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Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Arsenal 4

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Arsenal 4

A domestic away game outside of London had begun to feel like a distant relic of some bygone age- like fixtures on Christmas Day, mudbath pitches and hobnail boots. But for the first time since the infamous away defeat at Manchester City, we were taking to the motorway for our first trip to Molineux in five and a half years. The away section at Molineux offers a half decent view, as we were positioned perfectly on the half way line of the Lower Tier. However, having all of the away fans spread out across the Steve Bull Stand Lower Tier does not lend itself to creating a good atmosphere. Singing always radiates best from behind the goal, with the noise starting back centre and radiating outwards. The Molineux does not give you the chance to do that with the noise taking several seconds to travel from one corner flag to the other- the end result being that it dissipates before it gets the opportunity to ferment.

The first real calling cards of winter were in the air, with a chilly autumnal breeze and floodlights elucidating the early evening mist, like ghosts dancing in the foggy West Midlands air. Mick McCarthy, in his typically endearing West Yorkshire bluster had promised his Wolves side would, 'give it a real go' against their free scoring visitors. His words were not hollow. As expected, the home side, roared on by a suitably enthused home crowd, put Arsenal under pressure in the early stages. Milijas swept in a left wing corner which Sylvain Ebanks Blake stopped to head just wide, with Gallas having lost his man. It was to be another set piece which would set visiting hearts a flutter, when Arshavin fouled Milijas on the left touchline. The Chilean again whipped in a wicked delivery, Christophe Berra misjudged his free header and ended up heading the ball away from goal. The correct flex of his neck sinews would have seen the virginity of the Arsenal goal under threat.

Perhaps an accidental turning point was to follow. Abou Diaby hobbled off injured and was replaced by the rested Alex Song. Diaby had not been playing badly by any stretch of the imagination, but Song bought more poise and balance to the midfield, with Ramsey playing more of a cultured Denilson style role and Song sitting and breaking up attacks with ease. The midfield looked more balanced and Wolves would pay the price soon after. Zubar needlessly fouled Eduardo over on Arsenal's left hand side, Fabregas whipped in a deceptive free kick which Jody Craddock had to stoop to head just wide of his own post. From our side of the ground, many thought Craddock had headed the ball into his own net, causing a brief flurry of erroneous celebration. The Wolves fans foolishly mocked, chanting in with exaggerated mockney acclaim, 'sit daaan, shu aap!' So when Cesc Fabregas swung in the resulting corner and Hennessy flapped at thin air, leaving Eduardo to pressure Zubar into putting through his own net, the Arsenal fans greeted the goal with a delightfully gloating, 'sit daaan shu aaap!' to their previously buoyant hosts. Perhaps a telling sign arrived shortly after the goal. Sagna was clearly unhappy with the lack of cover Arshavin was affording him and asked Fabregas to have a word with the cumbersome Russian. Fabregas seemed reluctant so Sagna gave Arshavin a mouthful himself. Cesc will have to be prepared to be a little unpopular if he is to be the complete captain, but it was notable that Arshavin's work rate improved markedly after receiving Sagna's approbrium. The value of communication laid bare. This Arsenal side hasn't always been able to do it. Let's hope that was a turning point.

A Gunners side with an opening goal in their arsenal is a different proposition and we relaxed and played the football of which we are capable. Wolves were guilty of chasing the game far too early, Song won the ball back from an over zealous attack, freeing van Persie as Wanderers had one defender back, but van Persie's attemepted through pass to Fabregas was slightly over cooked. McCarthy's men did not learn their lesson and when Dave Edwards was caught in possession again by Alex Song, he was able to free Ramsey into a two on one situation. Ramsey rleeased the ball to the far edge of the penalty area to Eduardo, the Crozilian steadied himself and attempted a gorgeous chip which was carried in via Jody Craddock's head. Having seen the replay from behind, I've the feeling Eduardo's chip might have gone in unassisted anyway, even so it was certainly on target and clearly his goal. The tee shirt message of his celebration, dedicating the goal to the recently troubled Sao Paolo slums, was indicative of the class and humility of the man.

The game became something of a training exercise thereafter. Whilst Arsenal have previous in letting games away from their grasp, Wolves never had the armory to chink the Gunners mettle. Sure enough, before the half time whistle could blow, a goal of training ground ease was registered. Castillo surrendered possession to Fabregas in the right back position, the young Colombian didn't bother to chase back, leaving Sagna to charge into the vacated slot on the right wing, Cesc curled a pass into Sagna's path and then carried on his locomotive run, Sagna demonstrated a massive improvement in his game with the cross to van Persie, the Dutchman showed typical elegance and class to touch the ball delicately into the stride of Fabregas' unchecked run and the little Spaniard showed composure to slot the ball under Hennessy to move ahead of van Persie as top goalscorer for Arsenal this season. Cesc started the move, he had the energy and composure to end it. Make no mistake, we're watching Europe's finest central midfield player at the moment.

The second half resembled a 'two touch' training drill, with Arsenal weaving their triangles, decorated with flicks and tricks and generally fertilised the eggs of sexy football all over the Molineux turf. Zubar cheaply surrendered the ball to Fabregas on the left, he nudged the ball forward to the open Arshavin, the Russian danced past Craddock before seeing his front post effort beaten away by Hennessy. From the resulting corner, Hennessey again flapped unconvincingly and palmed the ball to the edge of the area and Arshavin's left footed half volley into the bottom corner was made to look easier than it was. From there, Lord Lowe asked me, 'What now? 5-0? 6-0?' I glibly replied, '4-1.' Whilst Arsenal created further chances, as Nasri and Ramsey played a neat one two on the left and teed up van Persie, whose shot was blocked. Whilst Ramsey was also at the heart of a move which saw van Persie tee up Rosicky to fire over. But Wolves' consolation was predictable as the foot had long since been pressed firmly on the gas. Matt Jarvis' corner was floated into the danger area and Thomas Vermaelen lost Jody Craddock who powered home a goal that was a mere footnote on the evening.

