On Saturday, Arsenal traveled to Molineux to play their final match ahead of the World Cup. With City having lost at home to Brentford earlier in the day, Arsenal were guaranteed to remain in pole position until at least Boxing Day. But they pounced on the opportunity to extend their lead at the top, courtesy of a brace by Martin Odegaard. The Gunners continued their best start to a season in club history, and enter the six-week break five points clear of the current champions. Below are five Hits and one Miss from a high note of a match.
The captain once again led by example, scoring twice to win his side all three points. Odegaard’s first goal came on the back of a well-timed run into the box to meet Fabio Vieira’s cross. His second goal saw him deftly control the rebound from Gabriel Martinelli’s attempt on goal before firing perfectly into bottom corner of the net. At times this season, Odegaard has been criticized and underestimated by many among the club faithful. But following his brace on Saturday, the Norwegian enters the World Cup break as Arsenal’s top scorer.
After 15 minutes, Granit Xhaka left the match after falling ill. Mikel Arteta then introduced Vieira, who had been unconvincing in his previous showings recently. Following a shaky performance, Vieira produced in the second half. After being played in by a clever pass from Gabriel Jesus, Vieira deftly chipped the ball across the face of Wolves’ goal for Odegaard to slam in. Following his assist, the Portuguese midfielder continued making problems for the hosts, proving to be a good replacement for Xhaka on the day. It has been a difficult adjustment for him, but Vieira showed his quality against Wolves.
The goal drought may have extended to 11 matches, but Jesus continues to produce for Arsenal in other ways. He was actually rather unlucky not to leave the match with a goal to his name, hitting the bar early on in the first half. However, he was instrumental in the buildup to the Gunners’ first goal, playing in Vieira wonderfully for his teammate to assist Odegaard. If that’s not enough, Jesus contributed impressively in defense, even plucking the ball off Adama Traore to snuff out a Wolves counterattack. The goals will come, and hopefully the break and change of scenery will help the Brazilian in that regard.
The man going to his first World Cup put in a decent shift on Saturday. Martinelli was his typically industrious self, and attempted to make things happen by cutting inside. He could have had an assist were it not for the crossbar when he played Jesus into a shooting position. But he proved important for Arsenal’s second goal. Holding the ball after an unsuccessful clearance attempt by Dexter Lembikisa, Martinelli played a cheeky backheel that set Oleksandr Zinchenko up for a cross. Martinelli then attempted a shot on goal after the ball fell to him, the rebound of which Odegaard blasted home. He will hope to bring his good form with him to Qatar now.
That’s right, all three Gabriels are Hits! The Brazilian center back rose to the physical challenge of keeping Traore in check, and he did so with aplomb. Additionally, he was called to action after William Saliba’s wayward back pass was intercepted, and likely stopped Wolves from scoring. A pattern is quickly emerging between Gabriel and his center back partner — on days when Arsenal are in control of a match, Saliba is normally a dominant, commanding presence at the back. But when the Frenchman isn’t at his best, Gabriel is always there to lead the line.
Six weeks without Arsenal
The biggest tournament in football could not have come at a worse time. Just as Arsenal are truly coming into their own as the best team in the Premier League so far this season, in the midst of their best start in club history, a midseason World Cup has forced a pause to that run. Hopefully the players going to Qatar enjoy themselves and make it back in one piece. Hopefully at least one of them even wins it. But after deriving so much joy from them for the first half of the season, it’s going to be hard not to be able to watch them until the holidays.
Sham writes and podcasts regularly about The Arsenal, and will be spending the World Cup break in Paldea. He can be followed on Twitter @dopegooner.