Wolves Review: One Is Better Than None

Arsenal 1 – 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers

A point is better than nothing. Or certainly better than the nothing we looked like we were going to get for prolonged periods of yesterday’s game. It took several good saves from Bernd Leno and a freakish equaliser from Henrikh Mkhitaryan to change the outcome. In the cold light of day, it feels like a point gained rather than the two we know were dropped.

Unai Emery praised Wolves hard work in much the same way we received praise for our hard work against Liverpool. While that was our benchmark performance under Emery, we didn’t reach those levels of intensity. Once again, we didn’t turn up in the first half.

Another half-time tweak, another substitution; Alex Iwobi hooked for Matteo Guendouzi. Emery’s pro-active nature refuses to let the players try to play themselves back into form; if it’s broke, he fixes it. Or tries to at least.

But it felt like there was a lot broken yesterday. Not torn asunder by clumsy hands but splintered. There were bits of performances from the outfield players and a whole match’s worth from Bernd Leno. Rightly crowned Man of the Match, the German blocked, parried and caught. When he didn’t the woodwork came to his rescue as Wolves almost snatched their first win at Arsenal since Moses was in nappies.

We could have few complaints if that was the outcome. Yes, we were better in the second half but we set a low bar in the first. Some never rose above that with Granit Xhaka having a particularly off day. Guilty of the mistake which led to Wolves opening goal, the manager was specifically asked about the Swiss international. Essentially what he said was that it’s two steps forward, one back for everyone, Xhaka included.

Flattering to Deceive

Another who saw better days recently was Mesut Özil. Such was the lethargy of his performance, he found himself booked and hooked. With few arguments from anyone, either.

It feels like the international break is coming just at the right time for Emery. Some players looked jaded yesterday, like they need a break from club football to revive their spirits.

While the lack of intensity against Sporting on Thursday was put down to Danny Welbeck’s injury, it wasn’t entirely due to that. This is a performance in keeping with the games since brushing Leicester aside in the second half. Crystal Palace, Sporting (twice), now Wolves; call it focus, intensity;  whatever you want, it’s been absent.

Liverpool is the exception. Was that because it’s a big game? Is complacency the culprit? When you make a habit of overwhelming opponents in the second half, is the first shrouded in a thought of ‘we’ll be better after half-time’?

Maybe not consciously but a seeping poison through players minds requiring the antidote of a tweak or change. When it happens almost every week, something is collectively not right.

Speaking of not right, Hector Bellerin’s left boot is not his right otherwise he may not have skied a very presentable opportunity. Shooting practice is in order.

His passing is not an issue; Aubameyang grazed the post from one opportunity created by the Spaniard. Perhaps most telling of the striker’s contribution was missing the ball as Mkhitaryan’s cross found its way into the far corner.

Had we been comfortably ahead, Aubameyang may have found himself substituted once again. Unai Emery decided there were more pressing changes to be made and PEA stayed on the pitch. Nevertheless, he cut a frustrated figure. With his own form or playing wide? We’ll find out soon enough.

Every Which Way But Lose

Whatever the case, the squad has forged a sixteen-match unbeaten run which is not to be sniffed at. When we come back after the international break, there is a tough run of fixtures, starting at Bournemouth. Is a change as good as a rest?

Emery felt we’d done enough to warrant a win yesterday but it’s hard to see the justification for that way of thinking. We might so easily have lost when Wolves rattled the underside of the bar; thank God for goalline technology.

A draw was a fair reflection of play. We had the possession but Wolves the more clear-cut chances. That Bernd Leno was Man of the Match in a home game says it all. We’re used to visiting ‘keepers receiving that accolade but ours? Not for some time.

The international break takes over now giving Unai Emery time to work with the rump of the squad on shape and tactics. Let’s hope it reaps benefits once the Premier League returns.

’til Tomorrow.

20 thoughts on “Wolves Review: One Is Better Than None

  1. We are not the Invincibles. We will have matches like this again. It must not be forgotten that we have first-teamers whose season is their first at the Ems.
    As well as the Manager. 😉

  2. Good report YW.

    Positives:
    Leno – Outstanding game
    Torreira – Played 3 positions at the same time
    Holding – Managed to fight the fires when they appeared regularly

    Negatives:
    Xhaka – Another mistake leading to a goal
    Kolasinac – Way off the pace. Is he still injured?
    Ozil – One swallow doesn’t make a summer

    The team lacked shape yesterday. Bellerin had little cover and PEA isn’t a winger.

