Arsenal extended their winning run to five in five matches with a 2-1 victory over Wolves on Saturday in the Premier League following midweek’s UEFA Champions League thrashing of RC Lens.
The Gunners’ last defeat was the controversial 1-0 loss at Newcastle United but have since recovered to temporarily open a four-point gap at the top of the table heading into the busy festive period.
Two goals inside the opening 13 minutes set the tone with Bukayo Saka netting his eighth goal of the season in the sixth minute of play. Martin Odegaard extended the lead with a fine finish after a quick exchange of passes between Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus to set up the opening.
Despite that early flurry, Arsenal failed to capitalise on their dominance and had to hang on for the three points when Matheus Cunha pulled one back for the visitors late in the game following Zinchenko’s mistake.
Mikel Arteta made one change to the side that dispatched Lens on Wednesday with Leandro Trossard replacing Kai Havertz in the starting XI. Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives from the win.
3 positives & negatives from Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Wolves
Positive #1: Early goals
Arsenal have found it difficult to score early in games this season. The earliest they'd scored in the Premier League before Saturday's game arrived in the 17th minute away at Bournemouth.
After 14 matches last season, Arsenal scored eight goals in the opening 20 minutes and conceded none.
This pattern became problematic as teams who sat deep against Arsenal gained momentum without conceding as the game dragged on. But the two goals helped open the game up and had Wolves hoping the scoreline wouldn’t be as embarrassing as the Gunners imposed their will on the visitors. They should've been out of sight by the time the half-time whistle blew.
Negative #1: Missed chances
Arsenal were dominant in every aspect with the attack purring. The wingers were dominant, while Gabriel Jesus had a big role in both goals. Mikel Arteta’s side had 19 shots in the game, but only six were on target. Gabriel Martinelli was unlucky not to score after being denied by the post, his curling effort had beaten the goalkeeper but could not find its way into the back of the net.
The game kicked off with fervour as Leandro Trossard came agonisingly close to scoring. He managed to connect with Odegaard’s precise through ball but was denied by Jose Sa in the Wolves goal. Arsenal maintained their aggressive attacking style, resulting in Trossard's blocked shot and Rice's deflected effort, increasing the shot tally. Jesus had an opportunity but his shot lacked power, while Trossard missed another chance after a skilful buildup.
However, despite their dominance, they couldn't secure a comfortable lead, ultimately relying on their good fortune to secure the win.
Positive #2: Front five looks threatening again
Arsenal front three were one of the reasons the team excelled last season. The trio of Saka, Martinelli and Jesus started most of Arsenal’s games before Jesus’ injury at the World Cup in Qatar. This season, Arteta has struggled to field the three of them in the same team, but all the pieces are coming together in recent weeks.
Despite not having the best season so far, Saka has 17 goal involvements in 19 matches for Arsenal (eight goals and nine assists). That’s an insane stat for a player yet to hit top form, and he is only 22 years old. Jesus and Martinelli are flying high in the Champions League but have both struggled domestically this season.
With Odegaard and Trossard behind the three up front, Arteta can’t wait to get all of them firing in the league.
Negative #2: Zinchenko’s lack of concentration
Oleksandr Zinchenko is a great player, one of the most gifted technical players in the Arsenal squad. When he inverts into midfield, he can find a pass, he is a control freak in possession and is a lovely player to watch. What worries everyone, including Arteta, is his concentration and overthinking with the ball at his feet. He is suspect defensively and will continue to be, and Arsenal were punished today when he dallied with the ball inside the box and was caught for Cunha to score for the visitors.
Against Lens, he was also caught on the ball and needed his goal line clearance to prevent a goal. For all his qualities, it is a worry defensively. This may only be me fearing for the worst, but it should be a concern for the player and coaches as well.
Positive #3: Trossard thrives in midfield
Much has been said about Arsenal’s left-eight position since the departure of Granit Xhaka in the summer. Arteta has experimented with Kai Havertz, Fabio Vieira and Declan Rice in the position but it seems Trossard could be the man to fill in the gap, at least on a temporary basis until such a time there is a proper replacement.
He has started in midfield in the last two Premier League matches against a team Arteta expects to sit deep and frustrate Arsenal. His technical ability is so good that he can control the ball even in tight spaces and wriggle his way out of danger. The position requires a player to constantly make late runs into the box undetected and the Belgian has shown the willingness and the ability to do just that. He scored against Brentford which was ruled out for offside by VAR and came very close to scoring against Wolves.
I would still maintain that it is still early days to make a definitive conclusion on Trossard in the position, he needs more game time and we hope he can continue to progress. The signs are encouraging.
Negative #3: Tomiyasu's injury worry
Is Takehiro Tomiyasu an injury-prone player? I'll leave the answer to you. Truth is, he seems to get injured now and then which disrupts his rhythm. The Japanese international is probably enjoying himself while playing at the highest level to put Ben White and Zinchenko behind him in Arteta's thinking. The manager has been very sensible in managing his fitness and we hope this latest scare is nothing serious.
Arteta said after the game that he felt something and needed to be changed straight away. Fingers crossed he will be okay for a busy festive period.