Conceding a goal inside a minute wasn’t part of Mick’s game plan. (©PAphotos)
by Rory Hall
, read by 449 people.
The conundrum of midweek games showed itself again this week as the Premier League began the busy Christmas schedule. Wolves welcomed an Arsenal side that were still reeling from the shock home defeat to Newcastle - a result that could have worked for or against Mick McCarthy's side.
On the one hand, Newcastle had exposed some of Arsenal's weaknesses - especially in goal - and the likes of Nasri and Fabregas looked out of sorts.
On the other side of the argument, McCarthy will have been well aware that Wenger was unlikely to let his team off lightly after the Newcastle game; he would have demanded a performance and three points at Molineux. His team usually delivers.
When it came to the game itself, Wolves' game plan didn't even get off the ground; Marouane Chamakh breaking the deadlock with barely a minute on the clock. Just as Wolves must learn to finish a game properly, it seems they must also make sure they start as they did against Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
If you're 1-0 down after a minute, you're immediately concentrating on not conceding another goal, rather than going up the other end and scoring, or at least getting some kind of foothold in the game. Plus, against Arsenal, you've just given one of the best passing sides in the League he perfect start, and after that, they were very unlikely to give it away.
With that in mind, it was great to see Wolves' new-found fighting spirit on display once again. The game could have been done and dusted by the tenth minute if it hadn't been for Marcus Hahnemann. First, the American stopper made a superb stop from Andrey Arshavin after the Russian had raced clear of the Wolves defence, then he blocked a low Fabregas drive with his feet when Richard Stearman had failed to clear his lines.
Another setback for Wolves came in the eighth minute when Dave Edwards was forced to limp off with Stephen Hunt, continuing his comeback from injury, replacing him.
It took until the half hour point for Wolves to finally get a foothold in the game. Having weathered the Arsenal storm, Kevin Doyle came close to getting his first Premiership goal this season from Hunt's in-swinging free kick. The Irish striker's header had Fabianski scrambling across his goal, but it was inches too high.
The final 15 minutes before half time saw Doyle and Jarvis come close as the hots ended the half on a positive attacking note. The atmosphere in the dressing room will have been good - they were on top of things and knew they were in with a chance of grabbing a point.
The second half started almost as well for Wolves as the first had for Arsenal, Bacary Sagna making a vital block from Hunt after Jarvis had found him with an expertly executed cross. Both sides then exchanged missed opportunities, with Fabregas, Stearman, Doyle and Arshavin all coming close; but the scoreline remained unaffected.
in the last quarter of the match, Arsenal found another gear and began searching for the goal that would seal the win. Karl Henry kept his side in the hunt when he cleared a Johan Djourou effort off the line, but the captain' efforts were in vain as, in the last minute of normal time, Chamakh added to his first minute goal by slotting home Fabregas' pass.
Wolves will not be pleased with the result here - indeed, Mick McCarthy spoke after the game that he believed his side were the better side over the 90 minutes - but they still showed that belief and spirit that has appeared over the last month and that will please the manager.
You feel that Wolves deserve to be rewarded for the way they've been playing of late and that might just come in their next game when Bolton come to town at the weekend.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.