Saturday, June 15, 2024

Wolves 0-2 Arsenal : a tough three points

The league table this morning shows Arsenal sitting in third, Wolves second from bottom. They say the table doesn’t lie but based on what we saw last night it’s at least fibbing a little bit.

Credit where it’s due – Wolves gave us a hell of a game and but for some heroic defending, some dodgy finishing and a fantastic display from Lukasz Fabianski our week might have gone from bad to worse instead of bad to quite a bit better. A recent complaint about this Arsenal side is that we tend to start slowly. Not last night. Tomas Rosicky took the ball in midfield, turned nicely into space, played it out right to Alex Song and his cross was headed home emphatically by Marouane Chamakh. 1-0 up inside 40 seconds. Hardly sluggish.

Little wonder it put Wolves on the back foot. A few moments later Arshavin robbed the ball from the Wolves defender and drove towards goal. His second touch was a bit heavy though and Hahnemann made the save. Later Arshavin set up Cesc but again the Wolves keeper kept it out. We’ve seen failure to take those chances punished before so when Wolves started to get themselves back into the game it was a little bit of a worry.

Fabianski saves
Fabianski prevents the ball getting greased up by Hunt's hair

Fabianski scurried across goal to get a hand on a deflected cross before it could land on the head of Stephen Hunt and Kevin Doyle headed not far over from a Hunt free kick. The second half had barely started when Jack Wilshere slipped in the area whilst attempting a clearance, it was fired across goal but outstanding defending by Bacary Sanga blocked the shot. We had a chance to make it it 2-0, which would certainly have calmed the nerves, but Cesc shot just wide when played in by Tomas Rosicky.

At that point it was the home side doing all the pressing but almost everything they threw at us we coped with. Fabianski made a good save from a Kevin Doyle effort which was heading for the top corner and from the subsequent corner Rosicky cleared off the line. Berra headed not far wide, Hunt headed wide and our defence was certainly the busier of the two. Andrei Arshavin hit the post and from a corner a goalbound Djourou effort was deflected just wide.

The final moments of games have, rather too often, been our undoing. There were shades of Sunderland about this one and when Kevin Doyle turned on the edge of the box and fired just wide we were clinging on. In injury time another Wolves effort was blocked and went out for a corner. We cleared, Wolves pumped it back in again, it fell to Berra on the edge of the area and his powerful effort brought about the save of the night, maybe the save of the season so far, from Fabianski. As it came through a sea of bodies he dived to his left and not only stopped it but held onto the ball with one strong hand.

He then got up, threw it out to Rosicky who played it inside to Cesc who clipped it over the top for Chamakh to run on to and seal the win by firing past Hahnemann with the outside of his boot. As the final whistle went the man who got two goals was rightly lauded by his teammates but so too was the man in pink. They knew his saves had kept them in the game. If we can point fingers after the Newcastle game then he has to be given huge credit for last night. It seems a long time since we can say a keeper’s performance was the crucial part of a win but it definitely was.

For me it was his best game in an Arsenal shirt, better than the one against Man City. Not just because of the saves but because he was strong, decisive, communicated well with his defence and used the ball well when he got it. There was no hangover from Sunday, no loss of confidence and that’s good to see. Again it just comes down to him being able to do this consistently but major props to him for what was a terrific display.

Afterwards Arsene said:

I was as well impressed by our spirit, our determination and our resilience. Today we have seen a side of my team that will be very important throughout the season.

We’re not really renowned for scrapping out those kind of wins so it was definitely a good thing to see the team do that. Would anyone have been surprised if Wolves had scored a late one? So for the confidence and belief that instills it was an important win. Wolves will be gutted they didn’t get anything out of that game. As I mentioned yesterday they gave United a tough game at Old Trafford, Chelsea too and last night they made life very difficult for us indeed.

From a footballing point of view you have to give them credit. And then we come to Karl Henry. Much has been made of the challenge which saw Cesc Fabregas booked. I’ve seen it described this morning as both a ‘horror’ and ‘scissor’ challenge. My opinion is that it was a yellow card, no question about it. He was trying to block the ball being played up the line, caught the Wolves player and he deserved a yellow. It was not a red card offence.

Match of the Day showed it and tut-tutted. Alan Hansen, the make-up wearing Captain Scarlet looking cuntbucket, told us all how it was a red card, just a few minutes after he tried to tell us that Michael Essien’s two-footed stamp merited nothing more than a yellow. Yet not a mention was made of Karl Henry’s over the top of the ball, studs on shin challenge on Andrei Arshavin. He wasn’t booked, quite how I don’t know, yet the Wolves fans baying for Spanish blood continue to tolerate and condone serious foul play from a man who is going to do someone serious damage sooner rather than later.

Yes, I know he was involved in an incident which broke Zamora’s leg but it’s tackles like the one on Arshavin that will, inevitably, lead to a horrific leg break for some unfortunate player. Barely a word has been said about it, Match of the Day conveniently ignored it, and lest we forget there was another one on Song by Milijas in the second half too. I think that was more accidental than Henry’s but I do wonder if Mick McCarthy would have so graciously accepted Arsene and Cesc’s apologies if he didn’t know those two incidents would make him look foolish for doing otherwise. It’s easy for him to say stop moaning about bad tackles because he’s got a player guilty of them more often than most.

To Arsene’s credit he never brought it up when the journalists at the pre-game press conference kept bringing up the Cesc tackle. He said he didn’t want to get involved in controversy but then I’m not Arsene. If Match of the Day want to show the Cesc one, fine. If Hansen wants to show the world once again that Anfield 89 has left an indelible stain on him, one that clearly, and hilariously, burns at his very soul, that’s also fine. If they want to say it was a red card, fine. They’re wrong, but fine. But to show one incident whilst ignoring another which was far worse is just rank hypocrisy.

The ‘Arsenal player made a bad tackle’ thing is a delight for the headline makers but ignoring a player who has rightly gained a reputation for reckless tackling is poor form. There’s little to suggest Karl Henry will change. He’s been sent off twice in recent memory (Rosicky last season, Jordi Gomez this) and that hasn’t made much difference. Who’s to say another red card would teach him anything – but to ignore the nastiest challenge of the night, from a man who has real previous in this regard, does nobody any credit whatsoever.

“Dirty Spanish bastard”, sang the Wolves fans at Cesc and they booed his every touch subsequent to his tackle on Edwards. Karl Henry is their hero. You work it out.

Anyway, I don’t want to take anything away from our lads last night. It wasn’t the slick, dominating performance we had been hoping for but it was three points and three points we had to really battle to take back to North London. Maybe we can draw more positives from that than from anything else.

There’s more good news this morning with reports that Wojscez©® has signed a new 5 year contract with the club. We’re still awaiting official confirmation but sources are good and it’s excellent news. His talent and ambition will, at the very least, keep Fabianski on his toes, and should he develop like many believe he will then the future of Arsenal goalkeeping looks promising indeed.

The draw between United and City means we’ve closed the gap on the red half of Manchester to just one point and Chelsea’s win over Fulham means anything less than three points last night would have made this a wretched week. In the end we showed good character, good spirit and a much more Arsenaly Arsenal. If you get what I mean.

So there you have it. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast. Till then.

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