Wolves 0 – 3 Arsenal: Theo dances past Wolves

Arsenal 3 – 0 Wolves

Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

This was a perfectly satisfactory night for Arsenal…
Three goals, a clean sheet, and no injuries.  The game was won inside 12 minutes, and we were able to coast for the remainder.  I had the ill-fortune of listening to one Tony Gale on commentary, as he insisted the ‘professional’ thing to do was to attack a ten-man Wolves side and look to score five or six.  I disagree: the professional thing to do was keep the ball, conserve our energy, and focus on greater challenges ahead.

Theo Walcott was electric early on…
Wolves made a strange decision to play a high-line, and Walcott punished them, twice flying beyond the defence.  The first time he was brought down, culminating in a penalty and a red card, and the second he finished superbly.  Afterwards he faded, and may have been a little thrown by the boos he received from the Wolves crowd.  He should embrace that sort of reaction: from opposition fans, a boo is almost always a compliment.

Robin van Persie was magisterial…
His impudently chipped penalty was the highlight of an exemplary display.  He dropped deeper than usual, happy to let Walcott roam further ahead, and was involved in all three goals.  He’s now equalled a record held by Ian Wright by scoring against 17 different Premier League teams.  The Footballer of the Year elect simply must stay at Arsenal.

Szczesny shares a trait with all great goalkeepers…
Concentration: he has the ability to make important saves having been inactive for long portions of games.  The young Pole has had an outstanding debut season as first-choice keeper.  The main thing he needs to eradicate from his game is a tendency to roll or kick the ball out to players under too much pressure to retain it.

Yossi Benayoun has been a vitally important squad member…
He’s been used similarly to the way in which Alex Ferguson uses Park Ji-Sung – brought in to bulk up the midfield with his industry in the big games.   He’s also chipped in with a few good goals, and last night’s was no exception, thumping home in to the near post from the edge of the box.  Despite his impressive displays, I’d be surprised if Arsene were to sign him permanently – with the emergence of Chamberlain, as well as the likely additions to next seasons squad of Podolski and Miyaichi, opportunities on the flanks will become increasingly hard to come by.

Andre Santos looks a long way from fully fit…
…but that is only to be expected after so long on the sidelines.  At times last night he made my heart jump up in to my mouth, but I’m sure that as his fitness improves he’ll regain the form he showed prior to Christmas.  In any case, Kieran Gibbs should be fit to return to the side at the next available opportunity.

Wigan on Monday will be a test…
I watched their game at Stamford Bridge and they were outstanding.  It seems they were in similar form last night, beating a subdued Man United.    Hopefully a third performance like that on the trot proves to be beyond them.  We now face Wigan and Chelsea before Spurs play another league game, giving us the opportunity to open up an 11 point gap.  Indeed, 4 wins from our last 5 games (3 of which are at home) would guarantee third spot and Champions League Qualification.  Keep the focus, and it is within our grasp.

The decision not to punish Mario Balotelli…
…is, of course, ludicrous.   The rules and systems simply must be changed to prevent further miscarriages of justice.

You can hear me discuss all this and more on tomorrow’s Arseblog arsecast. Be sure to give it a listen.

Thoughts on Arsenal’s festive sandwich


‘Tis the season to be jolly. And then less so.
Arsenal have just completed a festive sandwich of fixtures. On the one side, a wholesome and thoroughly rewarding victory away to Aston Villa. On the other, a rather stale draw at home to Wolves. In the middle, of course, was a big fat Christmas. Hope you had a great one, wherever you are and whatever you might be celebrating.

Alex McCleish is the enemy of football.
Anyone who watched our game against them on Wednesday last will surely concur. This man must be stopped: he seems to suck the joy out of any club he takes over. His Villa are a horrendous side – seemingly as dull on the eye as the Birmingham City team he led to relegation last season. On Boxing Day, Sky sought to outdo Scrooge himself by screening just one game: Stoke vs. Aston Villa. It was apocalyptically bad.

Yossi Benayoun deserves more opportunities.
His headed winner at Villa Park was a rare example of an Arsenal player coming off the bench and making a genuine different to the game. Supporters are tired of seeing the uninspiring sight of Marouane Chamakh or Andrey Arshavin preparing to take to the field. Benayoun guarantees hard work and, of late, real quality. His display at home to Wolves was another example of what he can offer the side.

Arsenal were denied by Hennessey’s brilliance rather than their own incompetence.
A point at home to Wolves is a frustrating result, particularly when the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool have both dropped points in similar circumstances, but on this occasion I think arseblog has it right: we have to offer congratulations to an outstanding performance by the goalkeeper rather than blame ourselves. These freakish results will occasionally occur – it’s only when they become regular that there is genuine cause for concern.

Four points from Villa and Wolves is not a bad return.
If we go on to beat QPR and Fulham, which is not an unrealistic target, 10 points from 12 available will look even healthier.

Whisper it quietly, but Spurs don’t look likely to collapse anytime soon.
Whilst of course we ought to try and pursue and overhaul them, I’m increasingly of the belief that the real battle for Champions League qualification is between us and Chelsea, and for fourth rather than third place. Spurs look very strong indeed, and I don’t perceive Liverpool to have the strength in depth to mount a sustained challenge – particularly in light of Luis Suarez’s ban.

Thierry Henry could be the best available option to strengthen the squad.
Of course there are better strikers out there than a 34-year old who plies his trade in the MLS, but how many of them are available in January? Very few. It’s not worth investing millions of pounds in a substandard player who will make a limited impact – you could argue we’ve already done that with Chu-Young Park. Bringing in Henry would give us a viable option from the bench as well as providing a lift to everyone at the club. If it happens, however, it’d have to be soon. No point waiting to look at other options until the end of January then letting Henry go back to the states after a fortnight.

Right. The next game is QPR at home on New Year’s Eve, after which we’ll be able to put a very rocky 2011 to bed.