Arsenal return to top spot after Trossard and Ødegaard see off Wolves

Arsenal fans suffering from accusations of a typical late-season collapse could refer their critics to a resolute and assured victory after their team managed a sixth consecutive clean sheet on their league travels for the first time in their long and illustrious history.

‘One-nil’ to the Arsenal has always had a ring to it but no one in red and white was complaining when, after Leandro Trossard’s 45th-minute goal provided Arsenal with the ideal fillip, Martin Ødegaard scored even later in the second half to seal the victory, slipping home a cute left-foot shot inside the near post at the second attempt after an intricate passing move.

After a week that has tested their mettle and their morale, with the defeat at Aston Villa followed by a departure from the Champions League at the quarter-final stage to Bayern Munich, Arsenal could be four points clear of Manchester City by the time the FA Cup finalists play in the league again, away to Brighton on Thursday.

The visit of Chelsea to the Emirates on Tuesday takes centre stage, even should Liverpool draw level on points by beating Fulham on Sunday.

Trossard’s ninth Premier League goal of the season – only Bukayo Saka has more for the Gunners – reflects Arsenal’s increased strength in depth that is showing now at a critical stage of this still captivating title race.

Outside the elite, Wolves have had the best record against the traditional big six, averaging 1.7 points per game before this match, and for all their injured absentees, the home fans suspected Arsenal could be vulnerable after their troubled week. “You’re gunna win sod all,” they sang (or similar) and: “Champions League, you’re having a laugh.”

Wolves started with their wide men fully back, rather than at wing-back, meaning Saka and Trossard could stay high and wide of the recalled Gabriel Jesus. With Kai Havertz and Ødegaard pressing high in front of Declan Rice, Gabriel was even coming out of the back line to mark João Gomes in the Wolves midfield. It threatened to be a long night for the home team.

Rice side-footed narrowly wide as Arsenal dominated but when Saka eschewed the chance to shoot when played in down the right, his pullback to Ødegaard 10 yards out allowed Wolves to block; then Trossard missed his kick when Ben White got free down the same flank and crossed rather more decisively.

Leandro Trossard opens the scoring for Arsenal on the stroke of half-time. Photograph: Andrew Kearns/CameraSport/Getty Images

Reprieved, Wolves sensed they could get at Arsenal on Jakub Kiwior’s flank. João Gomes got in down the right wing and, with options limited, calmed himself with a roll of the foot over the ball before unleashing a shot that David Raya did well to tip on to his near post.

Rice was booked for fouling Hugo Bueno as Havertz lay hurt after Maximilian Kilman had crunched him. The Arsenal forward had to wait to come back on the field, after receiving treatment, and Wolves pushed to capitalise. From Raya’s poor kick, Bueno chested the ball down but, in his excitement, shot wide.

It was becoming a transitional game, however, which suited Wolves, and certainly the neutral.

In the 45th minute Arsenal got the moment of good fortune that has gone missing recently. Jesus gave Matt Doherty the merest of bumps as they jostled for Havertz’s cross, and as the striker got back up off the ground himself, the ball fell to Trossard who sliced his shot into the far top corner. It appeared to be a total mis-hit but Arsenal were back on target for a return to the top of the table.

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Whether the Belgium winger meant it or not, Arsenal fans were celebrating the end of their 225-minute ‘goal drought’ after the blanks drawn against Villa and Bayern.

It also means Arsenal have scored against Wolves in 33 successive games, more than any other opponent.

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The game entered a more predictable pattern for the third quarter, Arsenal finding their rhythm if not the accompanying penetration. It was telling for Wolves that when Hwang Hee-chan had to go off early in the second half, after his first start since returning from a hamstring injury, Mario Lemina was their most advanced player.

The holding midfielder managed to sting Raya’s hands when, cutting inside from the right edge of the penalty area, he let loose a fierce left-foot shot.

Wolves introduced Rayan Aït-Nouri and Pablo Sarabia, two of their regulars, for the final 15 minutes, as the game stretched out.

The Guardian