Wolves 0 Arsenal 3

Credit to the 10 that remained on the pitch last night.

I thought they acquitted themselves admirably given the wholly unpleasant scenario they were faced with.

By the end I would argue 3-0 actually flattered Arsenal, given the overall balance of play and the chances we carved out with a man less.

Game over

Sure, the Gunners put their foot on the brake after bagging a quickfire second, but Wolves at least made a semi-competitive game of it, which deserves some level of recognition.

Kevin Doyle, controversially recalled to the starting eleven, thrived in the familiarity of the lone-striker role. He was also desperately unlucky not to score, denied only by a superb Wojciech Szczesny save, tipping his looping header just past the post.

Kightly and Jarvis offered able support down the flanks and their energy levels were also crucial in keeping the score down to a respectable level at the other end.

Karl Henry never tossed in the towel either and vigorously protected the back four as Arsenal constantly probed to pick a way through.

Above each of these players though, I have to single out Ronald Zubar. I thought the mercurial Frenchman was fantastic.

Watching him defend so resolutely and still have the energy to gallop forward and ask questions of the Arsenal defence was something special I thought.

If we can maintain the Zubar/Kightly partnership next season, I think that’s one area of the team we don’t have to worry about.

But what of the early penalty incident that effectively ended the contest before it even started?

Having seen it back a few times now, I find it difficult to lambaste the referee too much. However much he tried not to, Bassong does stumble into the back of Walcott and if he gives the penalty, I don’t think the man in black has a choice about sending the defender off.

Many will no doubt disagree.

Why both van Persie and Walcott took it upon themselves to taunt the crowd after plundering their early goals is anyone’s guess. Completely unnecessary given the situation.

For Walcott to then applaud all four sides of the ground when he was substituted, as if to say ‘I’m the bigger man’ is nothing short of ridiculous. He went down in my estimation.

Of course, none of this really matters though. We were down before kick-off and we would still have been down at full-time, whatever the outcome.

But a modicum of comfort can at least be taken from some long overdue pride in the shirt.

At this stage of such a terrible season, what else is there?

Wolves Vs Arsenal Preview

I must admit, I’d love to beat Arsenal.

It has nothing to do with Premier League survival. Regardless of tomorrow’s result, we will be playing Championship football next season.

However, the Gunners are the only big-name side we haven’t managed to overcome in our 3-year stint in the top tier, so before we slip away it would be nice to complete the set.

All hands on deck at the Emirates

Manchester’s Utd and City, Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool have all tasted defeat at the hands of the old gold, but Arsene Wenger’s side have continued to dominate.

They’ve won 4 of the 5 meetings and we had to cling on for dear life at the Emirates back in December to avoid a clean sweep.

Current form suggests they’ll make it 5 wins from 6 without breaking sweat, but their 7 defeats on the road offers a small glimmer of hope.

The big problem is that Wolves just can’t turn in a complete 90-minute performance. The second the opposition start turning the screw, we wilt and die.

You would think that Arsenal are tailor-made for exploiting each of our many frailties, given their passing ability and pace in wide areas. It could be a long old night.

The Team

If TC wants to avoid a cricket score in this one, I’d be sacrificing a forward and plugging the holes in midfield. This would be my team:

Hennessey, Zubar, Stearman, Bassong, Ward, Henry, Davis, Milijas, Kightly, Edwards, Fletcher

I’ve been saying for weeks Nenad should get a start and I still believe we’d see an improvement with his inclusion, especially if he’s got Henry and Davis putting in the leg work defensively.

Just sit in, make it difficult and use the wingers as the outlet ball. That must be the plan. Anything else is suicidal in my eyes.

The one grain of positivity in recent weeks has been Jarvis and Kightly working in tandem. The latter in particular has stepped up his game and looked a real player. It will be difficult to match those levels against Arsenal but a good test all the same.

Prediction League

21 people predicted defeat against Stoke but only Super Kev Doyle said 2-1. Well done to him for taking the maximum 3 points on offer. Everyone else takes a single.

Has to be an Arsenal win doesn’t it?

Depressing to say that, as I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually seen us ever beat them in my lifetime. Can anyone remember a win in the last 27 years against the Gunners?

Anyway, I’ll go for a 4-0 defeat.

If you’re at Molineux, raise the roof as you did against Bolton. I thought the support in that game was fantastic.

Up The Wolves.

Arsenal 1 Wolves 1

If yesterday was supposed to be about how many goals Robin van Persie would plunder in his quest to enter the record books, nobody told Wayne Hennessey.

This morning all the headlines deservedly belong to the giant Welshman after a quite remarkable performance to repel the Arsenal onslaught.

Wenger reckons they’d have won this game 19 times out 20, but surely if our goalkeeper had played this well in all of those matches Professor Football should rethink his figures?

Another poor decision to deal with

Wayne will deservedly scoop all the plaudits, but the rest of the team also warrant a substantial slab of credit too.

Maintaining a shape, defending your 18-yard box and not allowing such slinky opposition to simply walk the ball in is a tough ask, particularly away from home. That type of stubborn discipline often gets overlooked, but it’s a skill in itself.

By the end, Arsenal were effectively playing into our hands by throwing crosses into the box for the likes of Berra and Johnson to gobble up, which is testament to the work we’d done up to that point.

The center of midfield, so often criticised for being wide open were phenomenal defensively. Henry made a string of fine interceptions and tackles to cut out killer passes, whilst Milijas once again dispelled the myth that he’s lazy when the opposition have the ball.

To see the Serbian dismissed with 20 minutes to go was both cruel and unjust. Quite what the referee saw in the tackle I’ll never know, but the game had certainly been bubbling towards a flash point for a while. To me the man in the middle simply failed to keep tempers in check.

Fortunately, it didn’t cost us and the injustice only served to make point gained all the more satisfying, not least when you consider we’d lost to Arsenal in all 6 of our previous Premier League meetings.

Speaking of satisfaction, what about another goal for Fletch? His superb reaction header just before half-time means he’s now scored goals at Anfield, Old Trafford and the Emirates this season – not too shabby when you consider he probably only had one decent chance in all of those games.

Once again the Scot was largely anonymous, left isolated by the formation and dominance of the home side, but yet he still managed to gobble up the only half chance that came his way to level the scores.

Keeping him fit will likely be the difference between survival and relegation.

A word too for Roger Johnson. There were moments where he wobbled, particularly in the first half, but as the game wore on his influence grew and the skipper made vital blocks and clearances to keep the scores level. That’s what we paid the money for.

Finally, well done Anthony Forde.

The youngster slotted in seamlessly down the right, looked neat and tidy on the ball and didn’t put a foot wrong throughout. He also looked confident and skilful in possession so I’ll look forward to seeing what he can do against lesser opposition.

Indeed it was wholly appropriate that Mick finally gave youth a chance on the big stage, on a day that unquestionably belonged to another academy graduate.

Thanks Wayne.