Arsenal 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers: 5 Talking Points and Tactical Analysis

Arsenal again dropped points at home
Arsenal again dropped points at home

Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers played out an entertaining 1-1 stalemate at the Emirates as the Gunners missed an opportunity to cut the gap on Chelsea.

The away side raced off the blocks and instantly got into the ascendancy, courtesy a combination of courageous build-up play and intensity. However, as the half progressed, the Gunners regained control and they went ahead in the 21st minute when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stabbed home Alexandre Lacazette’s pass inside the box.

The hosts entered the tunnel boasting a one-goal lead but that was wiped out 14 minutes from time when Raul Jimenez rose above Calum Chambers to power home a wonderful cross from the right flank.

Both sides pushed to ripple the net again but failed as the teams ended the game on level terms.

Here is a look at the talking points from the contest.

#5 Arsenal edge ahead in a fascinating first half

Aubameyang propelled Arsenal into the lead
Aubameyang propelled Arsenal into the lead

Arsenal came into the encounter on the back of a tumultuous week which had seen them squander a two-goal lead against Crystal Palace while they are also dumped out of the Carabao Cup after a manic 5-5 draw at Anfield.

Thus, the Gunners were under a bit of pressure, considering they’d not really set the world ablaze before those results too. And, for the opening 10 minutes, the hosts looked a side bereft of confidence as Wolves swarmed all over them.

The visitors showcased immense confidence on the ball and put the home side under immediate strife. More encouragingly though, Wolves’ tactics tied Arsenal in knots as the Gunners failed to cope with the away side’s system.

Nuno Espirito Santo deployed a 3-4-3 formation, meaning that Adama Traore and Diogo Jota were accorded the license to play high up on the flanks. Additionally, Jonny and Matt Doherty bombarded forward regularly, thereby creating several instances of numerical superiority on the wings.

Moreover, the Gunners’ lack of natural wingers meant that Wolves enjoyed themselves in the wider areas.

Arsenal, meanwhile, failed to impose themselves on the early exchanges of the game. The visitors blunted the Gunners’ passing edge courtesy a well-drilled implementation of the high press. The hosts tried to play out from the back but Wolves compressed the pitch extremely efficiently. In the process, the home side weren’t able to break through the lines.

However, as the half wore on, Unai Emery’s men began dominating possession. The above allowed them to move the ball and drag Wolves all across the pitch, thereby giving the former the requisite time and space to carve out opportunities.

Even though the visitors always looked dangerous on the break, they never really threatened an under-fire Arsenal rear-guard with the only opening falling to Doherty.

Thus, despite starting the match on the back foot, the Gunners somehow managed to wrest control and ultimately, they surged ahead in an engrossing first half.

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#4 Matt Doherty’s injury adds to Wolves’ defensive woes

Matt Doherty
Matt Doherty

Wolves started the game with a make-shift back three as Leander Dendoncker slotted in as the right-sided centre-back. Unsurprisingly, the visitors’ defence endured a few shaky moments courtesy a lack of communication.

Additionally, there were quite a few instances where the defensive line seemed clueless about tracking runners. Aubameyang and Lacazette’s off the ball running caused them all sorts of problems and it contributed to them allowing the Gunners back into the game.

And, to compound their woes, Matt Doherty picked up a knock midway through the half; an injury that forced him to hobble off the pitch.

Against Arsenal, the visitors were already missing Ryan Bennett and Willy Boly, meaning that they had two of their five first-choice defenders out of action. Yet, one feels the injury to Doherty might just throw more of a spanner in their works.

Wolves’ brand of football depends highly on their wing-backs’ ability to double up as auxiliary wingers and provide width on the flanks. The Irish defender had evolved into an ideal wing-back for the above philosophy courtesy his tendency to churn out an adequate end product in the final third.

Thus, his absence from the team could hurt Wolves quite a bit, more so considering their dense fixture list. And, though there hasn’t been any word on the magnitude of the injury so far, the visitors would hope it doesn’t hamper Doherty’s participation for too long.

