uring this first half of the season Arsenal have served up plenty of magical and memorable performances, but this one at Wolves will not live long in the memory.
It may not have been a memorable performance, however it was a memorable win for Mikel Arteta’s side as they capitalised on Manchester City losing to Brentford earlier on in the day.
That win guaranteed Arsenal would be top on Christmas Day but, after winning 2-0 here at Wolves thanks to two goals from Martin Odegaard, their lead over Pep Guardiola’s side will be five points instead of two.
There is still a long, long way to go in this title race, however given players could well be emotionally and physically fatigued after the World Cup, getting as many points as possible on the board now feels vital.
And Arsenal had to work for their three points here as they were most certainly not at their brilliant, free-flowing best.
Their cause was not helped by Granit Xhaka going off after just 15 minutes, seemingly due to illness, and the whole Arsenal team looked a little off the pace.
Wolves were making it difficult for them too and within the opening stages it was clear what the pattern of the game would be. The hosts would sit deep, playing with a back-five, and the challenge to Arsenal was finding a way to break it down.
They struggled to do that in the first-half, with their only real chance coming when Wolves lost possession high up the pitch. Finally their defence was stretched and Arsenal took advantage, with Bukayo Saka feeding Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian, who has now gone 11 games without a goal, did everything right, but the crossbar denied him.
When the breakthrough did finally come for Arsenal it was thanks to a moment of real quality, with Jesus showing his wider value to the team.
The striker cut in from the left, sliding in Fabio Vieira – who then dinked a cross for Odegaard to tap home in the 55th minute.
That settled Arsenal’s nerves and particularly Vieira’s, who had been struggling since coming on for Xhaka early on.
Wolves tried to push forward, however they lacked any real cutting edge and it was clear to see why they are sat rock bottom of the Premier League. New boss Julen Lopetegui, who was presented to the fans before the game and starts on Monday, has plenty of work to do.
Arsenal were looking for a second goal to kill the game and once again it came from another moment of real quality. Those had been rare in this match, but when they came Arsenal made the most of them.
Once again it came down the left, with Gabriel Martinelli back-heeling the ball to play in Oleksandr Zinchenko. Martinelli followed his pass and got on the end of the cross and, after his shot was saved, Odegaard showed composure to finish.
With 15 minutes to go, that sucked the life out of Wolves and Molineux. Arsenal’s title charge, however, is alive and well.