A week ago, it was tempting to pay little attention to Mikel Arteta when he claimed to have spotted a fundamental change in Nicolas Pepe’s behaviour. I was struck by a manager trying to talk about signing a failed club record in time for the summer and it was the first time he had spoken of a turning point for the Ivorian. But in the end this seemed like one for both players, and impressive for all those who celebrated wildly after that Arsenal clinching points in injury time, the club whose tail eventually reached.
Places in the Champions League are secured on nights like these: if any doubt remains, it must now be admitted that Arteta’s side have an excellent chance of achieving their end.
When Arteta checked the bench for options to save a night that seemed likely to be determined by Huang Hee-chan’s early target for Wolves, little said Pepe had emerged by far his best option to turn things around.
barely played in Premier League Since October, but Arsenal have been weak and took another blow this week when Emile Smith Rowe fell ill. Pépé and another attacker apparently headed for the exit, Eddie Nketiah, were cavalry but no one would underestimate their ability to make an impact now.
Arsenal mustered their breath for a late attack after having come pretty close during the second half, but it looks like Wolverhampton, who may regret not baring their teeth so often given their astonishing accuracy when attacking, are likely to hold on. Nketiah then ran into a finely chipped ball down the right from Martin Odegaard, who once again put in a great performance, feeling Pépé running into him. His cut passes kept Pépé off target but were nicely tamed by a right-footed dip, creating an opportunity in one move that was clinically dispatched using his left.
Pepe was on the field for 11 minutes and Nkitea for six minutes. When the fourth referee’s board showed that half a dozen more would be played after regulatory time, triggered in part by a bizarre episode in which Raul Jimenez was booked for refusing to leave the field after his number was apparently put in the wrong way, Arsenal smelled perfume. winner.
“I told you last week, I see a different Nico,” Arteta said of Pépé afterwards. He made another crucial contribution with the game’s final significant work. As with most of Arsenal’s best work, the move earned its decisive appeal at Odegaard’s feet. He fed Alexandre Lacazette inside the area and the captain, who worked tirelessly but endured a frustrating night, played an intense twosome with Pépé. She gave Lacazette a chance to shoot at a corner to the right, and while his efforts were to be finished, she was turned into the far corner of Jose Sa’s gauntlet. Emirates broke out. It may go down as a private goal but the significance may be far-reaching.
For most of the issue, Wolves were on track to jump Arsenal to fifth and avenge their narrow defeat at Molineux less than two weeks ago. They started well, seeing Romain Sais narrowly disallowed an offside effort before Hwang took advantage of a rare error from Gabriel.
The center back was the previous bout winner but here, guarding a long pass down the left while Jimenez chases down, he was sloppy. The attempt to get back into Aaron Ramsdale was executed without sufficient purchase or decisively, without a look. Hwang was pinched with the stranded guard and his angled end made look simple.
Jiménez, who is playing here for the first time since the head-scratching clash with David Luiz who fractured his skull in November 2020, should have doubled his lead almost immediately but falls back after being sent off by Daniel Bodens. Wolves can regret it and the moment, right after the break, he unleashed more great action from Bodens Hwang for a shot that slid off the far post through Aaron Ramsdale’s foot.
Otherwise, Arsenal managed to run even if the obvious opportunities were scarce.
Brilliant first-half blocks by Saïss and Max Kilman, of Ødegaard and Lacazette respectively, featured Wolves’ massive defense of the six-yard box as Gabriel Martinelli was stabbed.
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Lacazette, who often appeared sluggish as soon as he got inside the box, saw two shots locked up and screwed up the other couple. Arsenal’s night didn’t show, but when Arteta pelted the touchline and punched his fist in front of the crowd watching the playoff, it suddenly started to feel like their year.
“We had a difficult January, but we come back better in February and we want to continue until the end of the season,” Lacazette said. Momentum is all in Arsenal now.