Arsenal went into yesterday's home game with Wolves knowing that a win would put them into the top four for the first time this season. Wolves had lost their last six away games, and were sitting just one place above the relegation zone. Both Chelsea and Liverpool had dropped points at home to lowly opposition the previous day, and it opened the way for Arsenal to take advantage.
The team showed a few changes from the 2-1 win over Aston Villa. First of all Johan Djourou returned from injury to play at right back in place of Francis Coquelin, and Alex Song returned from suspension to replace Emmanuel Frimpong. Both Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun were included in the team too, as Aaron Ramsey was rested and Theo Walcott was ill. The lack of width was obvious yet again, as all four full backs were out injured.
Wolves started quite well, but Arsenal took the lead on the break after only eight minutes. Rosicky did well to break quickly forward, and he played a good pass to Benayoun who played Gervinho in on the keeper. For once Gervinho kept his head when faced with a one-on-one, and he worked the space to finish well.
Arsenal needed to build on that lead, but another goal didn't come quickly and there was a lull in the team's performance as half time approached. It's a problem that the team suffered from all too often last season, but they seemed to have eliminated it this season. Wolves took advantage and Steven Fletcher managed to score with a header after the ball fell to him six yards out.
I wasn't particularly happy with some of the defending that led to the goal, and neither Rosicky or Song covered themselves in glory. Rosicky was beaten all too easily on the edge of the box by Stephen Hunt, and Song played Fletcher onside as he strolled out. The lapses in concentration were worrying, and I'm sure Arsene Wenger will let them know before the next game against QPR on Saturday.
Arsenal came out looking for another goal in the second half, but they found Wayne Hennessey in inspired form in the Wolves goal. He made excellent saves from Robin van Persie, Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen as well as plenty of other saves too. Whenever Arsenal drop points at home to supposedly lesser teams it seems that their keepers are the man of the match.
The result felt even worse last night when Spurs won away to Norwich to open up a five point gap on Arsenal with a game in hand too. There's still a long way to go, but Arsenal cannot afford to drop points at home to teams when they have 17 attempts on target in a game. They need to keep the pressure on the teams above them, and that will be done by winning games that they dominate.
Wenger brought Ramsey, Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh on as the game progressed, but the goal the team needed just wouldn't come. It was a frustrating game for Arsenal players and fans alike, but it will be quickly forgotten if QPR can be dispatched on Saturday.
Wolves were reduced to ten men with 15 minutes left when Nenad Milijas was given a straight red card for a crude challenge on Mikael Arteta. He over-ran the ball and slid in as he chased it, with his leading foot connecting with Arteta. I'm not sure that there was any real intent in it, but he could have badly hurt Arteta. Wolves packed their defence as much as possible, and they were delighted with the result at the final whistle.
RVP will need a hat trick in that game against QPR to break the record he has come so close to, but in the greater scheme of things the record means nothing. The most important thing is for Arsenal to beat QPR and it doesn't matter who scores the goals.
Arsenal are struggling to score goals at home at the moment, and they need to start putting teams to the sword. They managed to beat Everton 1-0, but drew 1-1 at home to both Fulham and Wolves in games that really should have been won. They need to find their goalscoring touch at home very soon before it costs them too much.
That's it for today.
Here's the highlights from yesterday's game.
See You Tomorrow.