Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Arsenal, Molineux, Premier League
Kickoff – 19:45 GMT (00:15 IST), 11th April 2012
Hello Gooners. It has been a good week, this. Watching Manchester City falter in their title race is quite pleasing. Even though I am sickened by the fact that it is going to be Manchester United again to win the Premier League, just the sight of Samir Nasri kicking his heels, is worth it.
Much has been spoken of Manchester City’s loss, but very little about Arsenal’s performance that evening. I think we were simply brilliant. Why we don’t do it, week in and week out, completely outfoxes me. We saw this kind of pressing game, and players giving it their all in the Sp*rs game, as well, which was a tremendous result, and has probably turned around our season, for good. We now lie, a good 2 points ahead of our rivals, who like Manchester City, have faltered at the most crucial of times, as they succumbed to a 2-1 home loss to Norwich City, who one can agree, were stupendous. Chelsea, too, were held back in their traps, by a late Clint Dempsey goal at Fulham, a player who incidentally is being linked with a move to Arsenal. Newcastle, on the other hand seem to be getting better and better. After winning 2-0 in Swansea, they repeated the feat again at home against Bolton.
Getting back to Manchester City, rather than Manchester United’s good form and experience in such crucial stages, it can all be attributed the man-management, or the lack of it at Manchester City. Far too often, we have heard stories of Manchester City players this season. First, there was Edin Dzeko going out in the media, and criticizing Mancini for not giving the Bosnian enough game time. When he did get game time, against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, he played poorly and reacted angrily when being subbed. And in the same game, happened the Carlos Tevez saga, who according to Mancini, refused to warm up. We all know how it ended. Tevez jetted off to Argentina without informing his employers, and returned months later, in no condition to play in the first team. We move on to, of course, the enigmatic Mario Balotelli, who just can’t stay away from the headlines. From his firecracker story, to him interrupting a media meet at Inter Milan, to throwing a dart at a youth team player, to his bust ups with teammates Micah Richards and Yaya Toure, he has just taken away the spotlight. Add to that, his on field bust up’s with Aleksandr Kolarov and captain Vincent Kompany, and his red cards this season, have just added up to City not being good enough to be champions.
Anyways, that’s their problem. Our participation in next year’s Champions League is still far from confirmation, though we have a great chance to go 5 points clear of 4th place, if we beat bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers today. Arsenal are without Laurent Koscielny, whose yellow card against Manchester City means he will miss the games against Wolves and Wigan on Monday. In comes, brother of calamity, Johan Djourou. Left back Kieran Gibbs faces a late assessment, though I have a hunch, Arsene Wenger will play Andre Santos at left-back anyway. In midfield, the question still remains if Yossi Benayoun has done enough to hold on to his place in the starting lineup, or whether Aaron Ramsey gets another chance.
Wolves, have been poor this season. Their inability to defend has seen them concede 70 goals, joint highest with fellow relegation candidates Blackburn Rovers, who lost 3-2 to Liverpool last night. Injuries and suspensions along the way haven’t helped either. The sacking of Mick McCarthy was shambolic, and while Terry Connor is trying his best to save Wolves from relegation, it is a near impossible task now. Wolves lie 6 points behind 19th place Wigan, with just 6 games left in the season. They require nothing short of a miracle.
Earlier in the week, Jamie O’Hara was ruled out for the rest of the season, and he joins Stephen Hunt and Jody Craddock. Apart from that, Wolves have no injury concerns. With an extra day of rest, Wolves’ fans will expect their players to give it all. Last time these two teams met, Wolves escaped Emirates with a 1-1 draw, in which Wayne Hennessey pulled off a horde of fantastic saves. Arsenal will look to Robin van Persie to shrug off his mini drought, and bang in some goals for fun. It is not going to be so easy, however. Last time we played a relegation battling team away from home, was as recent as QPR, when we lost 2-1. On a positive note, Wolves haven’t beaten the Gunners since 1978. That’s nearly 34 years now.
Wolves are heavily short on resources in midfield. With key players O’Hara and Hunt out, and Arsenal loanee Frimpong too injured, they rely on a makeshift midfield of Karl Henry, Michael Kightly and Matt Jarvis. Options on the bench include the obviously talented, but inconsistent Serbian Nenad Milijas, and also Kevin Doyle, but apart from that Wolves have a weak bench. At the back, Sebastian Bassong and Roger Johnson look formidable, but are prone to errors far too often.
I expect Arsene Wenger to stick with Yossi Benayoun as he gives the team something extra in midfield, in comparison to Aaron Ramsey. Pressing will be the key again, and Arsenal simply cannot afford to take their opponents lightly tonight.
Enjoy the game, wherever you are!
Jai Arsenal 🙂