Arsenal opened up a five point gap on Spurs and Newcastle and a seven point advantage on Chelsea as they consolidated their grip on third place in the Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 win against Wolves.
Reduced to ten men inside seven minutes, Terry Connor’s beleaguered side never recovered from Robin van Persie’s early penalty conversion and were further stunned when Theo Walcott doubled the advantage just minutes later. Yossi Benayoun added a tidy third in the second half as the Gunners sealed their ninth win in ten games.
As expected a combination of fatigue and a suspension to Laurent Koscielny meant that Arsene Wenger was forced to make a few changes to the team that beat Manchester City. Johan Djourou and Andre Santos came into the side as the boss fielded his 18th different back four combination of the season, while in midfield, Tomas Rosicky was given a break as Aaron Ramsey slipped into the middle and Yossi Benayoun started his second match in succession.
Rooted to the bottom of the table, playing for a manager who seems way out of his depth and having not beaten Arsenal in 32 years, the odds were stacked against Wolves. That being said, given the recent defeat at QPR, there was no room for over confidence on the part of the Gunners.
We started very brightly and from the outset the pace on our right side caused Wolves problems. Sagna whipped in a sumptuous ball inside three minutes which forced a diving clearance from Seb Bassong, while Walcott tested the home side defence with a couple of darting runs.
A further sprint through the middle on 7 minutes forced some of the ‘end product’ Walcott spoke about in an interview in today’s Evening Standard. Through on goal after a Van Persie dinked pass, the winger was bundled over by Bassong inside the box and the ref was left with no option but to send off the on loan Spurs man and award a penalty. Having spanked his last few spot-kicks in the top right hand corner, the captain, who was on a four game goal drought, impudently chipped the ball down the middle to give us the lead. (Foul, Pen & Goal)
Four minutes later and it was 2-0. The home fans were still booing the ref, their hapless boss, the fact they live in Wolverhampton, who knows…anyway Walcott and Van Persie linked up nicely and the former nipped in and slid home a lovely second and his 11th of the season. You couldn’t have hoped for a better start. (Theo goal)
With a man, and two goal, advantage Arsenal unsurprisingly took their foot off the gas. Benayoun and Santos had two half chances either side of a Wolves header, but as the game ticked past the half hour mark it had turned into something of a practice match; only the home side kicking a few of our players up in the air seemed to pique the interest of the frustrated locals before they ironically turned to Ole-ing their side’s occasional periods of possession. Strangely the ‘fuck it’ attitude which filtered from the Molineux terraces seemed to do the trick as Wolves pressed higher up the pitch and stirred into life.
Kevin Doyle got himself booked at what seemed like the fifteenth time of asking, then continued to run round knocking our players over like they were skittles in a bowling alley. Only the half-time whistle brought some relief for the ankle’s of N5’s finest…and a few more boos from the home fans.
Five minutes into the second half Aaron Ramsey added another effort to his portfolio of abject shots when close to goal. Charging into the box the Welshman dallied too long on the ball, scuffed his shot and then as he had the chance to toe poke the ball to a free Benayoun, he played a terrible ball. Credit to the young midfielder he didn’t hide though and he played a part in two further chances for Vermaelen and then Van Persie (after an Arteta burst) inside two minutes.
Ronald Zubar wiped out Benayoun and picked up a booking, before Michael Kightly was cautioned for being a persistent twat. Buoyed by the moaning of their uber-whingy fans, the home side pushed forward and finally created a clear-cut chance. We were sloppy at the back, but thankfully in Wojciech Szczesny we have a keeper capable of match winning saves. Reacting to a header from four yards by Doyle the Pole managed change direction, dive to his right and claw away an almost certain goal. It was a fantastic bit of goalkeeping.
It could have been 2-1, instead it became 3-0. On 68 minutes Van Persie stole the ball from Milijas and immediately fed Song inside the left channel. The Cameroon international controlled the ball nicely and picked out Benayoun on the edge of the area. With a fair bit still to do, the Israeli international showed real composure as he picked his spot passed Wayne Hennessey with a fierce effort which rifled inside the near post. It was his fourth goal of the season and certainly settled any residing nerves.(Yossi’s goal)
The Ox came on for Theo, Ramsey missed a chance from a couple of yards out, then should have had a penalty, before Carl Jenkinson replaced Sagna for only his second appearance in five months. The home fans knew the game was up and left in their droves. The only question was whether Arsenal could be bothered to go for a fourth. They couldn’t.
Three minutes of injury-time passed without much incident before the referee called time on a relatively comfortable night for Arsene Wenger’s team.
A solid and very important three points travel back to London down the M4 (…that might be wrong, my knowledge of Britain’s motorways is up there with Harry Redknapp’s grasp of English).