Ok, that’s a lame title. Well, they are Wolves and we didn’t lose, you get my drift. In essence, that’s what it was. Wolves were a side low on confidence and the slightest change completely offset them. The red card ended the game as a contest and Arsenal strolled to a 5 point lead over the 4th place team. There was even a goal scoring return for a certain captain.
This match was a potential banana skin for us, given our propensity to completely collapse against lower opposition fighting for their lives. Wolves are mired in the relegation battle and teams like that also put up extra fight and somehow we always seemed to suffer in those games. But that didn’t happen yesterday. The red card awarded to Sebastian Bassong probably went a long way to make the match a little more easier for us.
A quick give and go between Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott saw the latter burst in behind Wolves’ defence. Bassong was the closest but Walcott managed to get ahead of the defender. Contact was made and the Englishman went down. Penalty and last man sending off, the already brittle and fragile confidence of Wolves went down the drain after that. I thought Walcott did extremely well to get to the ball first and put his body ahead of Bassong. It showed great upper body strength not to be shoved out.
This was the moment we have not seen in a few weeks now. RvP stepped up and converted the penalty with aplomb. For someone who has failed to find the back of the net in the last 4 games, the way he took the penalty speaks volume of the confidence that he has. A little dink down the centre of the goal with Wayne Hennessey already diving to the right. That goal puts RvP at exactly 100 goals behind Thierry Henry.
I had barely recovered from an over the top celebration of the opening goal when the antics had to be repeated. Arsenal increased the lead within 2 minutes of the opening salvo. Again, it was the quick give and go between the same two players. Walcott’s first touch to bring the ball under control and away from the covering defender in one move was brilliant. The finish was even better. Sidefoot placement with pace and precision to the near post when Hennessey again dived to the wrong side.
58 minutes passed in between before we nail the final coffin on Wolves, if not the season then the game itself. Yossi Benayoun, afforded his successive start for Arsenal was the one who came up with the goods. Receiving a cutback from Alex Song, he steadied himself and opened his body for a curler to the far top corner. Instead Benayoun went for a low drive to the near post. Again, Hennessey was wrong footed and didn’t budge at all. It was yet another good showing for the experienced Israeli.
Yet, those 58 minutes will not be represented in any highlights video in the annals of Arsenal history. I don’t want to say I’m in total agreement with the commentator but we really should have put Wolves to the sword. This was a home side bereft of confidence, ideas and fight being drained out of them with the sending off. It was an opportunity to put some mileage on the goals scored versus goals conceded columns. It was not meant to be and had it not been for one man, the gap might even be reduced.
For a goalkeeper, it is always easy to stay alert and be on your best the shots are peppering towards you. The hardest part is to have nothing to do the entire game and then summoned to make that one or two wonderful stops. That is what Wojciech Szczesny achieved, a hallmark of any great keepers. He denied Kevin Doyle’s diving header and then later on from someone else, he punched away a near post shot. This, from a night where even the goal kicks that he had to take was at a premium. Incredible concentration.
The fact that we were cut open late in the game when we were supposed to be stronger having had 1 man more over 80 odd minutes is a little disappointing. Carl Jenkinson who came on for Bacary Sagna for the last 6 minutes, quite rightly berating his team mates who were ambling back to cover at remarkably slow pace. Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, himself a substitute coming on, was present nearby to help out. None of the other midfielders were even within camera angle. If the players thought that since we’re 3 up, it’s fine to conceded one, then I hope Wenger rip a new one into them.
In a game where we have so much control, Song does venture forward too much for my liking. I’m not sure if it’s tactical or not. Perhaps the Cameroonian wanted to get on the end of the attacking side of things. I have no problem with that at all, but not at the expense of what his greater qualities brings to the team.
Aaron Ramsey was given a start in this game and Tomas Rosicky given a rest. With the duo Mikel Arteta and Song as the backbone, the change did not disrupt our game. I don’t think it’s fair to compare Ramsey directly with Rosicky. Both are different types of players. I honestly thought Ramsey did reasonably well yesterday. Yes, he hesitated with that shot and missed the moment but he kept the ball well and used it well. You just feel that at the moment, he’s taking less risk with his passing than usual, perhaps mindful of the criticism that has been thrust his way recently.
Overall, it’s minor criticism over what is a very comfortable and good win on the road. Only 6 more to go now. Good experience being put to use like the presence of Benayoun. Even Johan Djourou had a good quiet game. All is well in the Arsenal world at the moment.