Toothless Arsenal are ripped apart by Wolves
Unai Emery’s men suffer heavy defeat as top-four chase falters
24 April, 2019 — By Steve Barnett
WOLVES 3 (Neves 27, Doherty 38, Jota 45+2)
ARSENAL 1 (Sokratis 80)
ARSENAL squandered another chance to establish themselves as genuine top-four contenders last night (Wednesday) as they were ripped apart by Wolves.
The Gunners were mauled at Molineux as goals from Ruben Neves, Matt Doherty and Diogo Jota saw the home side race into a 3-0 lead to effectively kill the game off inside the first 45 minutes.
Unai Emery rang the changes following Arsenal’s 3-2 defeat at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday, the most notable of which was the disappearance of top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed out following “a small sinus procedure”. On this performance, however, even the Gabon striker would have failed to find the back of the net as Emery’s side put in one of their most sluggish displays of the season.
It was the home side who had the first real chance of the game midway through the first half. Doherty rolled the ball across the edge of the penalty area for Joao Moutinho, who curled a shot just wide of the far post from 20 yards.
Minutes later it was Raul Jimenez’s turn to miss the target as he flashed a shot over the bar from six yards.
The momentum was with Wolves, and they made it count on 27 minutes. Nacho Monreal fouled Jonny on the edge of the box, and Neves stepped up to curl the resulting free-kick beyond Bernd Leno.
Things went from good to great for Nuno Espirito Santo’s big-game hunters when Doherty headed home a second following a short corner. In added-on time at the end of the first half there was even more cheering from the home fans when the game was put out of Arsenal’s reach. The visitors gifted possession to Jota, who skipped between two defenders before hitting a shot that squirmed underneath Leno – looking back the German goalkeeper will know he should have done better.
Arsenal were hoping to be given the chance to get back into the game early in the second half when Alexandre Lacazette was bundled over by Ryan Bennett, but referee Stuart Attwell waved away calls for a penalty.
In truth the appeals were as hopeful as the north Londoners’ defending had been all evening.
Arsenal did eventually manage pull one back late on when Sokratis Papastathopoulos headed home Granit Xhaka’s corner from close range, but it was a goal that would have done little to lift the mood of the travelling fans.
Somehow Gunners boss Emery still found a way to be optimistic after the final whistle.
“We knew before the match that it was going to be difficult because all season Wolverhampton are feeling strong, defensively they are a good team and offensively they have very fast players,” he said.
“Their organisation was very good and to break this was going to be difficult.
“In the first 25 minutes we started very well, controlled the possession but did not have many chances to score.]
“We spoke in the dressing room at half-time and we tried to see it as a new match, and in the second half we changed our performance and scored a goal.
“Today we’re disappointed but we need to remember how we were three months ago. We can be optimistic and recover for the top four.”
WOLVES: Patricio, Doherty, Bennett, Coady, Boly, Jonny, Neves, Moutinho (Gibbs-White, 90), Dendoncker, Jota (Cavaleiro, 78), Jimenez (Traore, 82)
Substitutes not used: Ruddy, Costa, Saiss, Vinagre.
ARSENAL: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Torreira (Guendouzi, 59), Xhaka, Mkhitaryan (Kolasinac, 59), Ozil, Lacazette, Iwobi (Nketiah, 71).
Substitutes not used: Cech, Elneny, Mustafi, Willock.