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Brighton & Hove Albion
West Ham United
11 April 2012
• Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, West Midlands
Referee: N. Swarbrick
• Attendance: 25815
R. van Persie 9'
T. Walcott 11'
Y. Benayoun 69'
Well folks, that brings an end to our LIVE! play by play coverage of the Wolves-Arsenal game. It was a routine day at the office for Arsene Wenger's boys and they dominated the game for long periods, failing to make the most of their fluid play. Wolves battled well and showed a measure of quality further forward at times, but they were undone by that early dismissal of Sebastien Bassong, and it was always going to be an uphill struggle from there. It was an open, entertaining encounter that promised a whole lot more than it delivered. And with that, I bid you farewell, thank you for joining us, and stick around on site for some post-match reaction from both teams on display this evening. James McMans, over and out.
Wolves remain rooted to the bottom of the table, six points adrift of 19th placed Blackburn, but they will be comforted by their second half display in particular. They won't have marked this as a game in which they were ever likely to pick up any points, but the attitude they showed towards the end could stand them in good stead as they continue their battle against the drop.
Neil Swarbrick brings the game to a close and Arsenal move five points clear of neighbours Tottenham in third. The result was all but assured inside the first ten minutes, when Walcott won a penalty that Van Persie converted, with Bassong seeing red for a clumsy challenge. From then on, it simply became a matter of how many they'd chalk up. Walcott added another straight after the second, and Benayoun wrapped things up in the second half with a crisp strike from the edge of the box. Wolves gave a good account of themselves despite the numercial disadvantage for the majority of the match and were it not for a couple of decent-looking saves by Szczesny, they could have got themselves back into the match. Arsenal were sloppy for long periods of the match, merely treating it as a training exercise it appeared at times, but they were good value for the win and you always suspected that they could change up a gear if they needed to.
Szczesny pulls off another smart stop in the final minute of injury time at his near post. Matt Jarvis sees a shot deflected from the edge of the area with the Arsenal defence on the back foot, it works its way to Milijas on the edge of the box, who drills an effort that the Arsenal goalkeeper turns round for a corner.
A promising Jarvis run sees his cross deflected behind off Vermaelen. It's been a very spirited second half display from the hosts.
Arsenal over-complicate things again inside the box. First Alex Song takes his run too far and then Arteta plays a silly backheel to Van Persie instead of squaring it inside.
Steven Flecther goes close to opening the Wolves account for the evening. Kightly drifts off the right at pace and plays in Milijas on the edge of the box, who sensibly elects to play it to his left to Flecther, who arrows a left foot strike just wide the far post.
Wolves are firmly camped in their own half now. They're absolutely knackered by the looks of things. Arsenal have really turned on the style this past twenty minutes or so.
The more I see that penalty, the more I think Ramsey's honest reaction to just getting on with the game hindered him getting the decision. It was right in the middle of the box and the referee had a clear view. Baffling.
Well that's just a penalty. Ramsey bursts into the box, and Nenad Milijas clips his ankles and the Welshman goes down, before getting straight back up. That was as clear as day. Perhaps the referee feels a little bit sorry for Wolves, that's the only explanation I've got for not giving that.
Ramsey just has to score there. Van Persie drags the ball around Stearman close to the touchline and cuts it back to Ramsey just four yards out, but his drive is well blocked by Hennessey.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is just so direct and it's so refreshing to watch. He beats Ward again, but Wolves have nine men back in the box and cut the ball out before aimlessly hacking it away and long to an isolated Fletcher. It's going to come straight back.
Arsenal are well on top now and Wolves are beginning to look very tired, which after playing over 70 minutes with just ten men, is entirely understandable.
Arteta spreads the play beautifully with a cross-field pass that would have made Xavi blush, to Oxlade-Chamberlain. The young winger runs at a clearly frightened Stephen Ward and knocks a decent ball in from the right, but it misses both Van Persie and the onrushing Benayoun.
Oxlade-Chamberlain bursts down the right and pops it back to Ramsey, whose cross in finds Van Persie who gets a header on goal, but it lacks any sort of power and Hennessey easily collects.
The Wolves crowd are booing Walcott as he comes off. For some reason they appear to think that he went down a little easily for the penalty that Bassong gave away. He didn't at all. It was a stonewall penalty. Odd behaviour from the home support.
Arsenal break at pace but they can't make enough of their numbers further forward and Ramsey sees his neat flick turned behind for a corner. Walcott went down under some heavy contact from Berra there, but got straight back to his feet to his credit, and he wasn't looking for another penalty.
