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Mkhitaryan comes to the rescue with late leveller as Arsenal's flaws are exposed again

Arsenal 1 Wolves 1

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Henrik Mkhitaryan is tackled by Ryan Bennett. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Henrik Mkhitaryan is tackled by Ryan Bennett. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Henrik Mkhitaryan is tackled by Ryan Bennett. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It's increasingly clear that Arsenal cannot continue to start games slowly and hope they have enough quality to turn it around in the dying stages. Sooner or later, their early sluggishness is going to be punished.

For so long here, against a Wolves side that Arsenal simply could not match for long spells of this game, it looked certain that they would finally be undone.

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Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal controls the ball in mid air while being challenged by Jonny Otto. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal controls the ball in mid air while being challenged by Jonny Otto. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal controls the ball in mid air while being challenged by Jonny Otto. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Trailing to an Ivan Cavaleiro goal that was almost entirely of Arsenal's own making, Unai Emery watched his players toil in vain as the afternoon drifted out of their control.

But there is a strange mood around the Emirates this season, and a belief that no cause is lost. It was evident in last week's spirited draw with Liverpool, and it was evident here, when Henrikh Mkhitaryan's cross floated through a bundle of bodies and nestled in the far corner of the net.

Arsenal had produced another escape, and this was perhaps their most dramatic yet.

Even at the end, when Emery's side were desperate for a winner, they went perilously close to throwing the game away all over again.

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Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal is fouled by Helder Costa of Wolverhampton.  Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal is fouled by Helder Costa of Wolverhampton. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal is fouled by Helder Costa of Wolverhampton. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The electric Adama Traore, surely the most explosive substitute in the Premier League, twice screeched towards the Arsenal goal in stoppage time, and the home side were left indebted to both their goalkeeper, Bernd Leno, and their crossbar, which denied 18-year-old Morgan Gibbs-White a last-minute winner.

When the whistle finally blew for full-time, it was hard to know who should have been the more relieved. Arsenal were pushing for a deciding goal, but Wolves were so close to sealing a deserved three points.

They will know those missed opportunities had cost them a first victory against Arsenal since 1979, but they will also take belief from another commanding showing against a top side. Nuno's team have now taken points off Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal this season.

"To come to such a beautiful stadium and to be able to say we could compete against a very good team like Arsenal says a lot of how we are working, how we want to play," said Nuno, who added that he "almost prayed" that Gibbs-White's shot had crossed the line rather than bouncing away from goal.

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The air of potential disaster remains at Arsenal, even if they are now 16 games unbeaten. Emery will be concerned at how easily Wolves sliced through his defence at times, but he should also be praised for again changing the match with his substitutions.

Alex Iwobi was hooked at half-time as Emery switched the shape, and the Spaniard then removed Mesut Ozil when Arsenal were chasing the game.

"I think the team played with character," said Emery, who confirmed that Danny Welbeck, so badly injured in the Europa League last week, has had an operation on his broken ankle and is set to be out for a "long time".

It was a tactical battle between Emery and Nuno, who was quick to plant seeds of doubt in Arsenal minds. Full-back Hector Bellerin turned to Emery on the touchline for guidance after just a few minutes, when he was caught between two Wolves players from a goal kick, unsure of whether to stay or go.

But for all Nuno's structural planning, it needed an inexplicable error for the deadlock to be broken.

With the ball rolling across the Arsenal midfield, Granit Xhaka simply let it bobble past him. Cavaleiro quickly snatched it up, exchanged passes with Raul Jimenez and swept home a clinical finish.

This was Wolves at their slickest, but they also had to be sturdy and, as time wore on, the Arsenal pressure became harder for them to bear.

Bellerin blazed a shot over and then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang somehow hit the outside of an upright without a Wolves player in sight.

Yet while Arsenal pushed, Wolves continued to threaten. Diogo Jota was denied by the outstanding Leno, who then celebrated from afar as Mkhitaryan's left-wing cross bounced all the way into the Wolves net with just four minutes remaining.

There was still time for more Wolves pressure, though, thanks to the devastating speed of the runaway Traore. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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