A ricocheted deflection off the Wolves player who typified their approach, Hunt, at Ashburton Grove today gave Wolves a scarcely deserved point and denied Arsenal the chance to rise to fourth.
On a deceptively cold December afternoon all eyes were on The Arsenal to take advantage of the Siberian oligarch’s team’s concession of two points to the Michael Jackson Velodrome all-stars team on Monday.
Few teams have arrived at London N5 and offered so little going forward and also played such a defensive formation, generally resembling a 6-2-2.
The only Wolves player interested in attacking was Jarvis, of the flat footed, wobbly running style. Surprises in the Arsenal line up were the replacement of Ramsey with Benayoun and the absence of Walcott from the squad.
There seemed to plenty of opportunity to go through the middle of the Wolves back line and there were early chances created by the Israeli, Benayoun who was given a debut start in the Premier League, with the first of his many probing runs being curtailed by being barged off the ball by a lumpen Wolves defender – the tactic for the day was for all headers to be contested with a leading elbow as Robin and Mertesacker can attest to, with Zubar and Johnson showing a penchant for the sharpened elbows raised tactic. Being in the North Bank today meant I heard a rendition of Per’s song for the first time:
“We’ve got a big fu***ng German,
We’ve got a big fu***ng German
“We’ve got a biiiig fu***ng Geeeer-man!”
An inspired through ball from Benayoun was trapped by Gervinho who swiveled and shot after rounding Hennessey, who was to star for good and bad reasons later.
After the goal the script was for another goal to come floating Robin’s way to continue his steady march to Alan Shearer’s calendar year goal record – wrong.
A rare sortie up field by the Wolves pair of non-defenders led to a deflection off Hunt after a cross in from what looked to me an offside position. Being located by the corner flag where the North bank meets the West Stand the Wolves player who put the cross in appeared to me to be a good yard or two closer to Chesney’s goal than our back four.
Half of block four, North Bank lower tier, rose to shout offside well before the deflection. The replay of the “goal” was not shown from the view of a line across that I had, however to the naked eye and in real time it appeared off side.
The black and gold dummies that populated the south eastern corner of the stadium suddenly woke up and began celebrating their scrappy, messy, undeserved equaliser.
After this it was entirely predictable that McCarthy’s men would resort to time wasting and shows of dissent to the referee; Hunt expending most of his energy on jibber jabbering away in the referee’s ear at every Arsenal free kick to distract him from encroachment by Wolves players.
Every tackle from an Arsenal player was the cue for face clutching or floor rolling, akin to those spats seen by children having tantrums at being refused their way in supermarket aisles the world over.
The second half saw a continuation of the ill-tempered, “gamesmanship” tactics of standing on the ball at free kicks to slow Arsenal’s attacking momentum and haranguing the officials at every opportunity, not just the players but McCarthy and his assistant routinely arguing with the linos for every call that didn’t go their way.
The first action of the second half saw Zubar slide in with a cynical, late challenge on Gervinho in front of me but some justice was done as he injured himself and had to go off later – but not after holding up play with a few more bouts of rolling around on the grass to curtail Arsenal attacks with the aid of referee Atwell, who repeatedly fell for this “rope a dope” trick, hook line and sinker. You know the referee is on a wind up when he holds up play for treatment to an opposition player when the player is not even on the pitch.
Not wanting to be outdone by Zubar in this form of cheating Hunt also fell, in the style of a downed cowboy from a Sam Peckinpah movie, in the Wolves penalty area during a spell of pressure when there was corner after corner for Arsenal.
Hennessey kicked the ball out of play when Hunt was felled by the invisible sniper in the Upper Tier and the looks of indignation when Arsenal, rightly, didn’t return the ball to Wolves were a picture of hypocrisy and self-righteous outrage.
It’s clear Wolves were not demonstrating the Corinthian spirit of sport in any way today and none of their team enhanced their sporting reputations although we did witness yet another visiting goalie have the game of his life as per-freaking usual; however he was rightly booked for timewasting so in that respect he kept in with the team ethic of the day.
Referee Atwell didn’t help himself by allowing numerous displays of dissent from the Wolves and, as we can guess, when a ref lets the opposition bully him around the first sign of dissent from an Arsenal player and a yellow is flashed; Vermaelen for the standard “first offence Arsenal yellow” we have come to know so well.
Similarly when Atwell lost control of the game, Wolves changed their mind about who was to be substituted and Hunt hadn’t even gotten off the pitch and his replacement was on and the throw in ordered to be taken, Wenger’s waved his arms in frustration so Atwell made a big show of going over to him to tell him off. Pity he didn’t do that when McCarthy and his assistant were routinely abusing the lino for giving throw ins to Arsenal even from balls bouncing straight off Wolves defenders and out of play.
Wenger threw on more attackers, Arshavin and Chamakh after he replaced the tiring Israeli skipper with Ramsey with Arshavin looking skill full and tracking back to snuff out any rare counter attack from McCarthy’s rag tag mob – he still has the ability to worry any defence and with an upturn in form/effort he can be a vital squad member.
Chamakh’s only contribution seemed to be banging heads with Robin and causing a sharp intake of breath all around the stadium at the sight of Robin prone on the floor; it’s hard to know how to solve a problem like Chamakh.
As we approach the half way stage of the season Arsenal will need maximum effort and luck with injuries from hereon in.
Keep the faith everyone.