Note: Regular readers will know I usually post match reports on a Monday. However with Chelsea and Manchester United playing tonight I thought I would include a match report of that game from an Arsenal perspective in tomorrow’s post. Stay tuned.
Arsenal 4 (Zubar og 28, Craddock og 35, Fabregas 45, Arshavin 65)
Wolves 1 (Craddock 88)
After an uneasy opening half-hour where their opponents had the better of things, Arsenal produced the sort of performance to beat Wolves that suggest that they should be included with Manchester United and Chelsea as potential Premier League champions.
The 4-1 win over Wolves was achieved despite a spirited start from the home side and without ever really hitting top gear as two own-goals and a superb third by Cesc Fabregas essentially put the game beyond doubt before half-time. Andrey Arshavin added a fourth with just under a half-hour to go in the pouring rain at Molineux before Wolves pulled back a late consolation goal through Jody Craddock’s header.
Three changes were made to the team that beat Alkmaar in the Champions League midweek with Bacary Sagna returning in place of Emmanuel Eboue, Eduardo getting the nod over Samir Nasri and Aaron Ramsey surprisingly getting a start at defensive midfield instead of Alex Song, who was given a break by the manager. An injury to Abou Diaby after twenty minutes meant the Cameroonian’s rest was cut short however, and his introduction saw Ramsey move into a more advanced midfield position.
This game had the hint of a potential banana skin for our boys and that feeling was exacerbated during an opening half-hour that saw Wolves put immense pressure on our players and created the better openings. However two or three decent headers from set-pieces was the best Wolves could manage.
Just as it looked like our boys would have to fight hard for the points we scored when Ronald Zubar put through his own net under pressure from Eduardo. Astonishingly it was two just five minutes later when Ramsey and Eduardo raced through and Craddock followed Zubar’s lead by nodding the Crozilian’s chipped pass into the net.
With Wolves in disarray we scored an outstanding third just before the break when Fabregas, Sagna and Robin van Persie combined to allow our captain to stroke home his 5th league goal of the season and end the game as the contest.
The second half was a predictably lackluster affair as Arsenal probed for more goals without ever exerting too much effort. Arshavin managed to get the fourth with a cleverly-controlled strike from outside the box while up the other end Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas controlled the Wolves attack without breaking a sweat.
Substitute Tomas Rosicky blasted over a decent chance near the end while van Persie and Fabregas also went close. However it was Wolves who got the final goal of the game as Craddock’s clever movement from a corner saw Vermaelen bundle into Sagna and the veteran defender headed home.
Manuel Almunia was furious at the team’s inability to keep a clean sheet but in truth it mattered very little as we ran out comfortable winners and move into second on the table.
0-0 after 24 minutes with Wolves well on top, Diaby was replaced by Song in a move that saw Ramsey shuffled forward into a move advanced position. Ten minutes later it was 2-0. Coincidence?
Although the Diaby-haters (and Song-lovers!) will argue the opposite the answer to that question is unquestionably ‘yes’. The reshuffle had absolutely no influence on an opening goal which knocked the stuffing out of a Wolves side that had worked their socks off and perhaps deserved the lead. From that point on playing with a cushion allowed our boys to take control of the game and go on to win comfortably.
I think it would be overly convenient and incorrect to say that Ramsey struggled in the defensive midfield role early on or that removing Diaby from the midfield changed the game. In fact, had the first gone in with Song still on the bench I would argue that we would have gone onto win the game by a decent margin regardless. All conjecture and hearsay, I understand, but worth thinking about for people who look for too much reason in a game that relies on moments of luck and chance far more than we like to admit.
Sagna continued his attacking resurgence with another excellent cross to set up the third goal. While it may not go down as an assist the Frenchman’s controlled pass for van Persie was right on the money and allowed Fabregas to score. With Gael Clichy struggling to have an impact going forward before his injury and the inexperienced Kieran Gibbs mostly focused on getting his defensive positioning correct, Sagna’s attacking contributions down the right have been as important as any member of the team in the last few games.
If Manchester United and Chelsea draw tonight and we win our game in hand, Arsenal will be top of the Premier League. What more can I say?
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