0-1 Chamakh 1'
0-2 Chamakh 94'
Arsenal saw off a ferocious Wolves effort with Marouane Chamakh goals sandwiching a tight contest highlighted by Lukasz Fabianski's man of the match performance today at the Molineux.
If one is being totally honest, Arsenal were again not at their best today. However, the Gunners got the rub of the green around their goal, and defended stoutly and smartly when things were at their most tense. If the roles were reversed, everyone would be lionizing the opposition's desperate, nervy defending under pressure.
So let's lionize it for Arsenal.
The match started as well as a match could, Song lashing in a cross thirty seconds into the match that Marouane Chamakh rose and headed home, no problem. 1-0 to the Arsenal, forty seconds on the clock. However, that fast of a start could lead to problems for a team, particularly one that seems prone to relaxing a bit with a lead at times, and as the first half drifted along, Wolves pressed their way back into the match.
Wolves first good chance came about 27 minutes in, Kevin Doyle heading just over from a free kick. From that moment, they really pressed forward. Stephen Hunt was denied by Fabianski's first brilliant save of the night a few minutes later, the ball deflecting up across the face of goal off of Sebastien Squillaci's foot, Fabianski running across and stretching to palm it away from the onrushing Hunt, off the line, out of danger. It was an effort that was eerily similar to David Seaman's famous save against Sheffield United (sacrilege?)
Wolves did not stop there, though. Referee Mark Halsey missed a number of calls tonight, and he did called fouls often when they were not warranted. Wolves didn't generate any more chances of note in the half, but they were pressing very well, and Arsenal's passing was again a little limp. The half-time whistle blew with Wolves having had an astounding 58% of possession.
The second half nearly started with a nightmare for Jack Wilshere, as he slipped at the moment of truth in our area, allowing Wolves to nearly score until Bacary Sagna came flying in to block at the last moment. It was to be a bit of a theme as the half wore on.
Five minutes in, Arsenal had their first chance of the second half, Cesc Fabregas finding himself alone fifteen yards from goal only to slam a shot low and wide of the right post. He was understandably disgusted with his effort, it being precisely the type of error that has proven costly in tight matches recently for Arsenal. And it nearly was, seven minutes later.
Kevin Doyle received a pass in the corner of the penalty area and curled a beautiful shot towards the opposite top corner that looked to be dipping under the bar until Fabianski's left hand did just enough to push it over. It was a difficult save and added a bit more confidence to the Pole's game. The resultant corner, though, was headed goalwards until Tomas Rosicky cleared it off the line, again demonstrating the value of having a man on the post in those situations.
Twenty minutes in, Andrei Arshavin did his normal Arshavin thing, picking up the ball on the left, dribbling twenty yards at pace, cutting inside, and in the blink of an eye hitting a low shot that cannoned off the far post and away, Marcus Hahnemann well beaten. Arsenal were trying to choke the life out of the match and find a second, and Wenger brought on Denilson in the 67th minute to replace Jack Wilshere.
The Brazilian's strength lies in his ability to read play and make safe passes out of pressure, and he was immediately set to work doing just that. For the rest of the match, he resisted Wolves' pressing and got the ball to safety, completing ten out of ten passes, almost all of which went sideways or backwards. A lot of supporters don't see the point of Denilson, and he is a player with many faults, to be sure. But he does a job, and if he's not asked to do something outside of his scope (e.g. sprint 50 yards after a winger), he can be tremendously useful.
Arsenal cut out a lot of the slop after that, but Wolves still were knocking at the door. Ten minutes from time, Arsenal were stupidly unlucky not to be 2-0 up, Squillaci whiffing on a shot from three yards out after a corner and Johan Djourou following up with a tame shot that was blocked, two true center half efforts if ever there were. As the 90th minute approached, Fabregas was shown a yellow card for a late high tackle. A red would have been harsh and unfair, as Karl Henry had escaped punishment of any kind earlier in the match after almost chopping Andrei Arshavin in half.
Wolves marched right down after that, Kevin Doyle cutting inside and lashing a wicked shot just wide of the post. Four minutes of stoppage time on the clock, and things were tense. Wolves' final chance came a minute from time, a ferocious left-footed shot coming in from outside the box that Fabianski was equal to, getting low in flash, stretching, and bringing the ball from 50 to 0 with no rebound. He stood up, flung the ball out, and two passes later, Chamakh was through on goal and slotted home over the onrushing Hahnemann.
As OptaJoe on twitter pointed out, it was 92 minutes and change between goals by the same player in one match, the most ever in a Premier League match. Arsenal took all three points. Twitterer Orbinho noted that Arsenal have now taken 11 points away this year, the most of any team, which is very encouraging, if not a bit odd.
Next up, Everton.