A Wolves attack up the other end looks as if it has petered out into nothing until Andre Santos cushions a quite frankly rubbish header straight to Kevin Doyle, he jigs one way then they other before seeing his left-footed strike from the edge of the area blocked by Vermaelen. I'm just putting this out there, Andre Santos is Arsenal's worst player. By far.
They nearly make it four as the game begins to open up. They perhaps over-work this and Van Persie can't get enough on Songs pass to finish, with Hennessey mopping up with Benayoun in close attention.
Assist Alex Song
Goal Yossi Benayoun
GOAL!!!!! Yossi Benayoun makes it three. Nenad Milijas gets caught on the ball by Robin van Persie, who feeds in Song to the right of the area, and his cut back pass on the edge to Benayoun, sees the Israeli rifle in a shot into the bottom left-hand corner. There will be questions raised about Hennessey's footwork there, it looked as if he tried to second-guess where Benayoun was going to put it by shifting over to the right of the goal as if Benayoun were to bend it, as a result, he was left rooted to the spot motionless.
Arsenal playing keep ball now and my God do they do it well when they're on form.
This second half has certainly been played with much more purpose and intent by both sides. Arsene Wenger will obviously want that crucial third goal, while Terry Connor appears to have livened up his charges notably.
The non-league Ryan Giggs, Michael Kightly has another run at the Arsenal back four, showing a nice turn of pace, and as he works a yard of space, his left foot shot lacks power and precision as it goes harmlessly wide.
Kightly is getting some change out of Santos this half. The Brazilian looks a seriously ropey defender.
At the other end, though, Arsenal look threatening every single time that they pour forward, with Benayoun seeing a cute reverse pass just cut out by Stearman with Van Persie lurking.
Wolves have shown a lot of heart this second half and the tempo has just cranked up a notch. Great spell by the home side.
What a save by Szczesny. Wolves work the ball intricately just around the edge of the box after a series of crosses, and Jarvis delivers a peach of a ball at the far post with Santos well out of position, and Doyle's header across goal from all of six yards out, is tipped wide with the Pole diving the other way. Outstanding stop.
After Kightly gives away a free-kick near the halfway line, Arsenal take it quickly, but Van Persie's square ball in the area is just behind an unmarked Benayoun.
Yellow Card Michael Kightly
After being urged to push up by Pat Rice and move the ball quicker, Arsenal appear to be doing just that now.
Up the other end, Jarvis turns Sagna inside-out as he breaks into the box, and as he shifts it onto his favoured right foot, he takes a pop-shot at goal from a ridiculous angle and it never really threatens Szczesny's near-hand post.
Yellow Card Ronald Zubar
Ramsey feeds Arteta in as the Spaniard bursts into the box on the right hand side, before cutting back to Van Persie with the goal gaping, but the striker slips a touch before scooping over. Close but no cigar.
Wolves survive after Karl Henry knocks behind a decent ball in from Ramsey under pressure from Vermaelen. What was the Belgian centre half doing all the way up there?
Wolves showing a bit more craft this second half, as Kightly beats Santos on the inside before seeing his cross drift out of play.
Song plays the ball into Van Persie's feet, and his first-time pass puts Ramsey in one-on-one, but the Welshman's lack of confidence in front of goal is there for all to see as he takes one touch to many, seeing his shot blocked, and then as he tries to cut the ball across goal to Benayoun, Wolves hack it clear. Wastes chance, that.
Henry puts pressure on Benayoun and wins the ball, finding Doyle who drives at goal and plays in Zubar to his right, but the right back drags his shot and it doesn't even go out for a throw-in. Arsenal looking very sloppy now after Walcott wasted another pass in the build-up to that move.
Wolves win a corner after Ward dummies Walcott and hugs the line down the left, and he plays the ball down the line, with Jarvis knocking it off Sagna behind.
Arteta slots in Sagna down the right after a neat turn, but the full-backs low cross is cut out by Stearman with Benayoun ready to pounce.
Arsenal get the second half underway, and neither side have made any changes.
Arsenal, though, will have one eye on racking up their goal difference here. The three points are already in the bag and they already have a superior goal difference to Tottenham to the tune of five goals and to Chelsea by six (Newcastle are way back on 8). Tonight represents a real chance to effectively add another point to their league tally. By that very same token, for Wolves, it's all damage limitation from here.
While the Wolves players will obviously have to be held accountable for their performances of late, as they look set to extend their record to seven straight defeats, the board, Jez Moxey in particular, should think about falling on their sword if they do end up going down. Replacing Mick McCarthy was a fine idea in principle, especially if you take into account that they were targeting a manager with a record of experience in the top flight, but then turning around and just appointing McCarthy's assistant was unforgiveable. The same ideas, but minus the passion. I've commented on quite a few Wolves games this season, and I'm sorry to say, they're just getting worse by the game.
