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Arsenal 1 - 1 Wolves, match report: pile of waste


1 - 0 Gervinho 7'
1 - 1 Stephen Fletcher 37'

Wolverhampton held Arsenal today for a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in a match which Arsenal dominated on paper but couldn't find a way to score a winner due to lack of clinical finishing or ideas about how to open up a staunch Wolves defense. With the draw, Arsenal drop two precious points, failing to leap ahead of Chelsea, who drew yesterday, into fourth.

Arsenal had the better of the opening five minutes, winning a corner that ultimately came to nothing and probing the Wolves defense. Wolverhampton didn't get an attack until five minutes in, when Matt Jarvis' shot was blocked by Per Mertesacker.

Jarvis did well again on the byline three minutes later, but his low pass was blocked up in the air, and the counter that came was clinical. Tomas Rosicky sprinted upfield, and once meeting resistance from Christophe Berra, turned around and passed inside for Yossi Benayoun. The Israeli took one touch and slotted a wonderful through ball in for the onside Gervinho, who took two touches to elude the onrushing Wayne Hennessey and buried his shot from 12. 1-0 to the Arsenal, and cue the Romulan invasion.

The match slowed again after the goal, Arsenal and Wolves both taking turns passing the ball about 25 times each. Thomas Vermaelen burst through on the left 15 minutes in, but his shot was blocked. Gervinho escaped down the right and played through Robin van Persie, but the latter's sliding effort skipped wide of the far post, possibly trying to seek out Benayoun arriving late. Wolves were looking for an equalizer pretty actively, though, Ronald Zubar picking out Jarvis and then again trying to find Stephen Fletcher, only for Mertesacker to clear for a corner. Arsenal countered from that only for Benayoun to slip as he shaped to shoot.

Arsenal continued to have long spells of possession, Gervinho and van Persie combining well on the end of Benayoun/Rosicky/Song/Arteta passing moves, but Wolves were defending well in the last moment. They also were looking pretty hungry on the counter when they could get one going, their physical pressing and aggression putting Arsenal's back four under pressure. 25 minutes in, that pressing led to a good chance, Zubar going down in the area. No call came, but the ball fell to Stephen Hunt, who rifled his shot well over the bar from 18.

van Persie robbed Karl Henry on 29 minutes and fed Rosicky, who should have shot, but instead laid it off for Arteta, whose shot was blocked by the desperately retreating Wolves defense. A minute later, van Persie escaped from the challenge of Roger Johnson, but Hennessey was able to parry his low shot away. A minute later, van Persie escaped once again, and Roger Johnson came sliding in from the right as Robin broke into the area and clipped him. Arsenal won the free kick just on the D as Johnson saw yellow. Mikel Arteta and van Persie both stood over the free, Arteta took, a weak sort of curler looking for the top corner than Hennessey claimed easily.

Wolves continued to look most dangerous coming down the left through Jarvis, and they did again 37 minutes in, but Johan Djourou was up to the challenge. Wolves kept coming, though, and won a corner. It was cleared partly, but only as far as Hunt, whose shot deflected wickedly onto Fletcher's head, and he poked his reaction header home at the far post. 1-1, against the run of play.

As halftime arrived, Arsenal looked to break, but too often slowed play down, allowing Wolves to get numbers back, and a couple of chances went begging as Rosicky elected to pass rather than shoot, and van Persie tried to cut onto his right and chip a shot/cross over Hennessey's head from close range. The half arrived with the score level at one apiece.

Arsenal began the second half with Benayoun tiptoeing his way through the Wolves' area, only for his pass to find an offside Gervinho. Ronald Zubar's right knee was continuing to give him problems, so Richard Stearman came on in his place on 50 minutes. Arsenal bossed possession for the next five minutes, but Wolves stacked up their defense stoutly in their box, and no openings were forthcoming. A suspected handball in the box got Vermaelen's blood up enough that he earned a yellow for dissent, even though he was probably right. Either way, when the ball hit his shoulder four minutes later, it was handball. So.

Milijas shot well over from 25 62 minutes in, as Wolves had their first chance of the half. Andrei Arshavin looked set to come on for the Gunners. Indeed he did, for Benayoun, a minute later. He tried to play an intricate 1-2-3 with Rosicky, but Wolves crowded them out. Gervinho won a free kick from 22 yards which van Persie really hammered at Hennessey after asking referee Atwell to get out of his way. The resultant corner ended up on Mertesacker's head, Hennessey saving well before van Persie's rebound was deflected out for another corner. Arsenal continued to press.

Song earned a yellow for a weird-looking challenge on Fletcher on 68 minutes as Arsenal continued to work for their second. Things were getting choppy, Vermaelen and Johnson having a disagreement. Aaron Ramsey came on for Song, and Rosicky missed a shot from 18 yards after Wolves gifted Arsenal the chance. Arsenal continued to really push for a second, and as Milijas lunged in on Arteta on the edge of the area, he got a second yellow, and a red. Stuart Atwell had a melee on his hands, and with Wolves down to ten men, Arsenal really had a chance to go up with 15 minutes left in regulation. Arteta stood to take his free kick from 25, which deflected off the wall for a corner. which fell to Ramsey to take on the volley. That deflected over for a corner. That one resulted in nothing, and Arsenal won another corner which saw Vermaelen topple over.

It was getting out of hand.

Arshavin clipped the outside of the far post with a hilarious half-volley on 80 minutes. It was all Arsenal now, the score still 1-1. Arsenal had about three chances in two minutes, the last of which saw Hennessey make a wonderful save from a low hard van Persie shot, the ball sticking to him like a magnet.

Marouane Chamakh entered the game in place of Djourou as Arsenal really put on the attack. Stephen Hunt came off for Kevin Doyle for Wolves. Arsenal's 12th corner saw van Persie and Chamakh clash heads. On 89 minutes, Rosicky picked out van Persie over the top, but the latter couldn't bring the ball under control. Arsenal came on again, Vermaelen running through onto a ball, Hennessey saving wonderfully again. Wolves were just barely hanging on now. Six added minutes, Rosicky dribbled too far, and the ball ran out for a goal kick.

Hennessey was booked for time-wasting as his goal kick took forever to emerge. Arsenal came on again, the clock edging onto 92 minutes. Arsenal were uselessly crossing now, the least effective tactic against an exhausted, packed defense. A free kick from the right came in, and was cleared. It was Arsenal's last real chance, as Atwell brought the match to a close right on 96 minutes, Arsenal failing to make their dominance count yet again and failing to capitalize on their nearest rivals' dropped points, yet again.

The full-time stats from Orbinho on twitter tell the story of frustration:

FT Stats Arsenal v Wolves Shots 26-6 On target 11-1 Passing Accuracy 89%-71% Fouls 5-12 Duels Won 64%-36% Possession 73%-27%

Doesn't equal goals, though.