Wolves produced one of their best performances of the season to come so close to beating Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday. They defended doggedly when needed but were a constant threat at the other end of the field and can justifiably claim to have been the team more likely to win the game for the majority of the 90+ minutes.
In the opening exchanges Arsenal were having a lot of the ball but weren’t creating anything of note, and Patricio was having a quiet first half in the Wolves goal. And Wolves meanwhile were creating difficulties for the home defence with Costa, in particular, a constant threat on the right. Jonny and Doherty were regularly getting forward and it was not against the run of play when Wolves took the lead in the 12th minute. A loose pass in midfield by Arsenal was picked up by Cavaleiro who attacked the box before laying it off to Jimenez on the right, whose return pass set up the chance in the six-yard box.
Arsenal couldn’t mount a serious threat on the Wolves goal with the defence holding firm with Bennett and Jonny playing as well as they have for the club, and when a chance fell to Lacazette, a brilliant and brave block by Coady saved the day. Then a Wolves breakaway sees Costa attacking on the right and cutting in to bring a fine block from Leno who just recovered in time to stop Jimenez getting on the rebound. End to end stuff in an entertaining game with Coady and Bennett making further blocks and then Costa bringing another fine save from Leno. Jimenez and Cavaleiro again combined with the striker just tackled as he was about to shoot, then Bennett again with the block from a Bellerin header.
It was a surprise when Iwobi was replaced at half-time as he had been Arsenal’s liveliest player but Guendouzi replaced him and he became their most dynamic player, and brought the first save from Patricio as the home team raised their game. Jonny then showed real bravery to put his head in where it hurts to stop an Arsenal attack but the home team were threatening now and Terreira’s shot is tipped over by Patricio. And pressure on the Wolves goal grows as Bellerin shoots just over before Aubamayeng heads against the outside of the post when he should have scored.
Costa, who had his best game of the season had to go off with 15 minutes left with Traore coming on. His first involvement was on a Wolves breakaway when he played the ball wide to Jimenez whose low cross found Jota on the far post but Leno made a fine block. Patricio denied Lacazette with a fine save but then was finally beaten with 4 minutes left. Mkhitaryan’s cross from the left went over everyone in the area and found the far corner of the net. Wolves almost immediately restored their lead when a corner wouldn’t quite fall to Boly, but bounced for Jota to get in a header saved by the keeper. And Wolves were twice more to go close to winning it. Neves sent Traore away and he outsprints Holding and cuts inside only for Leno to block his shot. Then Neves again sent Traore away, this time on the right, and he pulled the ball back to Gibbs White whose effort from 25 yards hit the underside of the bar and bounced down a foot the wrong side of the goal line.
Patricio 7 – had no saves to make in the first half but was excellent in the second period making a number of key saves.
Bennett 9 – possibly his best game for the club, making block after block in the first half and standing firm under pressure.
Coady 8 – excellent distribution to set up the counter attacks and has now turned into a proper defender with some brave blocks.
Boly 8 – seems to revel in being put under pressure and seems calmer than ever when forced onto the back foot.
Doherty 8 – got forward regularly and did his share of defending when needed.
Neves 8 – the architect of a lot of the counter attacks although did make some loose passes first half.
Moutinho 7 – always looks to keep the team on the front foot. Made some loose passes but plenty of good ones too.
Jonny 9 – like Bennett has looked below par in recent games, but also like Bennett, was outstanding here. Sign him up.
Costa 9 – a constant threat to Arsenal down the right. As well as he has played for Wolves.
Jimenez 8 – another excellent centre-forward display and took his assists for the season to 5.
Cavaleiro 7 – opened very brightly and took his goal well. Faded out of the game later.
Traore 7 – may never be Mr Consistent but what a threat when breakaways are what’s needed and came close to scoring one and setting up two.
Jota 7 – close to getting his first Premier League goal and played his part in the latter stages.
Gibbs White 7 – only a short cameo today but impressed again and was so close to winning it in the 94th minute.
After three straight defeats, a positive performance was needed and it was given in spades here. Nobody would have begrudged Wolves getting three points and you sometimes have to pinch yourself to remember this is Wolves we are watching after so many low quality games over the last 30 years or so. Wolves have now matched Man City, Man Utd, Spurs and Arsenal this season and have done so with great organisation and no little skill. After the international break it Huddersfield at home on the 25th followed by Cardiff away on the 30th. Performances like this will give Wolves every chance of being 6 points better off by the month end.