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Arsenal's renewed fighting spirit extends so much further than Wolves

By Mac Johnson (Deputy Editor)

Well, well, well, how the turntables.

Two weeks ago, I published a scathing review of the reverse fixture at Molineux. The now-notorious Gabriel Martinelli red card highlighted a mixed bag of a performance for Arsenal, albeit one that ended in a win. As I wrote at the time, we came away with three points, but it felt like a loss due to the emotional stress of the affair and the damning trends that lurked under the surface of the match.

Notable, though, was the spirit of the team. Despite the disheartening influence of brutal refereeing bias, and the waves of pressure applied by Wolves, Arteta's men remained stalwart and came away with the win, celebrating accordingly. Wolves whined; we made fun of them; the situation was diffused for the time being, albeit with an unspoken promise for fireworks in the next meeting.

The sort of resilience we saw on that day—back-to-the-wall, brave and compact, and satisfying if unspectacular—is the exact sort of strength we've seen from Arteta's Arsenal at their best. It's become almost typical, especially given the resurgence of the backline with Tomiyasu, White, and Ramsdale. It's the sort of backbone we lacked under Emery, and even in the early days of Arteta, the type of backbone that can only come with time and discipline.

Unfortunately, though we may have improved greatly at certain areas of our play, we have been especially woeful in one regard this season. When they go behind, this atypically young Arsenal team have, perhaps unsurprisingly, found it difficult to fight back for points or wins. Before yesterday's match, Arsenal had only rescued one point from losing positions during the 21/22 league campaign. Whether because of mentality problems, poor play, or simply bad luck, we've been abysmal at coming from behind.

It's a statistic with two sides of course. Arsenal have not often found themselves in losing positions this season, and often, those scenarios have cropped up against blatantly superior teams. Furthermore, we've been remarkably successful when scoring first in a match, even if the opposition finds an equalizer. But in those scenarios where our net has rippled first, the Gunners fail to climb the resulting mental mountain.

Until yesterday, of course. Though we didn't have to wait long for the aforementioned fireworks, with a penalty shout denied in the 30th second of the match, and a Wolves goal resulting from a s***ty turnover a scant ten minutes later, the general feeling around the Emirates was that Arsenal deserved to be ahead, bad luck be damned. Aside from the goal, Wolves barely had a sniff of our 18-yard box, apart from a few scrappy chances earned when Arsenal threw the kitchen sink at the forward line, and one very decent breakaway early in the second half, where goalscorer Hwang Hee Chan narrowly avoided earning himself a brace.

And that's why this result is so significant. Arsenal have often received worse luck than they "deserved," or "deserved" to do better but fallen short. Man City on New Years Day comes to mind. Furthermore, Arsenal have often failed to capitalize on potential opportunities to overturn losing margins, and there have been suggestions around the league that we simply cannot cope mentally, due to our youth, and as a result are far more easily whipped as soon as we go behind.

This Wolves match rewrote both of those narratives. I'm not suggesting it heralds a trend in any way, but Arsenal have finally bucked the two most damning trends fettering them to potential mediocrity this season, and I, for one, could not be happier. And I think I'm not alone in that regard.

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