Wolves were able to bring an end to their run of matches without victory in the Premier League after taking victory against nine-man Arsenal at Molineux, but here are five things we spotted after the old gold completed their first league double over the Gunners in more than 40 years.
1. DOING THE DOUBLE
For the past four decades, Arsenal have more than had Wolves’ number in their top-flight meetings. Having not won home and away against the Gunners in the same season since back in the 1978/79 First Division campaign, Wolves went on a run of 20 matches over a 40-year period without picking up a win against the side from north London. Coming close to doing the double in 2018/19 with a draw at the Emirates followed by a win at Molineux, Wolves finally achieved the feat on Tuesday night.
Following a 2-1 win for the men in gold and black on their travels in November, a game which had everything awaited the teams back at Molineux. Bakayo Sako struck the post within the first 30 seconds and then had a goal chalked off for offside, before Nicolas Pepe put the Gunners in front. Wolves, who were flirting with the bottom of the Premier League form table, could have been 3-0 down at half-time, but David Luiz’s foul on Willian Jose led to Ruben Neves scoring the penalty to get them back on level terms going into the break. In the second period, Joao Moutinho’s rocket was the deciding factor, as Wolves clinched back-to-back victories against Arsenal.
2. RED CARDS MADE THE DIFFERENCE
With his foul in the build-up to Wolves’ equaliser, David Luiz was sent from the field. Since making his Premier League debut for Arsenal, the defender has picked up more red cards (three) and conceded more penalties (six) than any other player in the competition. It offered Wolves a more comfortable second-half, which showed, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s men came out from the break looking a completely different side, and had a confidence and swagger which hadn’t been seen at Molineux so far this year.
Wolves were already 2-1 ahead and playing well when, for some unknown reason, Bernd Leno decided to push the ball out of play with his hand rather than his head or chest when he was outside of the penalty area to deny Adama Traore a goalscoring opportunity. Leno became the second Arsenal goalkeeper to be sent off in the Premier League, after David Seaman in November 1993. With the two sending offs, the Gunners have now been shown nine Premier League red cards since Mikel Arteta first took charge on 26th December 2019, six more than any other side.
3. THE ‘OLD WOLVES’ RETURN
Tuesday night’s clash was the first in a long time which had a very ‘Wolves’ feeling about it. In the first 18 months after being promoted back into the Premier League in 2018/19, Nuno’s side would often find themselves going behind in a match and having to fight back to gain the three points. Yet this season, Wolves, who are behind only Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion in conceding the first goal in more top-flight matches, have struggled to stage a comeback having fallen a goal down.
In his pre-match press conference, Nuno admitted his squad had lost the belief they had when they would go into any match against any opposition expecting to win, which they had in the past two seasons, but despite being outplayed and a goal down to Arsenal, that belief appeared to return in the final 10 minutes of the first-half on Tuesday night, as Wolves got on top of the Gunners before turning the screw to pick up all three points.
4. MOUTINHO’S MOLINEUX FIRST
There are not many things that Joao Moutinho hasn’t achieved in his 17-year professional career. Portugal’s second most capped player in history has won league championships, domestic cups, and has even helped his country to the Euro 2016 title and the inaugural UEFA Nations League in 2018/19. Yet, there was still one thing that Moutinho was still waiting to add to his list of achievements – his first ever goal at Molineux.
Having opened his goalscoring account for the club in just his sixth appearance to earn Wolves a point against Manchester United at Old Trafford in September 2018 with a brilliant strike from the edge of the penalty area, he got his second a season later in Bournemouth. His free-kick from an almost impossible angle somehow found the back of the net to help Wolves earn three points on the road. Without a goal in 2020, Moutinho’s influence looked like it was beginning to wane, but he put those doubts to be on Tuesday night as he hit an absolute thunderbolt of a shot from 25-yards-plus off the inside of the post for his first home goal in 61 games at Molineux. The joy of his first goal at the historic stadium was clear to see in Moutinho’s celebrations, it was just a shame there were no supporters in the ground to enjoy it in person.
5. JOSE’S HOME DEBUT
It might not have been the Molineux debut that many in old gold would have experienced, as it was without the cauldron of noise coming from all four stands which always occurs during an iconic night under the lights at one of the loudest stadiums in world football, but it will be a home debut that Willian Jose will long remember.
Facing his first two games on the road having arrived in England from Real Sociedad, the Brazilian was thrown into his debut match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge having only met his teammates the night before at the hotel and didn’t even get the opportunity to train, but he still made a point-saving defensive block in the last minute of the match. A full debut followed against Crystal Palace on Saturday, but he was unable to have the impact that he did on his first Molineux start, as he made a well-timed run into the Arsenal box before being clipped by David Luiz – a moment which turned the whole contest on its head and without it, might not have seen Wolves earn the three points.