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.

Arsenal Vs Wolves Preview

If anyone really thought Arsenal would slink back into midtable after an uncomfortable summer, they’ve seemingly been proven wrong.

At this precise moment, the Gunners sit just outside the top four having already made it through to the last 16 of this season’s Champions League.

Battered 2-0 last season

That’s a pretty impressive feat, when you consider the players that have left, the injuries they’ve had to contend with and the relatively meager amount Wenger spent in the summer to plug the holes.

With back-to-back home games against Wolves and QPR things promise to get even better for the Londoners as they reach the halfway point in the season.

In particular, they’ll be licking their lips about tomorrow’s game against a struggling side they’ve beaten in each of their last 6 Premier League matches.

Yes, whilst Wolves have been able to upset City, United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs since returning to the top division, Arsenal have been a tougher nut to crack.

We came agonisingly close to taking a point from the Emirates two years ago and probably should have got a draw in last season’s home match.

That said, we were soundly thumped by them 2-0 back in February in one of the most one-sided matches I’ve ever seen. Robin van Persie scored both goals that day and if the Dutchman is in the mood again tomorrow, our prospects will be decidedly bleak.

The Team

I have no idea what Mick will do tomorrow and I have no idea what I’d do either. Play 442 and we’re likely to be carved open at will, play 451 and they’ll camp inside our half and probably pick us off. It’s a tricky one.

This is my guess at the starting XI:

Hennessey, Zubar, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Henry, Milijas, Edwards, Hunt, Jarvis, Fletcher

So that’s Dave Edwards straight back in for his work-rate, with SEB dropping out to leave Fletch as the lone forward.

Prediction League

5 of you correctly predicted the Norwich game would end in a draw with 3 also getting the 2-2 scoreline.

Well done to Louie, Ad Mant and Rich for getting the maximum. Ask K and Stourbridge Wolf take a single point.

Logically, I really can’t see a way we’ll take anything from this match.

However, purely because we’re due a result against Arsenal and you normally achieve at least one upset a year, I’ll go for the most unlikely of Wolves wins.

2-1 to the old gold.

If you’re one of those dedicated souls making the trip down to London tomorrow, have a great time and get right behind the lads.

Up The Wolves.

Arsenal 2 Wolves 0

On a warm summer evening back in 1994, Wolves beat Southend 5-0 at Molineux to go top of Division 1.

I remember enjoying the highlights later that night and Jimmy Greaves commenting that “It was like watching a good youth team against a bunch of senior pros who are that much tougher and stronger than their opponents”.

I bring this up now because that particular comment was ricocheting around my head yesterday as I witnessed a rampant Arsenal side completely demolish Wolves from start to finish.

Phase 2 Goal 2

Mick McCarthy called it a ‘slap’ but a ‘pummeling’ seems a much more appropriate adjective to describe one of the most one-sided two nil victories I’ve ever seen.

Make no mistake about it, had it not been for wasteful finishing, good fortune and some quite miraculous goalkeeping from Wayne Hennessy, this would have been a rout. Six nil wouldn’t even have flattered Arsene Wenger’s team on the balance of play.

Of course the early goal from Robin Van Persie certainly didn’t help matters. If Wolves had a game plan, it went up in smoke when the Dutchman was given ample space to swivel and fire home a superb volley to put the Gunners in control early doors. Was it good movement or did Stearman and/or Zubar go to sleep? I fear the latter.

Regardless, Wolves never recovered from the setback and the home side saw out the remainder of the game with unerring ease.

Arshavin and Walcott ran riot down the flanks and with Wolves employing a ridiculously high line, Fabregas, Song and the quite brilliant Jack Wilshere poked holes in the back four at will, leaving our stranded defence chasing shadows all afternoon.

The only surprise was that it took Arsenal the best part of an hour to kill the game off; Van Persie profiting from phase 2 offside (or whatever they’re calling it) to slam home the decisive second goal.

