Arsenal 1 Wolves 1: Wayne Hennessey Puts Up a Goalkeeping Clinic
Arsenal had the chance to continue its good form with a win against Wolves that would have propelled Arsene Wenger’s men into the top four for only the second time this season. The Gunners had won seven of their last eight games at home and they come up against opponents that had not scored an away goal in Arsenal’s home ground since the inception of the Premier League.
Wenger made four changes to the squad that won Aston Villa in the midweek fixtures. Johan Djourou was deemed fit enough to replace Francis Coquelin at right back. Alex Song returned from his one-match suspension while Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun came in Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott’s stead.
Wolves had a quick break when Steven Ward’s through pass went beyond Johan Djourou leaving Matt Jarvis the threat of Per Mertesacker to shove off but the big German made a decent block to break up play.
Jarvis tried to launch another move from the left hand side but a swift counter attack by the home side was enough to create the game’s opener. Rosicky did very well to hold up the ball upfield beofre teeing up Benayoun that sliced in a magnificent through ball for Gervinho.The Ivorian shimmed past Wayne Hennessey in goal before slotting the ball home.
All eyes were on Robin van Persie as the forward was just two goals shy of breaking Alan Shearer’s Premier League record for most goals scored in a year that currently stands at 36. Gervinho and van Persie linked up well in attack but the Dutchman had a quick lash at the ball when he had enough time to take an extra touch or two.
Van Persie worked hard to win the ball off Karl Henry in defense before fashioning a chance for Rosicky. As expected, the goal-shy Rosicky sent a pass to Mikel Arteta that blasted his effort off a Wolves defender. Rosicky was in a better position to shoot but when you’re a player that has scored only one goal in 2011, what would you expect?
Rosicky created another chance for van Persie that was manhandled by a Wolves defender but Arsenal’s captain still tried his best to send a shot in that was saved by Hennessey in his near post. Van Persie was laying siege to the Wolves defense and was fouled right on the edge of the 18-yard box but Arteta’s excuse for a free kick was very tame to say the least.
Out of nothing, Wolves won a fictitious corner kick off Per Mertesacker. Jarvis swung the ball in but it was cleared out of the box before the ball arrived at Stephen Hunt’s feet. The Irish winger fired a shot goalwards and the ball ricocheted off Laurent Koscielny’s body but Steven Fletcher was on hand to score a real poacher’s effort with his head.
At the start of the second half, Arsenal continued to barrage the Wolves defense and Koscielny fired a shot that went off a defender’s arm. The Emirates erupted with shouts for a penalty but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Rosicky used the outside of his boot to swing the ball and Mertesacker rose the highest to head the ball goalwards but the goalie was equal to the challenge.
Andrey Arshavin came in for Benayoun while Aaron Ramsey replaced Alex Song that was in danger of losing his discipline after picking up a yellow card for a rash challenge on Fletcher and Hunt. Arsenal’s chances of getting the match winning goal were bolstered when Nenad Milijas picked up a straight red for a lounge on Arteta.
Ramsey flicked the ball to van Persie who was onside but his shot couldn’t go past the impressive Hennessey in goal. Arshavin attempted a neat one-two with van Persie but his left-footed effort just missed by a lick of paint.
The onslaught on the Wolves goal continued but Wayne Hennessey was in inspired form. Van Persie had a free kick that was destined for the net but the Wolves goalie stepped up again to pull another save from the top drawer. Ramsey sent another through ball to van Persie that drilled an effort to Hennessey’s near post but the goalie’s legs stopped the ball.
Marouane Chamakh came on for Djourou and his major involvement in the game was to clash heads with his captain following a corner kick from Arteta. Van Persie was concussed while Chamakh had to leave the pitch to dress the wound he sustained following the clash.
The 4th official raised his board and Arsenal had only six more minutes to get that goal that was needed to move them to the top four and Hennessey stepped up again when Thomas Vermaelen was unmarked inside the box to make another impressive block.
At the sound of the whistle, the Wolves players celebrated with their hero in goal whose one-man show kept Arsenal at bay. In this corresponding fixture last season in November, it was the Arsenal players that created with Lukasz Fabianski as he put up his best ever performance in an Arsenal shirt that night.
Szczesny (6.5) was faced with only one attempt on goal and it went past him.
Djourou (7.0) was solid in defense and ventured forward a few times.
Vermaelen (7.0) put up a good performance and was unlucky not to score Arsenal’s winning goal.
Koscielny (7.0) was rock-solid in defense.
Mertesacker (7.0) almost scored his first Arsenal goal with a header but the goalie came to Wolves’ rescue.
Song (6.5) did okay in midfield and was lucky not to see red.
Arteta (7.0) worked hard in midfield and swung many dead balls in.
Rosicky (6.5) showed some spark in his play but lacked that cutting edge.
Benayoun (6.5) gave an assist but was a bit disappointing in my opinion.
Gervinho (7.5) used his trickery to score Arsenal’s goal.
Van Persie (7.5) gave his all to score but the goalie was more than a match for him.
Arshavin (7.0) showed good movement and was unlucky not to score.
Ramsey (7.5) sent in a lot of through balls that cut the defense like hot knife through butter.
Chamakh didn’t play long enough to get a rating.
In one of the most mysterious weekends were points were dropped faster than Usain Bolt’s 100m record for Jamaica, Arsenal had the chance on a platter to get a win that would have been enough to add to Andre Villas-Boa Constrictor’s woes but Arsene Wenger’s men picked the right game to be plofligate.