The referee brings an end to one of the most one-sided halves of football that you are ever likely to witness. Theo Walcott has been the main instigator, first winning the penalty that saw Bassong sent off, which Robin van Persie subsequently coolly dispatched, and then latching onto a through ball from the Dutchman to make it two in quick succession. Since then, they've barely got out of second gear and have cruised, passing the ball around without ever really threatening. Wolves, though, are full of effort, as they always are, but they've barely created a chance of note.
Ronald Zubar motors away down the right after a good one-two with Karl Henry, and his ball in is a good one, but just ahead of Kevin Doyle. Arsenal go up the other end and it should be three, but Walcott elects to shoot from a narrow angle instead of playing it inside to the better placed Van Persie, but the winger blazes high, wide and not so handsome instead.
Karl Henry intercepts a crucial pass in the middle of a congested midfield with the Arsenal carousel in full flow. The guilty party? Yep, you guessed it, Aaron Ramsey. Again.
Doyle, already on a yellow card, picks up another foul chasing down a lost cause down the right. He's got to be careful now, the referee won't let him get away with too many more of those.
Matt Jarvis nicks the ball and is away down the left, motoring through the gears and beating Sagna for pace, but he lacks support and has to play it back to Doyle, who dallies on it, before it's worked out to Ward, who is caught offside. A waste.
Yellow Card Kevin Doyle
Kevin Doyle picks up a needless booking for a meaty looking challenge on Arteta. He got the ball to be fair, but the man also. Wolves beginning to show some signs of frustration now, as you might expect.
Bacary Sagna is the latest one to deliver a woeful cross from down the right after some nice interplay between Walcott, Van Persie and Arteta. Arsenal probably have the worst right-hand side in the league in terms of crossing delivery, but still, that odd one from Sagna is an absolute belter, as he showed against Liverpool. Consistency is the key.
Robin van Persie has the ball down the left and his cross in looks a good one as Hennessey seriously has to stretch to get it, but they simply haven't got anyone forward into the box. Strange considering how on top they've been.
Wolves are working awfully hard off the ball, and to be fair to them, they look a fit looking bunch, but they're still not getting anywhere near the ball as Arsenal make use of the numerical advantage.
Wolves get their foot on the ball for the first time in the match, it's all non-threatening, sideways stuff, but it brings ironic 'ole!' cheers from the home support after every completed pass.
There's the old Theo Walcott that we all know and hate. Arsenal move the ball around neatly and it's played out to Walcott on the right, who heaves in a horrible looking cross that drifts straight out of play down the left-hand side of the pitch. That final delivery of his, is for the most part, still shocking.
To be honest, this just looks like a training match already. Did the Wolves players even turn up today thinking they could get something from this match? Probably not on this evidence.
Some decent combination play down the left between Benayoun and Van Persie sees the ball played square to Santos on the edge of the box, but the full-back fluffs his lines and drags his shot well wide.
Arsenal's sweeping passing move comes to an end when Ramsey takes a terrible touch breaking into the box and knocks it straight out of play and with interest. There must have been at least 30-odd passes to that move.
Wolves could have been down to ten men here if the referee sees it. Van Persie is chasing the ball across the back and as he goes to run past Stearman, the defender drops him like a sack of spuds nowhere near the ball with a hefty push. Absolutely brainless.
Wolves go close to getting one back. Michael Kightly's pressure down the right forces a corner and from the winger's delivery, Berra goes very close at the back post, seeing his header deflect just wide off Vermaelen's back. The follow-up corner from Jarvis is easily cleared.
To put it quite simply, Wolves are out of this match already and are pretty much relegated. The players are merely out there playing for pride now, and for some, an opportunity to put themselves in the shop window for the summer.
Arsenal work the ball across midfield without even a hint of pressure on them, until the move breaks down with Alex Song guilty of playing a hopeful ball in behind to Walcott that rolls out of play.
Wolves have finally pushed up beyond their own 18-yard box courtesy of a few timely lumps up the pitch. He may be a hugely frustrating player at times, is Theo Walcott, but his pace does mean that the opposition defence have to play extremely deeply at times to negate him having any impact, which in itself, just helps invite pressure and Arsenal's own fluid passing style.
Arsenal stroking the ball around the back now with such ease. They are toying with Wolves here, almost sympathetically.
