A very clever game plan, hatched by Arteta and superbly executed by the team, enabling us to come away from Molineux will all three points. No easy task as that ground had become a fortress and seen a fair few top teams unexpectedly tumble.
Continuing with Rocky’s theme from his excellent pre-match, I wouldn’t say Wolves were slain, it struck me as being more akin to slowly having the life squeezed out of them, not the deadly rapid bite of a rattle snake but the slow asphyxiation of a large Boa constrictor.
The horse-shoe football that took place for the best part of the first half was clearly designed to drain Wolves of enthusiasm. Luiz to Soares, back to Luiz out to Kolasinac, back to Luiz, over and over creating the shape of a horse-shoe. Of course, I cannot be certain that it was Arteta’s plan to drain Wolves of enthusiasm but it certainly worked on me. Occasionally, the ball would be played to Xhaka or Ceballos in midfield but they simply played it back and the horse-shoe continued. It was starting to get hard to see how things would change. Saka and Soares looked strangers and understandably so as it was the first game they played together and you know when things are bad, when Mustafi has to shout to try and get the front line to make runs.
But then it changed, like an arm wrestle of evenly matched men, something eventually has to give and it did. A cross from Tierney was deflected invitingly for the waiting Saka to hit home. Not as easy to score as I have just said as he still had work to do to readjust his body quickly after the deflection but the young man did so superbly and deserved his first premiership goal.
Wolves naturally increased the pressure in search of an equaliser but it was back to the hypnotic defensive horse-shoe and Wolves remained under our spell for the remainder of the half.
Arteta’s game plan became more readable with the sequence that the substitutes were introduced. For a moment it didn’t make sense why AMN replaced Tierney but then it all fell into place; AMN was sent on to be the enforcer, to add some street fighting brute strength to deal with the marauding Traore and he carried it off well, controlled but forceful.
By this time Wolves had thrown caution to the wind and were coming on to us very high up putting pay to the horse-shoe, good in one sense but a bit worrying in the other as it seemed only a question of time before an equaliser appeared. Time for more substitutions; Bellerin and Willock came on to shore things up and they did so effectively. Hector looked serious; he has got some real competition for his place at last and Willock slots into that role of chasing down and carrying the ball out so well but as Wolves may have started to think that it may not be their day we were still not out of the woods. Time for further substitutions and what turned out to be the coup de gras. Is there a player who likes scoring more than Lacazette? He just lights up, it is as though it is the reason he lives, a superbly taken goal and as it turned out, game over.
Martinez: my MOTM, I arrive at this by asking myself: who played better than is normally expected? All the team played well but for me our man between the sticks certainly played better than I was aware he could. 9
Soares: defended well in his first start, obviously need more time to really get to gripes with what he is about but so far so good. 7
Mustafi: solid, no mess ups, all good 8
Luiz: back to his commanding best. 9
Kolasinac: didn’t realise he had the discipline to play in a three man back line but 2 clean sheets can’t be stiffed at. 7
Tierney: going from strength to strength. 8
Ceballos: slightly more subdued after his commanding performance against Norwich. It was his job to feed the attack which left a bit to be desired, still, very glad we have him. 7
Xhaka: hmmm, one of his key jobs as a midfielder was to create chances for the forward line, he wasn’t really doing that but there is no denying that his experience is very useful. 7
Saka: If Martinez gets injured would Saka go in goal? He probably does have the skills to play keeper. A very exciting versatile prospect, although, it wasn’t all champagne and new contracts today, but hey, if you score you get extra points. 8
Nketiah: really good first half shot that surprised the keeper, all still going in the right direction. 7
Aubamayang: got better and better as the game went on, a class act. 8