Arsenal beats Wolves to strengthen European hopes

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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.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

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.

Wolves beat Villa, boost top four dreams

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Wolves beat Aston Villa to boost their top four dreams as Leander Dendoncker’s solitary strike was enough to seal victory in a Midlands derby.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Wolves are in fifth on 52 points, just two points off fourth-place Chelsea, while Villa are in 19th place on 27 points and haven’t won in the Premier League since January.

With six games to go, Villa are still in touching distance of safety with Watford, West Ham and Bournemouth all around them. Dean Smith’s side are running out of time to safe themselves from relegation and Wolves totally outclassed them at Villa Park.

Wolves – Aston Villa was very one-sided and the hosts struggled throughout.

Three things we learned

1. Wolves in total control: This was as easy a 1-0 win as you’ll see. Wolves had four or five decent chances throughout and took one of them and that was that. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have now won 2-0, 1-0 and 1-0 in their three games after the restart and they’ve done it with minimum fuss. They are just two points off fourth-place Chelsea and remain right in the Champions League battle. Wolves have momentum and are having a superb season.

2. Villa’s attacking woes continue: They’ve scored two goals in their four games since the restart and Villa just haven’ looked dangerous going forward. Jack Grealish saw a lot of the ball but struggled and had their only shot on target of the game, from outside the box in the first half. That sums it up. Davis and Samatta worked hard up top but couldn’t put Wolves’ defense under pressure and Villa are playing games hoping for a draw when they need a win in this situation. They now face Liverpool, Man United, Crystal Palace, Everton, Arsenal and West Ham in the final six games of the season and will they won any of those clashes?

3. Traore off the bench a treasure: Traore has come off the bench in the second half of wins at West Ham and Villa and he’s had the desired impact on both occasions. He was involved in Wolves’ goal and the last thing you want to see if you’re an opposition defender is Traore coming off the bench to run at you.

Man of the Match

Leander Dendoncker – He scored the winner on his return to the team and his midfield runs were dangerous, while he also did so much defensive work to stop Grealish getting on the ball in dangerous areas. Superb all-round display from the Belgian midfielder.

Matt Targett was forced off early through injury as Neil Taylor replaced him, as Wolves grew into the game and create a few decent chances. Joao Moutinho’s clever free kick to the near post was flicked on target by Jimenez by Orjan Nyland saved down low.

Wolves went close again soon after as Matt Doherty smashed a shot into the side-netting, then Jimenez broke free down the right and flashed a ball across the six yard box but Diogo Jota just couldn’t quite get on the end of it.

Jack Grealish had a deflected shot on target which Rui Patricio saved as Villa were solid enough but created very little in attack.

Jimenez then went close again with a dragged effort across goal and Wolves should have been 1-0 up as Nyland made a huge error as the ball slipped out of his hand but Jota could only fire over.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

In the second half Wolves pushed hard to take the lead and the opener came via Dendoncker just after Adama Traore came on. Traore had an immediate impact and found Jimenez.

His ball into the box was kept alive brilliantly by Jonny and Dendoncker swept home into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to make it 1-0.

Dendoncker flicked wide at the back post as Wolves pushed for a second, as Villa left gaps on the break but they never really came close to grabbing an equalizer.

Aston Villa – Wolves stream: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

Aston Villa - Wolves preview
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Stream Aston Villa – Wolves: Villa can climb out of the drop zone with a result against steady Wolves at Villa Park (start time is at 7:30am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Villans are in the drop zone as one of three teams on 27 points. Watford is in 16th with 28.

[ RELATED: Liverpool win title – everything to know ]

Wolves, meanwhile, are surging toward a top five spot. Nuno Espirito Santo’s men are level on points with Manchester United and five behind fourth-place Chelsea.


Click on the link above to strem Aston Villa – Wolves, while below is everything you need to know ahead of the Midlands derby with plenty on the line for both teams.

Team news

Aston Villa make three changes as Marvelous Nakamba, Conor Hourihane and Keinan Davis come in for John McGinn, Trezeguet and Anwar El Ghazi.

Wolves make one change as Adama Traore is replaced by Leander Dendoncker.

What they’re saying

Conor Coady on Wolves looking to sweep a Midlands derby: “It’s Villa. It’s such a quick turnaround, but it’s something we’ve been used to this season because of the amount of games we’ve had. It’s something that we’re really looking forward to, honestly. I think everybody in our changing room is just happy to have football back.”

Villa boss Dean Smith on facing Wolves: “I’m not a Villa fan. I’m the Villa manager at the moment. I try to lose that tag. I’m now the Villa head coach looking to win games to keep us in the Premier League. I was coming up against Nuno with Brentford in the Championship. Now, seeing what they’re doing in the Premier League is inspiring. They’ve done a fantastic job competing on all fronts, even in Europe this season. They have a realistic aim of being a top-six team now. They’ve done a fantastic job and credit must go to all of them.”

