Analysis & Ratings: Arsenal v Wolves
First of all. I’m happy to have been wrong about todays result and will never again sell Wolves short. We are fighters and I consider all ten out there the last 21 minutes of the game as nothing less than heroes.
Most of the praise must of course go to our Welsh wonder-warrior Wayne Hennessey. What a match he did! But everybody out there chipped in and worked very hard in defending our point. Of course there were some luck involved too, but luck only comes to the ones that work hard, and our players knows that.
For the #%/#:th time in a match this season Wolves let in an early goal and again it was the back line that faulted when they didn’t succeed in setting an offside trap. I believe it was Johnson who didn’t move forward fast enough, but he played some good football later on so I’m not going to lean too hard on him.
EDIT: IT WAS ZUBAR WHO FAULTED!
The goal seemed to have a cooling effect on the Arsenal game and we actually came into the game more and more after their lead. We had several half chances when the last pass was faulty, but otherwise we did hold up play pretty well and Arsenal didn’t come to that many chances, and the ones they had Hennessey took care of together with the back four. I thought it was game over, though, when Henry gave the ball away times two after half an hour or so.
It was Milijas who took the corner that resulted in the Wolves goal. Djourou could head it away, but no further than to Hunt, who was placed on the edge of the box. He took the ball down and shot it towards goal and it deflected on a player before it reached Fletcher on the right, three or four yards from the goal.
He reacted remarkably swift and aimed the header to the left of the Arsenal keeper. It was not a hard header, but very well placed, especially when considering the short amount of time Steven Fletcher had to decide what to do with it. The deflection was lucky, but nothing would have happened if not for the skills of Fletch. By that goal he is the one who has scored most goals with his head in the league so far this season.
I think one all was a fair result at half-time, but knew that Arsenal would come on to the second more resilient than ever with a look to crush us. They had a great chance to gain some points from the teams above them, and surely they wouldn’t miss that opportunity against a team that, statistically, was the worst away team in the league?
Even if Arsenal had more ball in the beginning of the second half Wolves defended well, but we were not allowed to go forward as much as in the first half. After just five minutes Zubar got injured and was replaced by Stearman. Zubar was down in agony twice before that and it was no surprise that he had to be replaced. He seem to be injury prone and sometimes reckless in the way he moves his body. At the same time that behaviour gave us an equalising goal against Norwich. I hope he is alright.
Just after the hour Hennessey made two fantastic saves to deny Arsenal a much wanted goal. The first one was a perfect free-kick by van Persie that he tipped over the cross-bar with his fingers. Not many goalkeepers would have made that save.
The other one was not as spectacular, but equally skilful. He parried a header by Mertesacker when everybody was sure that Arsenal would take the lead. Again a couple of minutes later he parried a shot by van Persie with his feet.
The gut reaction after that onslaught was that Wolves never would last the full 90 with one point intact. Fortunately we didn’t know then what was to come. Milijas was a bit careless with the ball some 20 yards from the Wolves goal line and got the ball too far from him and when he tried to save the situation with a long leg to sort of fishing in the ball again Arteta fell to the ground. Maybe it was a free and even a yellow card, but never a read one, which the referee very fast handed out. Even the Arsenal fans thought it was a harsh decision, and that says it all to me.
So it was out of the frying pan and into the fire for Wolves. How would we manage to hold out for a point for fifteen minutes and extra time? Don’t get your hopes up, this will never work out, I said in an inner dialogue with myself. The rest of the game was of course play against one goal. Fortunately we had one of the best keepers in all Britain available in that goal. On the other hand they had the best scorers in the same geographical area in their team.
And they pushed on for what seemed to be hours. Van Persie tried another free-kick that Wayne had to stretch out in all his length on and he had a couple of other going close aswell and so did Arshavin, Vermaelen and probably a couple of others. It was not only Hennessey against Arsenal, though, the team defended very well and everybody knew what to do and made no mistakes by sticking out a leg or tugging a shirt that the referee could complain on.
Six minutes of extra time made the period in which Wolves played with ten men 21 minutes long. They were heroic, all of them. A match to be remembered for sure and a point very well needed. If I know my psychology right it will be a great boost for morale too, and a benchmark for defending and goalkeeping in the future. Ratings!
