We wanted a response to last weekend and we got it. A 2-0 win, which really would have been more but for the Wolves keeper, and a controlled, disciplined, creative performance.
The team was as expected, the manager prioritising the league above all else, and rightly so. The players knew that United had won so nothing less than three points would do. We started brightly and did put the ball in the net but the ref had already blown for a foul on Jack Wilshere. Robin van Persie took the free kick and put it over. He hasn’t quite found his range this season with free kicks but that aside he’s in as rich a vein of goalscoring form as we’ve ever seen.
So it was no surprise that when Cesc crossed with his left foot, Robin swept it home with his right. A double chocolate leg effort. The goal seemed to dampen Wolves fire and we could have scored more before half-time. The best chance came when Arshavin set up Theo, the keeper made a brilliant save and Cesc’s follow-up was blocked, almost on the line, by a retreating Wolves defender. Hennessy made another good save with his feet from van Persie after a clever ball from Song.
In the second half we should have gone 2-0 up almost straight away. A mazy Jack Wilshere run brought him into the box, he squared for Theo who somehow put it wide with the goal at his mercy. We didn’t have to wait too long for the second and when it came it was a thing of beauty. A string of first time passes from the edge of our penalty area set Theo Walcott in behind the Wolves defence, his first time pass found van Persie, who took a touch and buried it to make it 2-0. A total of 5 touches and a shot from penalty box to goal. Beautiful.
At that point it was game over. We had other chances, Arshavin shot when he might have played it to Song, Theo shot when he might have finished a wonderful combination with Chamakh by giving it back to him, instead he chose to shoot and again Hennessy saved. Theo curled another one wide, Cesc had a go, and in the end there 2-0 didn’t really do the performance justice.
We had an outstanding game. We were defensively solid and that was important after the four goals we conceded. We create many chances, the only regret is that maybe we didn’t score enough goals.
And it’s rare that I quote opposition managers but Mick McCarthy said:
They murdered us. From one to 11 they were better than us, stronger than us and quicker than us. I have to admire their class and the way they play. And for us to get better we have to admit we got turned over – we were completely spanked.
There was the pre-game fear of a post Newcastle hangover, that what happened last weekend would adversely affect us. And not for no reason. It’s been a hallmark of the team in recent years that even the slightest setback dents our confidence in a big way. Perhaps it’s a sign of growing maturity that we didn’t let that happen yesterday.
I thought we were fantastic, defensively much more solid with the impressive Djourou back in the middle, Wilshere was sparkling in midfield and with a fit and in form Robin van Persie up front we’ve got that goal threat that will scare other teams. He has 12 goals in his last 12 games, 11 since January 1st, and keeping him fit will be so important. Like the rest of you I winced at Zubar’s challenge, studs up and straight into the knee, but the manager says he’ll be fine for Wednesday.
The clean sheet was massive too. It’ll go some way to restoring confidence defensively and with the most exciting, most scoringest, attackingest team in the world coming to town on Wednesday that’s no bad thing at all. We just look so much more assured with Djourou there and the big Swiss had an excellent game. He seems to ooze calm into the rest of them. Sometimes, perhaps, a bit too much calm but you can’t help but be impressed when you’re yelling at him to get rid of it in the corner and he manages to keep possession and start us going forward again.
So, overall a good day’s work and one which sets us up nicely for the Champions League on Wednesday evening. Remember, goals, highlights, interviews and more can be found on the video page.
Looking around at the rest of the Sunday news it seems there’s a chance Samir Nasri could be fit to face Barcelona. The manager says he doesn’t rule it out and while I’d be delighted to have him back I hope he is fully fit. He’s much more important to us than this Barcelona game and we need him back for the rest of the season, not just one game. Anyway, fingers crossed on that one.
The Mirror reports a new deal is in the offing for Robin van Persie. I don’t think that’d get too many complaints from anyone despite how much the fear of an injury at any second remains.
And that’s about that. Sunday football is early morning stuff today so I’m going get some pork products into me before I remember that ‘just one more beer’ I had last night.
Have a good Sunday folks.