The comprehensive manner of Arsenal's fourth consecutive lockdown victory was the best example yet that Mikel Arteta has convinced his players what they must do to play for him.
A first Premier League goal for teenage prodigy Bukayo Saka, three days after signing a four-year contract, and a first away goal in over a year for Alex Lacazette were the minimum Arsenal deserved from a match they were expected to struggle in. Wolves have been one of the form teams since the restart, they humbled Arsenal here last season and had not lost to the Londoners since returning to the top flight.
So, this was a match in which Arteta wanted his A team, a group of players fully committed to his tactics born of a youth career in Barcelona, which demand swift passing and relentless work without the ball. There are areas of the team he will want and need to improve, but the first marker to his players is that they have to live up to his standards on and off the pitch — at all times.
Hence there was no room in the squad again for French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi, who has missed all four matches of Arsenal's winning run since he was involved in an unseemly post-game dispute in defeat at Brighton. The club's highest earner Mesut Ozil has still not kicked a ball in anger since football resumed and is unlikely to be a regular for the remaining year of his contract.
Arteta has made it clear he will only select players who buy into his ideals of which being disciplined on matchday is not everything. First up is respect for his values, the club's culture and being accountable for their own behaviour every day – on and off the pitch. The Spaniard, who replaced Unai Emery last December, is no tyrant. The term 'boss' has gone, the players call him 'Mikel' or 'Mister' and before this match he talked about creating an environment for players to feel trust in him, each other and to express their feelings should they need clarity and direction.
That is why he will be pleased to read the wide-eyed reaction of 18-year-old Saka to his goalscoring contribution. It was a goal to savour too; a cushioned, curling volley shortly before half-time. The England prospect has been at the club since he was nine, is far from flash and speaks like he gets the Arteta way.
Saka, who only started as team-mate Nicolas Pepe had to rush to his partner's side to attend the birth of their child, said: “We can see what the manager is building and we’re delighted. We all put in such a shift and this is what we’re improving on so much. Now it feels like we’re more together as a team.
“I'm just happy that the boss is putting me out on the pitch. He's shown so much faith in me so wherever he picks me, I just have to give my all. I can't really pin him down to tell him which position I want to play. I'm still grateful to be playing.”
The innocence of youth, maybe, but it is hard to imagine similar sentiments coming from Ozil, or even the usually hard-working Guendouzi, who is now likely to be used as a bargaining tool in the club's post-season transfer plans which include Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey.
Arsenal's other goalscorer, Lacazette, has bought in to Arteta's methods. His 86th-minute goal as a substitute had all the hallmarks of a quality striker as he displayed close control and unerring accuracy to finish. The Frenchman can now expect a return to the starting line-up in tomorrow night's home game against Leicester as Arteta tries to keep his players as fit as possible ahead of next Sunday's North London derby, at Tottenham.
WOLVES: Patricio 7, Boly 6, Coady 6, Saiss 6, Doherty 5 (Neto 71), Dendoncker 5 (Jota 55), Neves 6, Moutinho 5 (Gibbs-White 89), Jonny 6, Jimenez 6, Traore 5.
Subs not used: Ruddy, Joradao, Vinagre, Campana, Kilman, Burr
ARSENAL: Martinez 7, Mustafi 7, Luiz 6, Kolasinac 5, Soares 6 (Bellerin 76), Ceballos 6 (Torreira 83), Xhaka 6, Tierney 6 (Maitland-Niles 56), Saka 7 (Willock 76), Nketiah 6 (Lacazette 83), Aubameyang 6.
Subs not used: Macey, Holding, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles, Nelson.
Ref: Michael Oliver 5