What Declan Rice did to Jakub Kiwior proves Arsenal can push Man City and Liverpool all the way

There was a moment in the second half where it appeared Declan Rice did not have anything left. The England international had chased Mario Lemina back into his own half and forced the Wolves midfielder out of play. A minor victory in the grand scheme of things but in a title race this close, every win matters.

It was hardly one that Rice could celebrate though. As Jakub Kiwior reached out to offer him a congratulatory high five, Arsenal’s club record signing couldn’t even muster the energy to lift his arm and receive it.

It was an alarming indictment of the fatigue that is endemic in this Arsenal squad right now. Perhaps most concerning of all for the Gunners though, was that as Rice stared up to the clock, there was still 20 minutes to go.

The turnaround has been brutally tight for Arsenal. They stayed overnight in Munich before flying home on Thursday morning. The players got back in the afternoon and were in again on Friday morning for a training session before completing media duties and making the journey to Wolverhampton.

Arsenal had gone out with a whimper in consecutive games now. Would history repeat itself against a depleted but spirited Wolves side?

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As Rice sprinted into the box to fire a ball across the area and earn Arsenal a corner in the 90th minute, the question was answered. The Gunners found something extra in those six minutes of added time that is truly what champions are made of.

Bukayo Saka danced superbly through the Wolves defence and fired over. Rice stung the palms of Jose Sa. The pressure was phenomenal until finally some quick thinking from Martin Odegaard at the end of a superb team move secured three points.

A visibly exhausted team could barely muster the energy to celebrate such a huge goal in the title race. As he came for his press conference, Mikel Arteta seemed equally exhausted, but crucially satisfied.

“We stayed in Munich, I think we had an hour or two hours of sleep,” he said. “Wake up, start to talk about Wolves, then about what the players need, how we’re gonna get the into the best mental and physical condition to win this game and to beat them. The boys were unbelievable, the staff was unbelievable. It’s a joy to work with them.

“We realised that if you want to be in the big competitions fighting for the Champions League, fighting for the Premier League and the level that requires you have to do something special. You have to be something special and love to compete and expose yourself when it’s needed to get the outcome that you want. I thought the boys did that really well today.”

There has been talk of crisis over the past week, and had Arsenal failed to beat a Wolves team featuring just 10 fit senior outfield players, it would have been hard to refute.

But this extra reserve of energy when you think you have nothing left, this ability to run on fumes, that is exactly what title winning sides are made of. This will not go down as one of Arsenal’s best performances, but it may go down as one of their most important.

The past week has been full of suggestions that the Gunners’ season is over. In years gone by, it may well have been.

They cannot afford to limp over the line like they have done in the past. They are, of course, still waiting on a favour from Manchester City, but if the last six minutes at Molineux are anything to go by, they’ve got the determination and resilience required to push Pep Guardiola’s side all the way.