Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nine Lives

photo by Photo Extremistvia PhotoRee

farlieonfootie visited The Emirates this past weekend to check out Arsenal's title credentials.  Verdict?  Not overly impressed.

Arsenal and Wolves are greeted by a volley of hailstones to open their match at the Emirates Saturday afternoon. Arsenal begin the match as the stronger of the two sides, but have relatively little to show for their efforts by the ten minute mark.  Wolves' main hope today may be that the hail damages the pitch, pocking it up so that it more closely resembles the cow patch they're used to at the Molineux.

Despite the unfamiliarly immaculate pitch, Wolves do show at least a bit of ambition in the early going. Although the men in gold have only scored ten times on the road all season, it's not immediately obvious by watching the game's opening fifteen minutes. What is obvious, though, is that Wolves' defense is not very good, and Robin Van Persie is in fine form as he sneaks a ball past Hennessy for a quick 1-nil lead. Andre Arshavin misses doubling the lead less than five minutes later when the Wolves' keeper badly misjudges a cross, surprising the Russian with his miss, and providing an open invitation to shoot.

Wolves display their typical tough tackling as the game settles down, but once again appear overly reliant on the set play for scoring opportunities.  When Walcott, Fabregas, and Fabregas again are denied in quick succession near the half hour mark, the alarm bells in the Wolverhampton back line are ringing at full volume, and a second goal has surely got to be on the way. Wolves are being bombarded by the Arsenal assault, and when Van Persie's shot is deflected on the stroke of half time, they're lucky to escape to the locker room down by only one goal.

Theo Walcott misses an empty net, goal agape, to open the second half, and surely Wolves have used up at least seven of their nine lives in this game. Hennessy is battered again thirty seconds later, and now the eighth life is gone, as well, with more than 43 minutes still to play in the second half. Tension ripples through the stadium as Van Persie goes down under a strong Zubar challenge, and only referee Foy's decision keeps the onced-booked player in the game, and the two sides level at eleven men each.

In retaliation, Van Persie claims Wolves' ninth life and puts the game out of reach, settling the crowd's nerves in the process on 55 minutes, as Theo Walcott picks out the Dutchman on a fast break for an easy 2-nil lead. Now the only question that remains is not whether Wolves can claw their way back into the match, but rather how wide the gap between the two sides will be at the finish.

Nicklas Bendtner and the Gooner's forgotten man, Marouanne Chamakh, replace Van Persie and Arshavin as the game heads toward its conclusion, with Le Professor feeling cpmfortable enough to rest his stars for the mid-week Champions League tilt against Barcelona.  Nearly eighty minutes are gone in the match before Wolves finally begin to test the Arsenal keeper, but it's all too little, too late for a comeback this week, and Arsenal manage to hold off the other side and claim all three points on offer.

It's a confused farlieonfootie for February 15, as Wolves appear more like pussy cats than the side that ended Manchester United's winless streak last weekend.  They're in the thick of a relegation scrap, and they'll have to start winning against bottom half sides in order to stave off the drop.

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