First of all, apologies for the lack of Wolves Preview this week. I blame Easter for an extra day which meant extra things to do which in turn meant me coming even busier than had I not had the extra day. In some parts of your mind, you can somehow understand how having an extra day can actually make you busier than if you didn’t. We’ve all been there.
Now onto the game, and wow, what a crazy game of football it was. The midweek adventures against Barcelona didn’t half take it out of the team, with Gallas, Cesc and Arshavin all missing (we’ll see if and when they come back) and Clichy, Diaby and Nasri benched due to Clichy’s recurrence (ever so slightly) of his back injury and of course the natural rest needed for two players who have been working very hard. Rumour has it that Diaby was carrying an injury and we all know he had a late fitness test for the game against Barcelona midweek. A little rotation saw Niklas Bendtner (who has pretty much started every since he’s been back from injury) replaced by a “fit and ready” Eduardo.
The line up – therefore – was:
Sagna – Campbell – Vermaelen – Silvestre
Song – Denilson
Walcott – Rosicky – Eboue
The game started relatively well and we showed attacking intent from the off. An early chance falling to Theo who’s shot was somewhat wayward. Eboue starting on the left of midfield, and in all honesty, it wasn’t his best position. He is very right footed and it showed, as he veered inwards a lot often leaving Silvestre alone at left back. Eboue was good when he came on against Barce, but today he was having one of those games. I really think he should stick to right back rather than left midfield, but I don’t mean to have a go, he did well considering his positional change.
Theo was our main threat and Sagna and him linked up well, often exposing the Wolves defence, whom were quite unable to deal with his pace. He had a few questionable moments, but again, on the whole he did a decent job. It was a symptom of the game, that everyone seemed a little bit off their game. Rosicky often overplayed and his lack of game time showed – and Eduardo, having not seen much pitch time either struggled to get a foothold in the game and missed a few golden chances.
It was starting to be a game of missed chances, or should I say fluffed chances – despite some decent build up – our strikes on goal were wayward or straight at their goalkeeper. A funny moment saw Campbell make a crazy run forward only to chicken out of continuing as he nearly lost the ball at the opposition end, but then defending the possession and eventually with some help, winning the ball back. The second half continued in the same vein, with our backup players short of match practice, and it showed. Arsene eventually brought on Nasri, Bendtner and Vela and we stepped up the intensity.
With minutes to go, it really didn’t look like it was going to be our day – Wolves had been reduced to 10 men after a horrible challenge on Rosicky – lucky not to be injured – and the away team was doing the standard two banks of four with Doyle leading the line. Credit has to be given to Wolves for their overall performance, but they did employ a lot of time wasting tactics and dirty fouls, some which were not even given – and sitting in the crowd, the opposition style did get under my skin.
But we kept on plugging away and with our last but one chance of the game, pretty much every one of our team within 25 yards of their goal saw Theo lay the ball off to Sagna and he floated in a great cross, which Nikki B dispatched with aplomb – 4 minutes into stoppage time, it was 1 -0… Relief around the stadium and celebrations like we had just won the Champions League… all in all it meant the three points were ours and the faint hope of the title was still floating around.
We had time to carve out one more counter attack, which saw about 4 of our team against our of their defenders – in true to game form, we fluffed it, made the wrong decisions and wrong passes. In a way, we got away with this performance, but more dedication, focus and desire is needed for the next 5 league games if we are to win them all and potentially life the title.
Arsene singled out Bendtner for his match winning substitute appearance saying:
It keeps us in the title race, yes. First it was important to forget Barcelona for 24 hours and focus on today’s game, and that was not easy. But we did it well – I think we had a good focus. We were a bit jaded physically but we kept going and we were serious, we didn’t make a mistake at the back. In the end we got a deserved victory against a resilient Wolves team who had a great goalkeeper. At the end of the day we kept it late as with many times but overall we deserved to win the game. Bendtner is a player who can take critics. He responds well to it and has that strength. I believe he is improving, which is not unusual for a young player at 22. There is still room for improvement, but he is becoming more of a team player and is working hard. It is all positive.
In news across the channel, Barcelona suffered an injury pre-game this weekend and it looks like he is out for a while with a calf injury – whether or not it is a smokescreen from Barcelona is yet to be known, but the news is that it’s a genuine injury. His replaced – Bojan, did score two yesterday, so it’s not like it’s the biggest blow in the world when you have someone to come in like that – but then again, I have to hope that we’ve got a better defence than Athletico Bilbao…
Til tomorrow troopers.