IT’S SAK – AND LAC – to the future for Arsenal.
Teenage sensation Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette grabbed fine goals to decide this crucial tussle in the fight for European places.
But the Gunners’ victory owed almost as much to defending and teamwork from the old school.
It’s not rocket science: most successful teams are solid at the back.
Arsenal restricted Wolves to just one great chance and Adama Traore failed to convert it.
Saka and Lacazette superbly took advantage of their opportunities and Arteta’s well-organised side went away with the win they deserved.
Saka’s strike, his first in the Premier League, underlined why Gooners everywhere are so delighted that he has just signed a new long-term deal.
Lacazette may well leave the Emirates in the summer but his contribution showed that Arteta has the tools to bring a pretty happy ending to a season that began so badly.
Meanwhile Wolves will hope this performance was just a blip in a campaign that has promised so much but may yet end in disappointment.
The pre-match talk claimed it would be the home side’s first proper test since the restart, following three wins against Premier League relegation fodder.
But the game was just as much a trial of how much progress Arteta had really made since the Brighton debacle.
The Spaniard demonstrated his ruthlessness by continuing to exile both Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil from the 20-man matchday squad
Guendouzi doesn’t earn anywhere near the £350,000-per-week of Ozil, but presumably enjoys sitting at home counting his money as much as he apparently likes talking about it.
Arteta’s three changes probably reflected the fact this was his team’s sixth game since the resumption of football, rather than any deep dissatisfaction with individual displays in the 4-0 win over Norwich.
The flipside of that was Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo recalling Traore as his only change to a side playing its fourth match of the new normal.
Within seconds Traore was causing problems with this pace and directness, forcing Arsenal goalkeeper Emi Martinez to dash to the edge of his area to make a block.
But after that the visitors looked pretty comfortable in a first half short on chances and moments of genuine excitement.
The way Traore and the rest of the Wolves team struggled to create clear-cut goalscoring opportunities all evening underlined how Arsenal’s defending has generally improved under Arteta.
When Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz are your most senior centre-backs, accidents are bound to happen.
But a back three clearly suits them and as a team the Gunners at least now seem able to play out from the back and retain possession in a way they so rarely managed under Unai Emery.
Arteta, talking to his players constantly, reacted to Mustafi winning a tussle with Traore with some frenzied clapping.
Before Saka’s goal, the two best opportunities of the half fell to the visitors, but only after errors.
A weak clearing header by Matt Doherty fell to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but the Arsenal forward did not connect cleanly and Rui Patricio scrambled across to gather.
The Wolves goalkeeper was forced into further action when another wayward header gave Eddie Nketiah a sight of goal. The Arsenal youngster shot early and Patricio managed to push the ball on to his near post.
But the home side finally paid for their slackness just before the break. Willy Boly’s misjudgment enabled Aubameyang to collect the ball and when Kieran Tierney’s cross was diverted by Doherty’s hand – it might have been called back for a penalty – the ball fell nicely into Saka’s path.
The teenager still had plenty to do, but his first-time left-footed finish was perfect.
The only worry for Arsenal was the yellow card that Luiz had picked up for hauling down Traore on the touchline.
Wolves re-emerged for the second half with a bit more intensity.
Raul Jimenez, who had been a peripheral figure, claimed in vain for a penalty after Cedric Soares’ challenge led him to head Traore’s cross wide.
In a bid to give Jimenez and Wolves a bit more to work with, Nuno soon put Diogo Jota on for Leander Dendoncker and the change worked.
First Jota had a shot well blocked by Luiz, then he released Traore in the right channel only for the Spaniard to send his shot over both the advancing Martinez and the crossbar.
It proved to be Wolves’ best chance of the entire game and they looked pretty much beaten even before Lacazette’s late effort.
Another thing Arteta seems to be better at than Emery – and indeed Arsene Wenger – is making substitutions.
The Arsenal boss replaced his full-backs at good times to make sure they had enough energy to keep chasing Traore and his team-mates.
And it was subs Lacazette and Joe WIllock, on for Saka, who put the game beyond doubt.
Willock made a good surge down the right but the goal was all about the Frenchman’s first touch, which took Conor Coady out of the game.
The finish lived up to that piece of striker’s art, a right-footed shot that went in off the post.
It was Arsenal’s first away win against a team above them in the league since a 5-2 victory at Leicester in September 2015.
It’s a humbling statistic, but at least Arteta seems to be steering his “boat” in the right direction.