We travelled home satisfied as Arsenal racked up yet another four goals and yet another simple victory. That our biggest groan of a week which has seen us win three games by three goals, has been the receipt of late consolation goals shows all as rosy in the Arsenal garden. (Though the Wolves fans that held up our journey home by smashing the window of our coach were worthy of a grumble). The poor defending from set pieces still has to be a worry (ironically, this has largely gone unreported due to Chelsea and Liverpool's deficiencies in the same area), but Amos wrote a good piece in the wake of the West Ham game demanding that the side have the confidence and fortitude to put that mistake behind them. Thsi team has reacted to its set backs thus far this season. I'll still wait until we are pulled back to 2-1 in a match before declaring that lesson learned, but the side have had the confidence in the last three games to make the conceding of consolation goals irrelevant by simply making sure we scored a third. The quality of our football was sublime at times and whilst it is tempting to dismiss the quality of the opposition, this time last year Arsenal had lost to Fulham, Hull City and Stoke City. Arsenal are simply bullying weaker teams into submission- as United have so fruitfully in the last two seasons. How we react to this international break, with difficult games away at Sunderland and home to Chelsea immediately on its tail, will be key in deciphering our season. Take four points out of those two games and I'll call us serious title challengers.LD.

TEAM: 1.ALMUNIA, 3.SAGNA, 10.GALLAS, 5.VERMAELEN, 28.GIBBS, 16.RAMSEY, 4.FABREGAS(c), 2.DIABY (17.Song '19), 23.ARSHAVIN (7.Rosicky '77), 9.EDUARDO (8.Nasri '71), 11.v.PERSIE. Unused: 6.Senderos, 18.Silvestre, 24.Mannone, 27.Eboue.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday November 8 2009
Time: 12:51PM


we need 6 points from those two games after the break for sure. Sunderland is never easy, even in our Double winning season we only drew there, but that was then. it's games like these that we need to take 3 points from irrespective of the performance, and then Chelsea is a must win for me to throw a serious marker down and to put us back on the map again as serious title contenders. the title winning teams of the Wenger years have always won these big games and if we're serious for the title again this time, we need to win these big games especially after losing to United n City..
08/11/2009 13:05:00
In Wenger's post match interview he said "You [can] never have enough belief". The only consequence of conceding a late token goal is the idea that we will always concede. Notching up a few clean sheets would aid the belief program. But we managed to do that for a period shortly after the debacle at Citeh last season. We then found it hard to score the goals we needed. There is a trade off. If we can get that balance right the belief we need, amongst players and supporters, will grow enough to carry us through. That's pretty much all that's missing.
08/11/2009 13:41:00
Spot on about the balance in the midfield once Song came on. I thought Diaby and Ramsey as a partnership was debatable to begin with, as neither are strictly defensively minded. Ramsey had a much better game thereafter, always looking for the ball and practically tackled Song once or twice to get the next move going. If anything he was guilty of the too-many-touches syndrome but he'll grow out of that I'm sure.
08/11/2009 16:36:00
Arsenal looked top class yesterday and back on form , was a very good game to watch .
08/11/2009 17:20:00
65 Points to go and 27 game
08/11/2009 18:24:00
"....the virginity of the Arsenal goal under threat". Lol. Considering our (hopefully changing) reputation for conceding late goals, we probably need to have a goal area like a Nun's legs, eh? To the game, I thought Arshavin was tracking back a lot, quite uncharacteristically; if it took Sagna's admonishment to bring this out of the man, then there should be more of that. On Edu's chipped goal, my view was that it was intended as a return pass/chip to Ramsey.It didn't look like it was going in, by any stretch, until Craddock's deflection helped it on its way. I'll like to know if others saw it any other way. The game was expectedly difficult, initially; but I did feel it should be a win for us. Now, we need 3 points from the Sunderland game, another potential banana skin game, but one we should grind a win from (the way we've been taking out the weaker sides); and it is important to get a win from Chelsea, Nov 29th. Sorry, 6 pts from the two games may look like expecting too much, but that is the way to put down the marker as to the intent, this season. I watched the ManU v Chelsea game today and I don't see why not, with our players returning from injury. There is no place to hide anymore as the pundits are beginning to take notice of the team's good position. Time to prove them right, I daresay. Believe!
08/11/2009 21:37:00
It seemed to me that the deflection on Eduardo's chip took the ball up rather than deviating from it's line. The most common camera angle behind Eduardo isn't conclusive and those from behind the goal or more centrally in front of the goal seem to suggest that it was on target. It's Eduardo's goal for me.
08/11/2009 22:05:00
Thanks for the second opinion, Amos. I had the camera angle behind Edu to rely on. Good for him as he, clearly, elected not to claim/celebrate the first own goal. Class player and personality.
08/11/2009 22:59:00
Eddy's a star and when he gets back to full form he's dangerous as anyone infront of the goal. He's a little poacher with a world of class to go with him. Diaby and Ramsey was a bad idea i think. Although its no secret i consider Diaby on the pitch at all is a bad idea, we have always looked better in that Area with Song/Denilson and looked better with Song/Ramsey. There was a lot less pointlessly giving the ball away. Diaby did it 3 times in the first 10 minute's and one gave them a pretty good run at goal. Its simple football that makes us move and play so well, he is uncapable of doing the simple thing.
09/11/2009 02:38:00
09/11/2009 08:56:00
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