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.
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.