Was that another penalty? Benayoun and that man Walcott combine again, this time down the left, and it looks as if Zubar hauled Walcott down just inside the box, but it's waved away and Arsenal get on with it straight away. Santos is played in down the left and cuts the ball back to Benayoun, whose deflected snapshot goes wide. Arsenal could run up a cricket score here tonight it seems.
Assist Robin van Persie
Goal Theo Walcott
GOAL!!!!! Almost straight from kick-off, Arsenal are away again, with Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott switching roles and the Dutchman playing a delightful one-two with Walcott, and the winger breaks into the box and drills home a fierce effort at Hennessey's near post. Walcott is running riot here and Wolves are absolutely all over the shop and down to ten-men. Game over already you'd have to say.
Assist Theo Walcott
Penalty Goal Robin van Persie
GOAL!!! Robin van Persie just never looked like missing and neatly chips in a penalty with Hennessey diving underneath it as it slots into the right corner.
Red Card S. Bassong
Oh dear, not the start that Wolves had in mind. Theo Walcott drifts in off the right-hand flank again as he has done to dangerous effect already at this early stage and is fouled by Sebastien Bassong as he breaks into the area after collecting Benayoun's lofted through ball. It's a straight red for Bassong and a penalty to Arsenal.
First sign of life from Wolves, as a zipped cross in from the left by Matt Jarvis proves just a touch over-hit for Doyle to get onto at the back post.
Walcott surges down the right of the box but is crowded out by Bassong and Ward. Fancy the English winger to give Ward a torrid time tonight.
Walcott drifts off the right and beats three Wolves players with his sheer pace, but his ball to Benayoun is cut out but Ronald Zubar. Arsenal look supremely settled already. Ominous.
From the resulting corner, Van Persie knocks in a ball that comes straight back to him, but his hoiked effort back into the box is easily held by Hennessey.
Dangerous ball in from Sagna down the right, but Bassong heads behind for a corner.
And we're off.
The players are out and assembled on the pitch. Moments away now.
We are just over five minutes away from kick-off now, so just enough time to tell you where you can direct your ire for the rest of the game - tonight's referee is Neil Swarbrick.
Meanwhile, Terry Connor looks to have shifted back to a 4-5-1 formation for this evening in an obvious attempt to put a degree of pressure on the ball in midfield. He makes two changes to the side that lost to Stoke, with midfielder David Davis replacing Steven Fletcher in the side and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake dropping to the bench, with Kevin Doyle chosen to play up front by himself.
Another potential area to keep an eye on is the fact that Johann Djourou replaces Laurent Koscielny in central defence after the latter picked up a suspension after receving his 10th yellow card of the campaign.
Arsenal have made a couple of notable changes to their line-up. Aaron Ramsey has a chance to stake his claim this evening after a rotten recent run of form and comes into the side in place of Tomas Rosicky, who has enjoyed an Indian summer of sorts the second half of this season. While Andre Santos starts in place of the injured Kieran Gibbs.
This is how the away side will look. Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Vermaelen, Djourou, Santos; Song, Arteta, Ramsey; Benayoun, Walcott, Van Persie. Subs - Fabianski, Squillaci, Jenkinson, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chamakh, Park
Time to bring you the teams for tonight then. Wolves: Hennessey, Zubar, Stearman, Bassong, Ward, Kightly, Henry, Davis, Edwards, Jarvis, Doyle Subs - De Vries, Berra, Johnson, Milijas, Forde, Ebanks-Blake, Fletcher
Arsene Wenger it has to be said, deserves great credit for helping to turn around his team's season. While the personality cult built up by Wenger's loyal followers over the years of 'Arsene Knows' is quite patently ridiculous, he is still a damn fine manager. He's certainly made a mockery of that impatient, petulant bunch who called for his head on a platter earlier on in the season. *cough* Piers Morgan *cough*
A few facts to throw your way then. Wolves are currently 29 games without a clean sheet and counting, and I'd be very surprised if that horrific run ended tonight. Terry Connor's side have lost their last six games and haven't beaten Arsenal since 1979. Arsenal have won seven of their last eight league fixtures and Robin Van Persie's total goal haul of 33 this season is just one less than the entire Wolves squad combined in the Premier League this term.
Hello everyone, good evening to all of you eager beevers following this LIVE! play by play out there. My name is James McManus and I shall be walking you through the action tonight in the game between Wolves and Arsenal at the Molineux. It promises to be a big game that could have a huge impact at either end of the table. Arsenal have had a comeback of lazarus-like proportions since the turn of the year and they remain firmly in the driving seat in the race for third, while for Wolves, to put it quite simply, they cannot afford to fall back any further on the other teams around them battling to beat the drop.
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