#3 Kieran Tierney passes another test with flying colours

Kieran Tierney
Kieran Tierney

Arsenal’s defensive deficiencies have been well-documented over the years, with the Gunners guilty of letting in countless avoidable goals. Thus, in order to strengthen on that front, the North Londoners pulled out all the stops to acquire Kieran Tierney from Celtic. And, though they’ve still shipped in goals consistently, the Scottish international has proven himself to be an astute signing.

Against Wolves, the full-back lined up against the enigmatic Traore, meaning that he had his hands full containing the pacey winger. However, the Scottish international was rarely troubled by the Spaniard as the former’s exemplary positioning completely nullified the latter’s threat.

Though Traore got goal-side a couple of times, Tierney was on hand to recover and put in a last-ditch challenge. Additionally, the defender looked extremely composed on the ball as Arsenal continued playing with fire at the back.

However, the most impressive aspect of his performance was his decision making. The Gunners have often been guilty of being a little too gung-ho with their full-backs, thereby leaving the back door hopelessly exposed.

Yet, Tierney displayed great tactical acumen to judiciously pick and choose his moments to venture forward. The above enabled him to provide an attacking outlet while he also wasn’t caught out defensively.

At the moment, the Gunners have plenty of problems in the defensive third. But, if the Scottish full-back keeps conjuring such performances, one reckons he might not fall into Arsenal’s rather elaborate list of shortcomings.

#2 Mesut Ozil strengthens his case for inclusion with a sound showing

Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil has endured a pretty topsy-turvy 2019-20 season. Even before the term began proper, the German was the subject of a horrendous robbery attempt. And, to pile further misery, Emery looked the other way when Ozil became available for selection.

However, in an interesting turn of events, the Spaniard handed the World Cup winner only his second Premier League start of the season and it’s fair to say that the German fared rather decently.

Ozil was at the heart of everything good the Gunners did offensively and he linked the midfield and attack brilliantly. Moreover, his tendency to drift across the pitch made it difficult for Wolves to mark him as the German always bought himself an extra split-second.

Most promisingly though, the midfielder was willing to put in the hard yards defensively; a sight not many have been fortunate enough to witness. On numerous occasions, Ozil tracked back to help out his central midfielders and even pressed vigorously.

For a majority of the current season, the German’s lack of work rate has been touted as a possible reason for Emery to overlook him. However, if the midfielder can combine a bit of steel with the unmistakable skill he possesses, he could still propel himself as an extremely vital cog of Arsenal’s wheel.

And, though it would be too premature to jump to conclusions after one encounter, the Arsenal faithful were certainly impressed with the application Ozil displayed.

#1 Unai Emery shoots himself in the foot with his substitutions

Unai Emery made a few peculiar substitutions against Wolves
Unai Emery made a few peculiar substitutions against Wolves

After a nervy start to the game, the Gunners established control and went into the break with a one-goal cushion in their kitty. However, akin to the opening period, Wovles began the better of the two sides after the restart as they kept pushing and probing.

In response, Emery turned to his bench and pulled out rather peculiar rabbits out of his tactical hat. Firstly, the Spaniard opted to haul Lacazette off in favour of Gabriel Martinelli. While the Brazilian has been in sizzling form recently, surely the Frenchman could’ve been persisted with, at least for a few more minutes.

And, if that wasn’t enough, Emery shuffled his midfield pack a few minutes later, bringing on Bukayo Saka for Lucas Torreira; a decision that caused more than a furrowed brow or two at the Emirates.

Consequently, Dani Ceballos was shifted alongside Matteo Guendouzi in the heart of midfield and the Gunners suffered thereafter.

The visitors sliced through Arsenal’s midfield easily as the aforementioned duo struggled to come to grips with Wolves’ quick interchange of passes. Moreover, Ceballos’ lack of defensive awareness directly led to the equaliser as the Spaniard allowed Joao Moutinho to run in behind him, before the Portuguese whipped in a cross for Jimenez to score.

As the game got stretched in the dying stages, Emery resisted the temptation to bring on Nicolas Pepe, instead opting to substitute Tierney for Sead Kolasinac.

After an optimistic start to his tenure at the Emirates, the number of those doubting Emery’s capabilities have surely but slowly increased. After all, those veils of discontent reached fever pitch lately with some even clamouring for his head.

And, the Spaniard certainly didn’t cover himself in glory with his tweaks on Saturday.

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Edited by Amar Anand
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