Wolves for their part, kept at it for the duration, which was admirable given the gulf in class and unquestionably helped ensure the scoreline remained respectable. Goal difference could prove crucial come May, so we should definitely be thankful that we only took a relatively minor hit.

Unfortunately, for all Arsenal’s quality, strong performances from gold shirts were in short supply.

As stated, Wolves were indebted to Wayne Hennessy for a string of fine saves and his overall improvement from last season is there for all to see. Long may it continue. He flapped at a cross in the first half that Arshavin should have scored from, but deserved his luck and was faultless from there on out.

Ronald Zubar suffered a nightmare start to the game, but I thought he grew in stature throughout, occupying some useful attacking positions, particularly towards the end of the match as we attempted to setup an unlikely grandstand finale.

Berra and Stearman did all they could, managing more than a few vital interceptions and even one quite-brilliant goal line clearance. Still, they’ll probably never suffer a more torrid afternoon of football. The pace of Walcott was something they quite simply couldn’t cope with.

Further forward, Adam Hammill was frequently involved with our best moves. At times he was sloppy in possession but for me he was the only the player in a gold shirt trying to make something happen. He deserves tremendous credit for that. I’m looking forward to seeing how the tricky winger does against some of the lesser opponents in the league.

Henry, Milijas and O’Hara were all bypassed far too easily in the middle of the park and probably more than anything else, this brought about our downfall. In possession we weren’t incisive enough and when Arsenal had the ball, they seemed capable of jogging through the middle at will. In fact, it was only when Foley came on and Wolves adopted a 442, that things tightened up.

You could therefore perhaps argue that the tactics weren’t quite right, but I think sometimes you just have to accept that the far better side taught us a lesson.

And yesterday, that was certainly the case.

Arsenal Vs Wolves Preview

Wolves travel to the Emirates tomorrow looking for another famous result against title challenging Arsenal.

The Gunners will be hoping to bounce back after surrendering a four goal lead to Newcastle last time out. However they were no doubt buoyed by seeing Man United’s unbeaten run brought to an abrupt end at Molineux hours later.

No more 95th minute heartbreakers please lads

Arsene Wenger will hope his side avoid a similar slip-up, particularly with a daunting Champions League tie against Barcelona to navigate in midweek.

With that fixture in mind, perhaps Wenger will consider resting a few players, especially those returning from international duty. Could that give Wolves a boost?

It’s worth noting that Arsenal have already suffered 3 league defeats at home this season with Albion, Newcastle and Spurs all leaving with the maximum, so they’re far from invincible.

Still, it goes without saying they’re a quality side and if Fabregas, Nasri and co are on song, it’s tremendously difficult to contain their devastating passing game.

Wolves managed it for 95 minutes last season but fell victim to a last gasp header from Nicklas Bendtner. Similarly, Wolves pushed them all the way at Molineux earlier in the season but ultimately came up short.

Perhaps we’re due the rub of the green against the Gunners?

The Wolves team should pick itself, barring injuries, and I’m expecting to see the same eleven that overcame Man United last Saturday. That would mean a team of:

Hennessy

Zubar
Berra
Stearman
Elokobi

Jarvis
Henry
Milijas
O’Hara
Hammill

Doyle

It’s possible Mick could opt to bring in someone like Dave Edwards, who gets around the pitch and presses the ball, but I think we need to try and keep possession ourselves, so two creative players should aid that game plan.

Prediction League

Well, a surprising number of you correctly predicted we’d beat Man Utd last weekend. Rob, Martin and my esteemed colleague Ben all picked up the maximum for getting the scoreline right. Well done lads!

Super Kev Doyle, Aikiwolves and Exeter Wolf kept the faith but didn’t get the correct score. A single point is your reward.

I’ve decided to abandon all logic this weekend because it obviously doesn’t apply to Wolves.

What the hell hey? 2-1 to the boys in gold.

I’ve gone mad I know.

If you’re heading down to our nation’s capital, have a great time and roar the lads on.

Up The Wolves.