Professional Performance Gives Arsenal Three Points
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 – 3 Arsenal
0 – 1 van Persie (8 pen)
0 – 2 Walcott (11)
0 – 3 Benayoun (69)
The win that was needed to solidify Arsenal’s grip on third place was delivered with the minimum of fuss at Molineux last night. Two up inside ten minutes with Wolves down to ten men might well have ended the spectacle for the non-partisan onlooker but I do not care of their views; all that mattered was Arsenal taking three points.
Pre-weekend jitters have been put into a box and consigned to the dustbin, the nuclear scenario that brought about panic attacks looks more of a problem for Chelsea, seven points adrift in sixth place, than for Arsenal, five points clear of fourth placed Tottenham. Nothing is settled but the rays of sunlight this morning dissecting the cloud reflect on an improved situation.
Arsenal’s good form in the Premier League – nine wins out of the last ten – was continued in the West Midlands. From the kick-off, the visitors were quickly down to business, harrassing their hosts out of possession, cajoling each other into creating openings. A two minute spell ended the contest. Neat passing found van Persie who found Walcott on the edge Bassong and the ensuing contact left the England international sprawling on the ground with the Wolves defender heading for the tunnel. For a man who had not found the net in four games, van Persie’s confidence is not damaged as his coolly clipped penalty proved. Instead of being compared to Paneka’s winner in the 1976 European Championships final, a wrong move would have left it compared to Lineker’s embarrassment against Brazil at Wembley.
Minutes later the same pair combined to the same end product: an Arsenal goal. This time Walcott was allowed to finish emphatically past Hennessey although Zubar can consider himself lucky to have remained on the pitch, clattering the Arsenal winger late after the ball had gone. Arguably he was committed to the challenge but it was very late.
Arsenal then turned to professional mode and killed the game. Wolves re-organised but had to retrieve the two goal deficit at the same time; it ought to have left gaps but in fairness to them, the players held their shape well. The points were already heading back to north London and with no urgency required, the energy levels dropped to the minimum required. This has brought some criticism but I question why did they need to do more? Some, it seems, are prone to panic or complaint too quickly.
Few chances were created in the ensuing eighty minutes. Szczesny made two excellent saves, the second from Doyle’s header was simply outstanding. Around them Arsenal had openings but wayward finishing from Benayoun, van Persie and Ramsey left the score at 2-0 until the sixty-ninth minute when given the freedom of Wolverhampton, the Israeli drilled the ball past Hennessey. It has been no less than Benayoun has deserved for his performances in recent games. His presence on the left has added a balance to the midfield that is sometimes missing with more attack-minded players in the side. Whether it is enough for Arsenal to pursue a deal on a permanent basis remains to be seen. As of course does the price.
This was the right fixture for Arsenal following the intensity of Sunday’s effort to win against Manchester City. Predicting a red card that early in the game is impossible but the impact of two early goals let the players build their confidence. The defensive performance is hard to assess given the lack of threat from the home side but frankly a clean sheet means that everyone carried out their duties professionally and that is all that you can ask for.
Third place is definitely Arsenal’s to lose now. No games in hand to be caught up; Arsenal are five points better than Tottenham and Newcastle at this stage of the season. To put matters into context, by the time Newcastle and Spurs play their next league match, the gap to fourth could be eleven points albeit having played two games more. That would be a crushing gap, especially if either failed to win.
Post-match, Arsène looked to keep such matters in perspective,
I am very happy that we are in this position but I am also very cautious because some teams have been in that position before. We want to win our next game because where we have come from this season we must be focused. We have come from very deep and to stay in this position we have to focus on our next game.
His caution is understandable; not just in football but any walk of life, complacency precedes failure. The experienced players in the squad know this and have not been carried away, publicly at least. Continued concentration is required and there is no reason to believe it will not be delivered. With that, third place will surely come as well.