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  • By Charlie Stong at Emirates Stadium

Xhaka bids farewell with brace to help Arsenal thrash sorry Wolves


Arsenal 5 (Xhaka 11, 14, Saka 27, Jesus 58, Kiwior 78)

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0


When he was substituted here against Crystal Palace in 2018, tearing off his shirt and swearing at the fans, it appeared there was no way back for Granit Xhaka.


When he left the field for Fabio Vieira today, in what was almost certainly his final Gunners appearance ahead of a summer move to Bayer Leverkusen, the crowd rose as one to applaud a man transformed. From villain to hero.


Xhaka’s two early goals, one a header, one a short from close range with his trademark left foot, put the Gunners on their way, as they brushed aside their recent poor form to leave the Emirates rocking once again.


And three more goals – a superb solo effort from Bukayo Saka, a header from Gabriel Jesus and a first in a Gunners shirt for defender Jakub Kiwior, rounded-off a superb league season for Arsenal.


Xhaka’s two goals came inside three minutes at the start of the game – it almost felt like a testimonial, the sorry Wolves defence parting not once but twice to allow the Swiss his swansong.


He first nodded home a Gabriel Jesus cross, then tapped in from six yards after good work from Saka.


Saka himself curled in a beauty soon after, following a trademark cut inside on to his left foot, Jesus added a fourth with a far post header after the break and Kiwior made it five with a close range shot.


Xhaka’s finale – if it is indeed confirmed this week that he will be leaving - has capped a remarkable turnaround since that night against Palace.


Since then he has put his head down, got on with his work and has become a firm favourite with the fans. He even has his own song.


This season has been his best. He has now scored more than twice as many Premier League goals this year – nine – than in his previous best season, when he scored four in 2018-19.


His form has been superb, leading the Gunners’ title challenge together with Thomas Partey in the middle of the park - and never before today had he scored two goals in one game for the Gunners.


After his two early strikes – after 11 and 14 minutes, Wolves almost found a way back in, a cross from the right was met by the head of Nathan Collins, who nodded it back across the box, but there was nobody willing to tap in.


However within a minute of that the game effectively over. The ball was worked to Saka on the left after good work between Martin Odegaard and Leandro Trossard. But what came next was superb.


Saka turned Max Kilman inside out, sent him tumbling to the right, cut inside on to his left, and curled a beautiful shot into the far corner past the hapless Jose Sa.


Xhaka had a chance to bring up his first Arsenal hat-trick shortly after the half-hour in what would have been a carbon copy of his second.


Again the danger came down the Wolves left, Odegaard and Saka combining to set-up the unmarked Xhaka in the centre of the box, but this time he miss-hit his shot.


Arsenal thought they had a fourth soon after the break, but were pulled back by referee Andre Marriner who had spotted a foul by Ben White on Sa.


But they didn’t have to wait long until it was 4-0. Trossard timed his run down the left perfectly, received the long ball, controlled and crossed for Jesus, who rose to head home at the far post.


And after more mayhem in the Wolves defence, Kiwior poked home to round off the scoring.


The atmosphere at the Emirates this season has been by far the best since the Gunners moved to the Emirates, and the rendition of their new anthem, North London Forever, as Louis Dunford looked on, was probably the loudest of the season as the game began.


They may have missed out on the main prize, but things are only just starting here.


The feel- good factor is back and the good times are surely only a matter of time away.


Teams:

Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Partey, Gabriel, Saka (Nelson, 60), Odegaard (Smith Rowe 75), Jesus, Kiwior (Tierney, 80), Trossard (Nketiah, 80) , Jorginho, Xhaka (Vieira 75)

Wolves: Sa, Collins, Lemina, Jiminez, Hee-Chan (B.Traore, Semedo, Kilman (Toti, 68) , Nunes (Neves, h-t), Gomes, A.Traore, 68), Bueno (Ait-Nouri, h-t)

Referee: Andre Marriner

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