Hennessey – 9 – Objectively one of the best performances I’ve seen from a keeper ever. I counted to at least ten, probably more, excellent saves. Not a foot wrong when Arsenal bombarded him. Surely his best game in a Wolves shirt ever and I doubt he has done better for Wales.
The only backdrop is that the big teams now must have their eyes set on our star. The secret is out and the three M:s got to fight to keep him at the club. He may very well have twenty good years left as a professional and a keeper is at his best when about 35. Wayne Hennessey is of course Paddytheflea’s Star Man.
Zubar – 5 – Blew hot and cold as always, but he does the unexpected when going forward and sometimes it works. Can be a bit neglective in defence, though, and does not work back fast enough after attacking. Injured in the 50th minute, something about his knee. Hopefully he will be back soon.
Stearman – 7 – Replaced Zubar and did it well. Soon found himself in hell with attack on attack from Arsenal, but he helped out very well and his head was the highest in the area a couple of times. He was also up attacking at one time, but it led to nothing, unfortunately.
Johnson – 7 – In my opinion at fault for the first goal (wrong, it was Zubar), but he bettered himself considerably, especially in the second half when he commanded the defence admirably. I still have my doubts about Johnson, though, and he got to prove to me that he is a better alternative than Craddock.
He was not without faults in this match, though, and was careless with the ball on an occasion that could have resulted in a goal in the back after ten minutes of the second half. When I look at his total performance in the game he deserves the Little Star anyway.
Ward – 7 – Together with Berra he has been the strong man in Wolves defence this season. He has managed to win over even the worst of the fans to his side by now, but the last three games he has not been as excellent as in the earlier ones. He had troubles with the pace of Gervinho, but saved us once or twice at the same time. Like the others he fought well the last 21 minutes, which renders him an extra point.
Henry – 6 – Two horrible mistakes in as many minutes could have ment game over for Wolves already in the first half. He has shown the same frailties on the ball the whole season, apart for the last two games, and before that. He has played well the last two games and I was willing to give him another chance, but he keeps disappointing me and everybody with these ‘short-circuits’. Like the others he fought well with ten men, though.
Forde – 7 – A surprise inclusion on the day to give Anthony Forde a place in the starting eleven and he did well. He had a hard time on the right with Vermaelen watching his steps, though, and didn’t get through more than once, resulting at a blocked attempt on goal. 79% correct passes is totally alright (Jarvo had 80%).
I wouldn’t say that he has proved that he can cut it at this level, but he certainly has not proved otherwise either. A good debut from start and very observant by McCarthy to start to take notice to our Academy players. There are some good young ones on Wolves own pay-roll and perhaps McCarthy should give more of them a chance. After all Hennessey came out of our own academy!
Hunt – 8 – Perhaps the best player in the first half and he assisted to the goal. Had the ball a couple of other times in the same position, but decided to play it backwards or to the side instead. Why? He was everywhere as usual and was one of the main arrangers of our attacks in the first half.
In the second half he didn’t get forward as much, of course, but he is very good at defending aswell. He is the player in Wolves who can play the O’Hara role the best so it was a good move by McCarthy to play him in the middle. Hunty gets one of the bouncy, smiley things.
Milijas – 7 – Did well in the first half with passes and on set pieces, but disappeared some already before he was red-carded. Him getting the ball to far from his body is probably a symptom that shows that he was tired and had lost some concentration. The red card was a wrong referee decision, though, as I explained above. Hopefully Wolves will win an appeal, because we need him in the team with O’Hara out injured for more than a month.
Jarvis – 7 – Not one of his best games and he had a hard time getting past Djourou. He also took some wrong decisions when attacking and his crosses were not the best. Defending, though, he was up there with the others and his speed in the box is well needed in our own on such extraordinary occasions as this was.
Fletcher – 8 – They defended very well against Fletch all game except on that one occasion. One chance is however all Fletch needs and he took the chance very well. Good strikers has something in them that’s very hard to explain. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and it was a very nice pudding, Mr Fletcher thank you very much. 😆 Steven Fletcher gets one of those bouncy smiley things, as this, after all was the big day for our defence first hand.