Arsenal drop points again after Raúl Jiménez header earns Wolves draw

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Arsenal an early lead but Raúl Jiménez’s second-half header gave Wolves a deserved 1-1 draw

If there was any cold comfort for Granit Xhaka, at least the boos this time were not directed at him. Arsenal’s captain watched this match from home, insulated from any risk of stoking the flames that have consumed the club’s past seven days, and what he saw left little doubt that Unai Emery’s problems extend far beyond the trials, tribulations and errors of one man.

It was not Xhaka who dozed off at a throw-in to let João Moutinho stand up the cross that Raúl Jiménez threw himself at to equalise in the 76th minute; that was Dani Ceballos. Nor was it Xhaka who failed to prevent the Wolves forward from reaching that delivery, Calum Chambers and Sokratis Papastathopoulos instead being bullied like a pair of England rugby players.

And nobody could pillory Xhaka for yet another loose and colourless collective display, devoid of any real control even after Pierre‑Emerick Aubameyang had given Arsenal a first-half advantage, that led to a second consecutive home lead thrown away and added to the sense that this team is going nowhere fast.

“The result is a bad result, but tactically we worked like we wanted,” Emery said.

It was presumably not part of the masterplan that Wolves out-shot Arsenal by 25 to 10 or that his side barely left their own half in the opening 15 minutes. They improved to the extent it felt just about possible to envisage them seeing things out this time, but their problems are systemic and it is clear Emery faces a battle to survive beyond his contractual break clause next summer.

By the end Arsenal were chasing a winner with teenagers Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, two outstanding but raw talents, while the club record signing, Nicolas Pépé, was confined to the bench.

If that was confusing it felt like a trick of the light that Mesut Özil, thrust from exile to the forefront at lightning speed since last Sunday, completed 90 minutes for the first time this season.

In fairness he performed well and looked Arsenal’s most likely inspiration in a hectic finale. His name was cheered loudly before kick-off, while his willingness to drop deep from the No 10 position and expedite Arsenal’s buildup from the back was both welcome and glaring evidence that they lack any defining pattern of play. He has probably worked his way into longer-term contention but Arsenal need more than that.

“It was an equal match, maybe we deserved a little more than them,” Emery said, but if the first part of that assertion is debatable the second was simply not true. Wolves came closest to a winner when Diogo Jota, just unable to touch past Bernd Leno, burst through and also worked the Arsenal goalkeeper through Moutinho and Rúben Neves. Neither team looked potent but Emery admitted Arsenal had not created many clear chances.

When they did carve one out it was Aubameyang who scored his first goal for a month, clinically side‑footing home midway through the opening period after Alexandre Lacazette’s layoff.

Lucas Torreira could have made it two, but that was about it and the danger of an equaliser was ever‑present, even if Wolves were largely wayward before Jiménez struck.

Wolves celebrate their equaliser at the Emirates.
Wolves celebrate their equaliser at the Emirates. Photograph: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

“I’m happy we had so many [shots] but really, really unhappy because I think we should be more clinical,” said Nuno Espírito Santo.

But he could be content that his players, methodical and unflashy, clearly knew their roles and kept their discipline. They were more than worth a draw and a sixth league game without defeat.

Arsenal rumble on into another week of uncertainty and, no doubt, speculation over the club captaincy. Aubameyang wore the armband here but, given nobody knows whether Xhaka will retain the role, it was hard to say he was technically standing in.

The catcalls at full-time, for the team rather than any individual, suggest there are far graver matters to ponder.


Nick Ames at the Emirates Stadium

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