Solid Gunners go easy on Wolves

Robin van Persie scored both goals at the Emirates, the first an

athletic volleyed effort, and having surrendered a four-goal lead

at St James’ Park, the Gunners never looked like losing their way

this time. Relegation candidates Wolves, meanwhile, may just be

happy not to have conceded more after the hosts somehow failed to

add to their tally despite numerous chances. Having been deployed

in the anchor role for England in midweek, Jack Wilshere almost

immediately set about showing his attacking credentials. One nice

touch set up an early Arsenal break and then, with three minutes

gone, he left Jamie O’Hara for dead as he surged toward the Wolves

box. Christophe Berra tripped him just outside the area to set up a

promising free-kick for van Persie, but he shot well over. The

Dutchman’s radar was even further off moments later when he screwed

Alex Song’s pass well wide from 20 yards. With 16 minutes gone,

Arsenal scored the opener, Cesc Fabregas floating a cross in from

the right channel and van Persie executing a wonderful volley from

a horizontal position. Andrey Arshavin should have made it 2-0 four

minutes later but fluffed his shot after Wayne Hennessey misread a

van Persie corner. Wolves seemed most troublesome from corners,

Berra and Ronald Zubar both winning headers but failing to test

Wojciech Szczesny in the Arsenal goal. The visitors seemed

increasingly nervy though, Hennessey suffering from a lack of

communication with his defenders and Wilshere coasting into the box

uncontested. Wolves somehow avoided going further behind twice in

the space of seconds as Arsenal exerted more pressure. Wilshere

freed Arshavin with a glorious long pass before the Russian left

Zubar on his backside as he pivoted and cut across to van Persie.

His shot was saved brilliantly by Hennessey only for the loose ball

to reach Fabregas, whose low drive ricocheted off the retreating

Richard Stearman on the line. An offside flag, as well as a modest

finish, denied Arshavin after fine work by Walcott and despite

being just one behind, Wolves looked shellshocked. Referee Chris

Foy turned down a penalty appeal from Arshavin and Hennessey saved

well from van Persie at his near post seconds before the interval

to leave Wolves, improbably, still in the game. Wilshere continued

to show his class as the second period started, easing past a

handful of Wolves players in the penalty area and laying the ball

off to the supporting Walcott for what looked a certain goal.

Walcott contrived to send his shot wide and looked almost as

shocked as his team-mates not be celebrating a second. Hennessey

was playing his part too, saving smartly with his foot after Nenad

Milijas looked as if he might turn Walcott’s cross over his own

line. By now the game was being played almost exclusively in

Wolves’ final third, with Arshavin and Walcott causing endless

problems on the wings. Finally, with 56 minutes on the clock, van

Persie made it 2-0. Fabregas was the creator with a

perfectly-weighted pass from the deep leaving Walcott and van

Persie with a two on one against Berra. The England winger did his

job, rolling the ball to his team-mate who slotted home his 10th

league goal of the season. The chances continued, first Fabregas

and then van Persie going close. Walcott had more energy than even

the Wolves substitutes and drew a foul from replacement striker

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake after 72 minutes. With Barcelona awaiting on

Wednesday, Arsene Wenger used the break in play to withdraw

Arshavin and van Persie, with the superb Wilshere following soon

after. Arsenal’s tempo slowed from then and they had a hairy moment

off an 82nd-minute corner when Szczesny was forced to palm a

looping ball over the bar. Walcott probably deserved a goal and was

unlucky to see a late effort smothered by the brave Hennessey

following a neat one-two with Marouane Chamakh.