Arsenal brushed aside bottom club Wolverhampton Wanders 2-0 on Saturday with both goals from captain Martin Odegaard to take a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League going into a mid-season break for the World Cup.
The Norwegian midfielder, one of the revelations of Arsenal’s swashbuckling early-season form, slotted his first into a gaping net in the 55th minute after a Fabio Vieira cross at the end of a typically clever passing by the visitors.
Odegaard bagged his second off a rebound 20 minutes later.
The result left Arsenal first in the Premier League on 37 points, five ahead of Manchester City who lost at home to Brentford earlier in the day.
The Londoners have not won the Premier League since their 2003-04 title when they were dubbed “The Invincibles” for going an entire season without defeat.
“We have to stay calm. We’ve said many times it’s a long way to the end of the season, there are some good teams around us, we’ll play every game as a final,” Odegaard said.
The only negative for Arsenal was seeing midfielder Granit Xhaka substituted in the first half, seemingly with an illness.
But nothing could dampen the mood of the away fans, who chanted their adoration of manager Mikel Arteta at the final whistle, some stripping shirts off despite the November chill.
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Despite Wolves’ first-half resistance, Arsenal’s slick and youthful side looked comfortable throughout and could have scored more. Striker Gabriel Jesus saw a goal disallowed then hit the bar.
Even with plenty of effort and passionate support from their fans at Molineux stadium, it was ultimately another miserable day for Wolves. They are bottom of the league on 10 points and have only scored eight goals this season.
The home side were watched by incoming manager Julen Lopetegui before he formally takes the reins.
Caretaker manager Steve Davis said he was happy with Wolves’ first-half game plan in soaking up pressure then launching counter-attacks.
“In the second half we conceded two goals. Other than that, fantastic,” he added. “He (Lopetegui) watched tonight and has probably been pleased with a lot of aspects.”
Odegaard praised Arsenal for stepping up a gear in the second half.
“We know the quality we have, we know we are going to create chances, we had to be patient, but it came good,” he said.
“We played a bit slow in the first half. They defended well, with all the players behind the ball. I think we did better the second half, we played the ball out wide and created some overload, and we got the goals, so I think it worked.”
With many predicting Arsenal would fade after their stunning start to the season, Saturday’s win means they will be top of the standings over Christmas and are genuine title contenders.
“Massive win going into the break and a bit of a bumper but that means nothing really,” said goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. “Things will change over the break and we have to come back how we finished it.”