Wolves recovered from a nasty head injury to top scorer Raul Jimenez to secure their first win at Arsenal since 1979 and condemn their hosts to their worst Premier League start after 10 games.
Mexico striker Jimenez had come off worse in a sickening clash of heads with Gunners defender David Luiz after an Arsenal corner in the opening exchanges and was treated on field for 10 minutes before being taken to hospital.
A game between two of the Premier League’s lowest-scoring sides was understandably flat after that but it came to life when Pedro Neto slotted home from close range after Leandro Dendoncker had headed Adama Traore’s teasing cross against the bar midway through the first half.
Gabriel equalised for the hosts with a thumping header from a Willian cross just three minutes later but Wolves were the better side throughout and re-established their lead when Daniel Podence cleverly converted after keeper Bernd Leno fumbled Neto’s drive.
Arsenal rarely threatened, with striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang little more than a spectator at times, and boss Mikel Arteta has much to ponder with his side languishing in 14th place in the Premier League after 10 matches.
Wolves, on the other hand, are up to sixth and sit just four points off the summit in an increasingly congested top half of the table.
A sickening injury
The match had barely got going when one of its biggest stars was left unable to continue.
The moment Jimenez and Luiz dropped to the floor it was clear there was real concern among the players as medical staff rushed on to the field.
Jimenez was ultimately taken off on a stretcher and straight to hospital after a bandaged and visibly upset Luiz went to check on his stricken opponent.
Luiz continued until half-time – Arsenal have said they followed all the correct protocols in keeping him on the pitch – but was withdrawn at the break, blood clearly showing through his bandage.
In the absence of talisman Jimenez, manager Nuno Espirito Santo needed his other attackers to step up – and, once the shock of the injury wore off, they duly delivered a vibrant performance of real menace.
Neto’s first goal of the season, from the bench against Southampton last week, was rewarded with a start at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, and he repaid that faith by firing Wolves into the lead.
The 20-year-old Portugal forward was also instrumental in the goal that put the visitors ahead again on the stroke of half-time. Arsenal keeper Leno could only shovel out Neto’s shot from distance and Podence smartly drilled home the rebound.
Wolves have struggled for goals this season but, with Traore back in the team, and Neto and Podence looking threatening, it may be they have the tools to address that in the coming weeks, even if Jimenez may be set for a spell on the sidelines.
One year on, Arsenal still struggling
On 29 November 2019, Unai Emery was dismissed as Arsenal manager with the Gunners eighth in the Premier League and a mutinous atmosphere around the Emirates.
Exactly 12 months on, his successor, Mikel Arteta, seems to have more questions than answers in his in-tray after another flat performance in front of empty stands at this cavernous stadium.
Arteta deserves credit for the way he rallied the team last season to seal Europa League qualification by winning the FA Cup – a triumph that included notable victories over Manchester City and Chelsea.
The former Gunners midfielder has also stiffened the backbone of a team that was regularly accused of being flaky – before Sunday’s fixture, only Tottenham had conceded fewer goals in the Premier League this season.
But at what cost?
Arsenal seem to have lost fluency going forward and their world-class striker and premium asset Aubameyang has only scored two league goals this season.
Indeed, Aubameyang touched the ball only eight times in the first half – and three of those touches were from kick-offs. Then, when gifted two second-half opportunities, the Gabon international failed to hit the target with either.
Arsenal’s goal, simple in its creation, was a powerful Gabriel header from Willian’s cross, but beyond that they rarely threatened a Wolves backline that is also notoriously solid.
The Gunners have now lost five of their 10 league games this season and 13 points is their lowest total at this stage of a Premier League campaign.
Arteta needs a swift solution to his side’s bluntness because, on a day when north London rivals Tottenham went back to the top of the table, they seem further away than ever from the English top-flight’s elite.
‘No excuses’ – what they said
Arsenal manager Arteta: “They had two shots on target and scored both times. In the second half, my team showed a resilience, togetherness and belief to try to win the game back. We generated good chances but all players go through periods where they struggle to score goals.
“It’s my responsibility for the team to score more goals. There are no excuses – we have to improve.”
Wolves boss Nuno: “It’s terrible when you see one of your players [Jimenez] in an incident like that. We have to have a proper assessment, but he’s in good hands.
“I’m very proud of my team tonight. The talent and quality is there and the will and belief we have will move us forward.”
Shot-shy Gunners – the stats
- Arsenal’s tally of 13 points is their lowest after their opening 10 matches of any league campaign since 1981-82 (12).
- Arsenal have lost three consecutive home Premier League games for the second time since the start of last season. Before this, they had never suffered three straight home defeats in the competition.
- Wolves’ tally of 17 points is their most after 10 games of a top-flight campaign since 1979-80 (20 – adjusting to three points for a win).
- During 2020, only Manchester United (nine) have won more Premier League fixtures away from home than Wolves’ seven.
- Arsenal have lost five of their past eight league games, after being beaten in only five of their first 22 under Arteta.
- Neto has scored as many goals in Wolves’ 10 league matches this season as he managed in 29 last term (three).
Wolves have a trip to champions Liverpool next Sunday (19:15 GMT kick-off), while Arsenal have the north London derby at leaders Spurs earlier on the same day (16:30).
Before that, the Gunners host Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday (20:00).
- 2BellerínBooked at 69mins
- 23David LuizSubstituted forHoldingat 45′minutesBooked at 86mins
- 6dos Santos Magalhães
- 3TierneyBooked at 90mins
- 34XhakaSubstituted forLacazetteat 81′minutes
- 12WillianSubstituted forNelsonat 65′minutes
- 17Cédric Soares
- 11Rui Patrício
- 22Nélson Semedo
- 15BolyBooked at 47mins
- 16CoadyBooked at 89mins
- 5Marçal de Oliveira
- 28João Moutinho
- 37TraoréBooked at 54mins
- 10Castelo PodenceSubstituted forNevesat 70′minutes
- 9JiménezSubstituted forSoares Silvaat 15′minutesBooked at 56minsSubstituted forKilmanat 78′minutes
- 17Soares Silva
- 20Machado Ferreira
Match ends, Arsenal 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 2.
Second Half ends, Arsenal 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 2.
Attempt blocked. Kieran Tierney (Arsenal) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Bukayo Saka.
Gabriel Magalhães (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Leander Dendoncker (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Kieran Tierney (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Kieran Tierney (Arsenal).
Pedro Neto (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by João Moutinho (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Maximilian Kilman.
Rob Holding (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Rob Holding (Arsenal).
Adama Traoré (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Hand ball by Reiss Nelson (Arsenal).
Attempt missed. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) header from the centre of the box misses to the right.
Attempt blocked. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.