Odds and ends

The hosts are +350 while Wolves are favorites to the tune of -118.

Wolves took a 2-1 win over Villa at the Molineux in November on goals by Ruben Neves and — you guessed it — Raul Jimenez.

Aston Villa – Wolves prediction

Villa is winless in six Premier League matches, picking up just two points. They gave Newcastle plenty of chances in a 1-1 draw at midweek and only scored on a Martin Dubravka error. A draw is possible but Wolves look refreshed and ready. 2-1 Wolves.

Traore, Jimenez link up again as Wolves beat Bournemouth

Wolves - Bournemouth recap
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Adama Traore set up Raul Jimenez for a goal as Wolves improved their top four stock with a 1-0 win over struggling Bournemouth at the Molineux Stadium.

That’s nothing new, by the way, as Traore’s eight assists to Jimenez lead the Premier League for the 2019-20 season. Jimenez has assisted Traore on two occasions as well.


Sixth place Wolves are level on points with fifth place Manchester United, two points behind Chelsea and six back of Leicester City.

Bournemouth is 18th, sandwiched between two other teams on 27 points and one point back of Watford.

Three things we learned

1. The best Mexican season in ages: Raul Jimenez is the best North American player in the world right know, with apologies to Alphonso Davies and Christian Pulisic. The veteran striker has delivered 15 league goals this season in 30 outings plus another nine between the Europa League and FA Cup. He’s in demand around Europe but why would he leave when he can take Wolves into the Champions League?

2. Bournemouth is in a bad place: Wolves are good, but their visitors conjured just four shots and none were on target. Eddie Howe’s men had 46 percent of the ball and won many of their duels. The effort is there, but the danger is not. Newcastle is next at home, and if the Cherries can’t get points there they meet Man United, Spurs, Leicester City, and Man City after that.

3. Traore as easy Man of the Match: It’s not just the stat below, but another that Opta shared on Twitter. Traore is not just drawing fouls, he’s forcing obvious and desperate cards out of the opposition. His 21 cards drawn in the opposing half tops the league.

Wolves – Bournemouth recap

It’s no surprise that Adama Traore was a live wire and drove play in the first half, though chances were limited.

Traore missed another dangerous in stoppage but the game was more grimy than dangerous, with five yellow cards between the teams in the first 45 minutes.

Wolves got on the board via their two key attack pieces when Traore did fine work on the right to drive the end line and cross to the back post. Jimenez climbed high and hammered a header home for 1-0.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Transfer news: Koulibaly to Liverpool, Jimenez to Juventus

Koulibaly to Liverpool
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The transfer rumor mill continues to hum along despite the window not opening for some time.

[ MORE: Liverpool drops points for 3rd time ]

That’s not a surprise with a lot of contracts expiring at the end of the month and some teams’ new knowledge of their fate for next season.

Koulibaly to Liverpool

A Virgil van Dijk-Kalidou Koulibaly partnership at Liverpool is a monstrous and imposing idea, but the Reds so far have only offered a discount bid on the Napoli star.

Reports out of Italy say the Reds sent a $67 million offer to the Coppa Italia champions, but that Napoli remains steadfast in their $112 million asking price.

Recently linked to Manchester United and even Newcastle if a takeover happens, Koulibaly is a massive talent.

He turned 29 on Saturday and has a contract in Naples through 2022-23. Koulibaly has 33 Senegal caps and 235 appearances for Napoli after beginning his career with Metz and Genk.

Jimenez to Juventus

Wolves’ big price tag on Raul Jimenez seems likely to turn most teams off the 29-year-old Mexican, but that won’t stop teams from circling the Molineux.

A report out of Italy says Juventus would love to woo Jimenez to Turin but that his $65 million price tag is a bit too much.

Jimenez broke Wolves’ PL single season scoring record with his 14th goal of the season in Saturday’s defeat of West Ham.

It should be noted that Jimenez has little reason to want to move with Wolves still holding the chance to qualify for the Champions League via the league route or a Europa League title.

He’s having a career year with a number of players who also look set to stick around under boss Nuno Espirito Santo. But we’re here to bring the rumors, just in case.

Vertonghen to Roma, Smalling to Roma

Longtime Tottenham Hotspur center back Jan Vertonghen has been a steady part of the club’s return to top four prominence.

He may be looking to help AS Roma steady its ship in Serie A, according to Sky Sports.

Vertonghen, 33, has made 311 appearances for Spurs since arriving from Ajax in 2012. He’s been linked with a return to the Amsterdam set or Inter Milan prior to the Roma report.

The 118-times capped Belgian could play alongside fellow PL mainstay Chris Smalling, as Roma’s reportedly ready to buy the loan star off Manchester United after one more loan campaign.