Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka said he has had a “week I will remember my whole life” after he celebrated signing a new long-term contract by scoring the opener in the Gunners’ victory at Wolves on Saturday.
The teenager struck his first Premier League goal with a sweet, left-foot volley to deliver a blow to the hosts’ hopes of Champions League football next season.
Arsenal made sure of a fourth successive victory when Alexandre Lacazette capped a fine team display by turning on fellow substitute Joe Willock’s pass and firing emphatically past Wolves keeper Rui Patricio with five minutes left.
“It has been such a great week, signing my contract and then getting my first Premier League goal,” England Under-19 international Saka told BBC Sport. “And it wasn’t a bad goal either so I’m very happy.
“I have to stay humble and keep my feet on the ground to keep learning. It’s important for us to have experience and world-class players around to advise us. It was tough for us today but we gave our all and that is what got us over the line.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta described Saka as “talented and intelligent” after the player committed his future to the club on Wednesday, and was impressed once again at Molineux.
“The finish was really difficult,” Arteta told BBC Sport. “It was a turning point in the game.”
Wolves had been hoping to build on an impressive restart to the season but knew the pressure was on to win after fellow top-four contenders Leicester City and Manchester United had recorded victories earlier in the day.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were not at their best. Adama Traore had their clearest chance after the break when he raced in on Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez from Diogo Jota’s pass, but the Spanish forwrd lifted his finish over the top in wasteful fashion.
Wolves are still sixth in the Premier League table on 52 points, but seventh-placed Arsenal are now only three points behind.
Perfect end to Arsenal’s week
Spirits have soared at Arsenal since they made a desperate restart to the Premier League season with defeat at Manchester City and then that acrimonious late loss at Brighton, a match that also cost them goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
They have since recorded league wins over Southampton and Norwich City, as well as progressing to the FA Cup semi-finals with victory at Sheffield United – but this win at Wolves was the most impressive demonstration yet of Arteta’s growing influence.
And it came at the end of a pleasing week for the club with exciting teenagers Saka and Gabriel Martinelli both signing long-term contracts.
Saka showed his quality with that left-foot volley, taken with athleticism, composure and guided cleverly out of Rui Patricio’s reach – but it came amid a fine all-round team performance.
Arsenal arrived at Molineux with Wolves storming into contention for the top four after three straight wins – over West Ham United, Bournemouth and Aston Villa – since the season’s resumption.
Indeed, such was their form, Saka’s goal was the first they had conceded in 448 minutes.
However, Arsenal were resolute, determined and willing to trade in the physical exchanges, and they produced the decisive moments of quality to win the game.
It continued the renaissance under Arteta, and while it is wise to keep all optimism in perspective given previous false dawns, this recent run leaves them only six points behind fifth-placed Manchester United, with that position potentially bringing Champions League football if Manchester City’s European ban is upheld.
Wolves miss a big chance
Wolves carried real momentum into this meeting with Arsenal after their flawless restart – but they fell flat on Saturday and could have no complaints about the outcome.
Nuno’s side remain in a superb position with a real chance of Champions League football next season, a tribute in itself to the outstanding work of the Portuguese manager and his players.
However, they struggled to exert any serious pressure on the Gunners and dangerman Traore was relatively well contained, although he was always a threat and should have equalised with Wolves’ best chance.
It was a disappointed group of players who trooped off at the end to the silence that is now the accompaniment to these behind-closed-doors games, but their previous record suggests they still have the determination and talent, as well as the manager, to bounce back.
Wolves will need to do it quickly, though, with time running out in this restarted season and their rivals picking up wins.
Man of the match – Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal)
‘When we had to suffer, the team enjoyed suffering together’ – what they said
Wolves boos Nuno Espirito Santo told BBC Sport: We needed more urgency in some moments. On and off the ball we were a little but unbalanced and the urgency to chase a result was not there. In the beginning, we were threatening, but the rest of the game we were too passive. This is something we cannot replace [the home fans]. The atmosphere is not here and we miss them.
“All the players need improvement. Sometimes it goes OK when he [Adama Traore] tries something. Today it was not good, but it was important he was there. Now we have to improve from this game and challenge ourselves [against Sheffield United] on Wednesday. What means something is how we want to play, and today we were not able to play well. Credit to Arsenal, they are a good team, but we should do better.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told BBC Sport: “It was a massive win. We had two and a half days to prepare and they had a week. We played two games while they were training.
“They [Wolves] are a really well organised team and it’s really tough to come here and win, we needed everybody to play with high attention and commitment. We had good possession and scored two goals. When we had to suffer, the team enjoyed to suffer together, which is massive for us.”
Wolves lack cutting edge – the stats
- Arsenal have won three consecutive league games without conceding for the first time since November 2017, while this is the first time they have won back-to-back away league games without conceding since October 2015.
- Wolves suffered their first Premier League defeat in nine games, while this was their first league loss by more than one goal since September (5-2 to Chelsea).
- This was Arsenal’s first away league victory against a side starting above them in the league table since September 2015, when they won 5-2 at Leicester.
- Wolves managed just one shot on target in this match, with that coming after just 17 seconds courtesy of Adama Traore.
- Bukayo Saka’s goal was his first in the Premier League for Arsenal – aged 18 years 303 days, he is the second youngest English player to score in the Premier League for the Gunners, after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Blackburn in February 2012 (18 years 173 days).
- Alexandre Lacazette’s goal was his first away from home in the Premier League since February 2019, ending a run of 16 away games.
- Despite only coming on as a 76th-minute substitute, Joe Willock’s two chances created – including the assist for Lacazette’s goal – was more than any other Arsenal player.
- Emiliano Martinez has kept a clean sheet in six of his eight Premier League starts for Arsenal (75%), the best ratio of any Gunners keeper with at least five starts in the competition.
Arsenal host Leicester City on Tuesday (20:15 BST), while Wolves travel to Sheffield United the following evening (18:00).