch counter-attacks down the wings. Everyone in the world knows it, except for Arsenal on Sunday. Both goals were a result of zero pressure on the ball in wide areas, which eventually put the center backs and goalkeeper under impossible pressure.
2. Aubameyang’s new contract looking…: … well, not great. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been nothing short of sensational for Arsenal for going on three years now, but he’s a 31-year-old center forward who relies (almost) solely on his blistering pace to run in behind defenders or get onto the end of crosses that players even a half-step slower couldn’t reach. His continued production requires two things to get absolutely right — he stays healthy and doesn’t deteriorate physically, and he receives constant service from Arsenal’s midfield creators — or he’s rendered virtually useless. Judging by his scoring record this season (2 goals from 10 games) and his paltry shot numbers (1.4 per game), it would appear at least one of the above requirements have not been fulfilled. Aubameyang hasn’t scored a goal from open play since the opening day of the 2020-21 season. It won’t be long before the Gunners are ruing their decision to pay him nearly $500,000 per week for the next three years.
3. Superstar performance from Neto: Given Raul Jimenez’s untimely, early exit from Sunday’s game, the rest of Wolves’ considerably talented attacking players faced a difficult, yet welcome, challenge: step into that void and produce the kind of unscripted magic Jimenez so often provides. Neto got himself a goal and could have had a second for himself, and was a constant threat as he served as the main ball progressor on counter after counter. Again, Arsenal were incredibly slow to recognize and adjust to this particular threat, and Neto shone incredibly brightly as a result.
The game began in incredibly somber fashion as Jimenez and David Luiz came together in a frightening clash of heads in the 5th minute. Luiz was left bloodied from a massive gash above his forehead — he was wrapped up and remained in the game before being subbed off at halftime — while Jimenez was treated much more urgently before leaving the field and stadium on a stretcher. He was taken straight to the hospital and has since regained consciousness.
Only 10 minutes after the restart of play, Wolves went ahead through Neto’s opening goal. Adama Traore did yeoman’s work to take the ball down the right flank before lofting a cross to Leander Dendoncker at the far post. Dendoncker’s header crashed off the front side of the crossbar and caromed back into play. Fortunately for Wolves, Neto was waiting to hammer the rebound goal-bound again.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
The lead last just three minutes, though, as Arsenal finally came to life right on the half-hour mark. Gabriel rose high above two defenders to place a thundering header, from Willian’s cross, into the top corner where Rui Patricio had no chance of reaching it.
Wolves reclaimed the lead in the 42nd minute, and what a wonderfully improvised goal it was, made possible and complete only by a fantastic piece of skill from goal-scorer Podence. Neto carried the ball a long way into the final third before unleashing a powerful, low drive which Bernd Leno managed to save but also spill into the six-yard box. Podence arrived just in time to hit the ball into the ground and bounce it over the on-rushing Gabriel before slotting it home into an open net.