Premier League – Arsenal go second with Wolves win
Arsenal brushed aside the challenge of Wolves to move second in the Premier League with a 4-1 win at Molineux.
Defensive duo Ronald Zubar and Jody Craddock contributed to the hosts’ downfall with two first-half own-goals before Cesc Fabregas and Andrei Arshavin struck either side of the break to seal all three points.
Craddock made slight amends for his earlier own-goal with a late consolation for the hosts, but it was far too little too late as Wolves ended the day in the bottom three.
Victory for Arsenal saw Arsene Wenger’s side move above Manchester United on goal difference and to within two points of league leaders Chelsea, who welcome the champions to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Heading into the game the Gunners had scored 32 goals in their opening 10 matches – a record for any club at this stage of the season and most in the top flight in 31 years – while playing some of the most exciting football in the country, if not Europe.
But it was far from vintage Arsenal for large parts of the game, particularly early on when Wolves made it difficult for the visitors and actually enjoyed the better of play.
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake headed wide of the mark in the 10th minute before Christophe Berra wasted a glorious chance to put the hosts ahead seven minutes later, the defender making a real hash of his header from close range.
Yet despite that early pressure, Arsenal still managed to go in at the break three goals to the good.
That they did was due to a couple of costly defensive errors from Wolves that visibly left their manager Mick McCarthy fuming, plus one moment of magic that was far more representative of the Gunners’ recent form.
Some terribly slack marking on a corner saw the deadlock broken on 28 minutes when the ball ricocheted over the line off Zubar’s thigh under pressure from Eduardo Da Silva.
Eduardo was again involved in the second goal, eight minutes later; it was the Croatian’s attempted chip that was diverted over Wayne Hennessey and into the back of the net by Craddock after Wolves had been left terribly exposed by a quick Arsenal break.
In contrast to his subdued reaction following the opener, Eduardo celebrated this time, but his effort appeared to be going wide before Craddock’s intervention and he is unlikely to be able to add another notch on his boot.
But there was no doubt about the scorer of Arsenal’s third, as Fabregas coolly finished off a swift passing move involving Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie in time added on at the end of the first half.
There were other glimpses during the opening period of the Arsenal who have set the Premier League alight this season, namely when Aaron Ramsey nearly finished off a glorious passing move with a header that was saved by Hennessey, but moments of real quality were rare.
And after the break, at 3-0 up and with all three points effectively in the bag, there was little need for Wenger’s side to overly exert themselves further, although they had little difficulty in dominating proceedings.
Without ever hitting top gear, a fourth goal duly arrived, Arshavin latching onto Hennessey’s punch clear from a corner with a first-time strike from the edge of the box that found the bottom corner.
More goals could have followed, but Hennessey foiled Eduardo soon after the fourth went in and Fabregas uncharacteristically blazed over the bar from Van Persie’s cut-back nine minutes later.
With the points in the bag, Arsenal were on cruise control and the one blot on an otherwise immaculate copybook came in the final minute, when Craddock broke free of his marker to thump a header into the right corner of the net.
Mike Hytner / Eurosport