  3. If ConsolBob drops by, I’d like him to know that I mailed him last month and replied to him on Friday. Not sure that he’s getting my mail? Tried to track him down on FB and Twitter, but he’s clearly unfriended and unfollowed me

    Hope to hear from you soon Bob

  4. I think we need to resolve the situation of who holds the LMF and the RMF. Maybe its time we cut our losses on Ozil because it’s a situation that is clearly not working for us at the moment even though he has more goals than a certain Alexis Sanchez at this point in time since this season began.

    Why I felt we lost the opportunity to gain 3 points was because while analyzing Wolves the coaches should have known they were good defensively last season before promotion and they have an amazing midfield. If we had tried to attack with leaner resources in the first half while keeping our big guns fresh for the second half, we might have played differently.

  5. Hello all, thanks for the post again YW! Rough match, we started so slow passing around the back and invited wolves onto us. Looked like wenger-era training ground arsenal passing. Where was the penetration, deep balls thru to Auba. We passed around the back for 12 minutes then Xhaka tried to be Ozil and got completely roasted. Even with the dummy, if he was turned on and playing good defense he wouldnt have gotten burned on a basic 1 2 at the edge of the box. Why did some of those first teamers look so tired? They didnt play against Sporting in the midweek so they had plenty of time to recover from the pool match.

    Happy we got the draw but it was frustrating definitely. One of those matches where Wolves made it look so easy to get into attacking positions and threaten our goal. Just a couple passes, no pressure, and one of the forwards (costa? another costa terrorizing us, ffs) was running into the channels in space.

    On the other hand we were pulling teeth just to get a pass into the final third of the pitch, making it look SO hard to find any open space… We turned it up eventually but strikers were off, we had a few good chances but nobody wanted to finish when we did find space and make dangerous crosses (Auba!!!)

  6. Another typically thoughtful rumination, YW – thank you. I do wonder where you summon the patience after performances like that (and as nicky reminds us, we are not the Invincibles and we will get more of these during the season).

    it occurred to me late on in the game, as I struggled to make sense of our deeply-ingrained Wenger-era naivete, that the midfield pair of Torreira and Guendouzi have of course never received the Wenger memo and so play as though they differently programmed from pretty well everyone else on the team. They exude a natural competitive aggression that shows up in their positioning, their pressing and their positive passing. Even Lichsteiner is a breath of fresh air in this regard.

    Yesterday I felt the rest were in one of those all-too-familiar hypnotic spells, unable right till the end to translate into muscular electricity the fact that we were playing a talented Premier League opponent in front of the home crowd with the world watching and the result mattered. I was so sure Unai would sort out their heads in interval, but no. It was only late-game panic that released the adrenalin and the luck gates opened for us. I do hope Emery has put this psychological mystery right at the top of his To Do list. Of course the January window will help, if we bring in some more players with Wenger-free hard drives.

  7. More sideways and backwards passing at slow motion. Very hard to watch. To be fair, while that was happening, none of the forward players were moving much, trying to get into open spaces, so the choices of what to do were limited. Easy to defend against. Xhaka’s goof was all the worse because he had no idea who was behind him when he let the ball run through. He just hoped it was someone in red. It wasn’t.
    Seven goals in the six games (all comps) since their Leicester City display is a telling statistic. On a positive note, this was a game Arsenal would have lost in previous seasons and I’m trying to hang on to that.

  8. Damon,

    Hey, Damon.

    No, didn’t get your email. No idea why, the address is as I wrote to you.

    Not unfriended you, just don’t use Facebook anymore. You will find me on Messenger. Send me another email!

  9. LSG,

    Bill said he and his wife have taken on more horses and he is focusing more on spending time in the mountains. I’m happy for him but it hurts a bit because I have enjoyed the lengthy ‘discussions’ with my friend over the past 10 years.

    Its a bit funny though that now we have a pressing, high tempo style with plenty of pace and he isn’t around especially with players like Iwobi, Bellerin, Guendouzi, Torriera all U23 and flourishing. I mean, you look at Bellerin and Torriera and they are easily in the discussion for tops at their respective positions up to this point.

  10. Itvwas clear for all and sundry to see that the Left side was where Wolves caused us a lot of trouble.

    Nacho has 1 possibly 2 seasons left in him at this level. A decision has to be made about Sead. I do t think he’s what We Need. On Saturday the combination of Sead and PEA was ineffectual on the Left.

    The injury of Welbeck really restricts , limits the idea of playing with both Laca and PEA. Emery had in my opinion to play with one striker up top. Who that will be I’ve no idea. I’ve no doubt that PEA will not be happy playing second fiddle to Laca . Irrespective of the fact they are ” mates” strikers are selfish. Y nature and want to start.

    How Emery decided to deploy his attackers is going to be interesting to observe

    The back up striker is Eddie N.

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