x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

No headaches for Wenger as Arsenal cruise past Wolves

After last Saturday's heart-stopping drama against Newcastle and ahead of the Champions League clash with Barcelona, it was a steady day in office.

Robin van Persie scores his first goal of the game in the 2-0 victory against the Wolves with a right-foot volley after 16 minutes.
Robin van Persie scores his first goal of the game in the 2-0 victory against the Wolves with a right-foot volley after 16 minutes.

LONDON // Watching Arsenal can never be described as dull. They play far too much attractive football to warrant that accusation.

But after last Saturday's heart-stopping drama at St James' Park, when they surrendered a four-goal lead to draw with Newcastle United, Arsene Wenger, their manager, would have settled for a routine victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday, one that did not affect the Frenchman's blood pressure too much.

Especially ahead of Wednesday's highly anticipated Champions League second-round first leg clash at home to Barcelona, the champions of Spain.

That is exactly what the Frenchman got: a comfortable 2-0 win with no drama, seemingly achieved without a bead of sweat being spilt. Indeed, it felt like a training match towards the end of the game.

Wenger agreed that it was the ideal preparation for the match against a Barcelona side on top of their game.

The Catalans, the 2009 European champions, had won 16 successive league games ahead of last night's trip to Sporting Gijon and in Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, boast the three best players in the world, according to the Ballon d'Or awards.

"Yes, you could say it was a good rehearsal for us. We defended very well and attacked well, too," Wenger said. "The only regret was that we didn't score more goals given the chances we created but, like many keepers who come to the Emirates [Stadium], theirs had an inspired game.

"After what happened at Newcastle it was the perfect way to respond. It keeps us right up there in the table and shows why we can carry on a challenge for the title.

"And from a psychological point of view this was the perfect preparation for the Barcelona game. We go into that as underdogs because they are the best team in the world.

"But providing we don't show them too much respect, as we did last season when they knocked us out, I feel we can do it."

From beginning to end Arsenal were in cruise control and their victory left a Wolves side - who just a week ago had ended Manchester United's long, unbeaten record - bottom of the Premier League table.

The visitors' manager, Mick McCarthy, was brutally frank: "There was a murder out there … and we were the recipients.

"I have no complaints. None at all. They were better than us in every aspect. We did the best we could but couldn't get near to them. If it wasn't for some great saves by our keeper Wayne Hennessey then it could have been six or seven. Easily."

Arsenal eased into the lead in the 17th minute when Robin van Persie showed that his right leg is not just for standing on as he met a defence-splitting Cesc Fabregas pass with a crisp volley with his supposedly weaker foot. At times, Fabregas and Jack Wilshere toyed with Wolves; their passing range and control seemed to put them on a different intellectual plane. Theo Walcott was in dashing form, too.

They all played their part in a stunning second goal in the 56th minute when a sublime one-touch counter-attack ended up with Van Persie rolling home a simple shot from a Walcott pass, although the Wolves defenders were right to feel aggrieved, with Van Persie clearly offside in the build up before coming active.

After that, all Arsenal had to make sure of doing was not losing their focus. They did not.

 

sports@thenational.ae