Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Arsenal: Match Report

Once again, I did not actually see the match - my corporate masters saw to that. So, as with the Newcastle match, I will have to speak in generalities as to what this means for our season overall - albeit this time with the benefit of long-form highlights from 101 Great Goals.

I may have mentioned in this space my belief that Marouane Chamakh was one of the most important off-seasons signings that anyone made this summer. There were certainly more high-profile ones, and perhaps some of the fanfare was lost as everyone and their mother knew that the Moroccan was joining us when his contract expired. Still, the added dimension he gives our attack - read as: a direct option FINALLY - has been an invaluable weapon on several occasions this season. The bottom line is that most of our opponents haven't tactically adjusted to this yet, and the big man is getting his share of open headers (that isn't to discount the wonderful stuff he's done with his feet and through his graft and energy as well...but the aerial presence has been sorely lacking in the recent past).

With that said, it's not surprising that Chamakh opened the scoring...but the goal coming just 37 seconds into the contest does raise one's eyebrows. All too often, Arsenal mosey around in midfield for the opening exchanges, only coming into the game once the other side shows some resistance (or, even worse, takes the lead on their first shot). This time, the Arsenal rearguard repelled a Wolves attack and Tommy Rosicky found Alex Song's drifting run to the outside. It's unusual for Song to be there, but there is no cause for complaint this time - his gorgeous cross was timed perfectly to Chamakh's run, and his header left Marcus Hahnemann in Wolverhampton's goal with no chance whatsoever. Cue a sort of quiet bedlam in my cubicle (following Eurosport's MBM as the Guardian couldn't be bothered this time), as I never expected us to take the lead so soon.

Unfortunately, an old bugbear resurfaced during the rest of the half - presented with a myriad of chances to kill off the game in its crib, our attackers spurned every one of them. This could have been calamitous, as Wolves eventually recovered from the shock of conceding so early and got themselves back into the contest. Halftime came and went, with Arsenal maintaining just the one-goal lead.

Whatever inertia was gained from the early goal seemed to have dissipated with the end of the first half, as Wolves came out for the second half with desperate urgency. Coming off the heartbreak of giving Manchester United everything they could handle only to come away with zero points, it was obvious that they saw an opportunity to cash in on Arsenal's recent stuttering form in all competitions. It got to the point where I couldn't concentrate on my work at all - all I could do was cringe as the MBM described in excruciating detail the siege on Lukasz Fabianski's net.

That man, though, was for the second time this season the Man of the Match for me. One vital moment in the first half was his timely lunge to his left to prevent an open header at his back post. His timing, mobility and decision-making (Newcastle aside) is getting better. His reflexes have always been there. All he needs is consistency - I'm not saying he's Iker Casillas, but he's quickly becoming the best option that we have available at the moment. But, besides all of these factors I've listed, there's one even more important one for a goalkeeper: confidence. Know when that seems to have come back for our Lukasz? Right here:

Up 3-1 against Partizan Belgrade to start our Champions' League campaign, he saved a penalty from Cleo to maintain the lead. All told, it wasn't that vital of a save in the grand scheme of things...chances are, Arsenal would have comfortably won the game anyway. But, you have to see it through the eyes of a keeper. Even at my own humble level, I can tell you all about it. There are stretches where you drop clangers left, right and center...and believe me, you start to wonder where your next save is coming from. I can only describe it as a gnawing, sinking feeling that hangs right in the middle of your gut. You second-guess yourself on every shot, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You worry so much about fucking up that it takes away your focus and CAUSES you to make mistakes you wouldn't normally make. It's like being on a deserted island with no lifeboat...no way back. Then, it happens - the opposing team is marauding down the pitch, and despite the voice in your mind that plagues you during these times (oh no, here we go again!), the shot comes, and conscious thought leaves you. Legs spring into action, your body goes airborne, a hand flashes out...and tips it around the post or over the crossbar.

Holy FUCK, I know how to play this game! I'm good! Really!

In waves, it comes back. Seriously, it's a fucking rush. Adrenaline courses, flushing away that awful feeling in your guts. KING KONG AIN'T GOT SHIT ON ME!

Goddamn, that feeling is wonderful.

Anyway, my point is that even though it seemed normal at the time (Manuel Almunia has saved tons of penalties and never quite got over the confidence hump - it's different for every goalkeeper and every situation), this is obviously happening with Fabianski. His save right at the end - mirroring the Man City save in which he got down in a hurry and saved a wicked shot without leaving a rebound - kept it 1-0 long enough for Chamakh to break loose and score the second in alone on Hahnemann.

Suck on that, McCarthy.

Anyway, this clearly was three priceless points for the Gunners on a day where the Manchester sides canceled each other out, and Chelsea kept rolling with a win against Fulham. We remain 5 points behind Chelsea, but are now just 1 behind United. This was exactly the kind of gut-it-out performance that I think we all needed to see in the post-mortem of the Newcastle debacle. We needed to see these guys win ugly on a day where they did not have their best match, when Cesc Fabregas was invisible and the back four were makeshift at best.

The only downside was that a tackle by Fabregas (which was not included in the highlight package I happened to see) was used as more ammunition for the "Same old Arsenal, always cheating" fucktards. It really is too much to bear, sometimes. Conveniently, nobody seemed to take note of Violent Psychopath Karl Henry doing his thing once again:

Well, OK...this isn't it per se, but imagine this with Henry's studs on Arshavin's ankle...the ball nowhere in sight. But hey, he's not that kind of player, right? Just a brave, stout English yeoman defender playing honest football. A man's game, and all that.

Cunts. Utter, utter cunts.

We won't let that dim our happiness on the day, though. Big, big result in an increasingly-tightening Premier League. More of the same on Sunday against Everton, hopefully. The good news for that one is Marouane Fellaini got himself sent off yesterday, so there will be that much less bite in their midfield. Still, I'll leave it to Brett to handle the official preview on that one.