Post Match View – Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.

On 86, frustration and gravity pulled my head down against the bar. I wanted to bang it repeatedly but that would have hurt. I wanted to curse at the screen but that would have been most disruptive to the other patrons. When Nik Bendtner headed in a precise Bacary Sagna cross on 94, I leapt from my chair like a frog placed on a hot tin roof and screamed his name with joy.

What patrons?

A superb ball from Nasri had given Theo a chance to redeem himself on 93 but he fluffed it. It was an embarrassing miss. It was the type of miss that forces managers to avoid eye or any kind of contact with a player. Fitting though, it can be said, for Theo has put in a performance that typifies him. Much like our keeper, we’ve seen fine moments flanked by moments ranging from mediocrity to sheer folly, leaving us in fits of raging disgust.

Witness the keeper gitfting possession on 89 with a kick into touch when there was absolutely no pressure on him. We’ve seen his superb shot-stopping abilities before in heroic measure but we’ve also seen him undermine the dogged efforts of his teammates with sloppiness that just makes one shake his head. No period in their Arsenal careers have been better examples of the range of emotion that Theo and the keeper can stir in us than the past two weeks.

I imagined Gooners pulling their hair out while Marcus Hahnemann lived up to the reputation of American goalkeepers. They could be as underrated as Martin O’Neill and Aston Villa are overrated. Like England international Joe Hart last week, he has kept his team in the game. Shot after shot after cross after cross were stopped, snatched, or pawed away. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to have confidence in a keeper wearing the right shirt.

Among the more frustrating moments were some efforts that had nothing to do with Hahnemann though. Sure, Wolves played with practically their entire team behind the ball after Karl Henry was sent off but we were wasteful with our chances more times than a champion should be. And when we (Theo) weren’t crossing too close to the Wolves keeper or just to nobody at all, we were failing to make the most of our man advantage.

On 88 Denilson tried from distance but it went wide. On 87 Theo crossed only for Hahnemann to get his large frame to it first. As if the tension from knowing that only three points would do wasn’t enough, we managed to let Matthew Jarvis win a corner which resulted in a goal line clearance by Tomas Rosicky. Replays showed that the ball would probably have gone out for a goal kick but just. And why are we allowing ten man Wolves to win corners?

We were not guilty of not shooting though. And as the match announcer kept repeating, Hahnemann’s performance was proof positive that he deserves a new contract. A good Rosicky effort was saved on 76 and Bendtner had a header stopped on 73.

The barman (a Pool supporter, I think) said that he feels Samir Nasri has been our most improved player this season. He certainly has stepped up but not quite to the level required for that accolade. I say the man he replaced on 72 gets that honor – Alex Song.

Just before Nasri’s introduction, Hahnemann was at it again, saving point blank from Rosicky on 67. Match winner Bendtner was swapped in for Eboue on 64. Sandwiched between was the controversial point of the match. Recipient of Steven Gerrard’s V-sign, referee Andre Mariner saw Karl Henry’s foul on Tomas Rosicky in minute 65 fit for a straight red. There may have been no malicious intent but it was a clear foul from behind. The red marks that the Wolves captain’s studs left on Rosicky’s leg didn’t help matters. I felt no sympathy at all for Henry – not that I would anyway. He escaped unscathed after stamping those same studs on Theo’s calf earlier in the match. And it’s not as if he brought much more to the game than a sly push or a tug of the shirt. He certainly didn’t bring anything that sent me home thinking we’d better sign him before Bayern, Inter, or United get their filthy hands on him.

My pick for Most Improved Player did not shine as he usually does. In fact, his laziness in getting back and equally so in tackling/fouling on 61 led to a free kick. I did see him feel his groin on 48. I wonder if we’ll hear tomorrow that he too has gone down with an injury. Thankfully all free kick routines engineered by the Wolves captain were wasted in this match. Thankfully there was no harm done on 60 when Sol was positioned to clear a low cross. Thankfully so because our keeper was beaten.

By the time another good Rosicky effort was saved on 59, we’d built a gap in possession that read Arsenal 76% Wolves 24%. Regrettably, ball possession sans end product only counts for embarrassment. Were we watching our season come to a screeching halt at the hands of Coward McCarthy’s “hard-working, fatigued, great bunch of guys?” Had the Barcelona match drained us of anything remotely close to a performance befitting title contenders?

It must be said that early on, Theo was electric and as busy as a bee in early April. However, when there came moments when there needed to be less directness and more thought, he let us down again and again. It must also be said that Eduardo looks nothing like a big time striker any more. I’m afraid he has lost that special something he had when he joined us. His miss on 54 showed that best.

Mikael Silvestre did not disappoint. He was solid enough and even had a couple chances. He needed to be far more alert though on 50 when a good Theo cross was wasted. Had he managed to score, it would have been the best way to start the Second Half after wasting so many chances in a First Half that ended 0-0.

It really should have been 3 or 4-0.

The half ended with Eboue fluffing what could have been a breakaway three minutes into injury time. Ten minutes prior Sol had made sure that Karl Henry knew how he felt about him standing on Theo’s calf. It’s good to see us stand up to that kind of challenge. I don’t like dirty players. I have loads of time for someone who calls a cunt a cunt when the cunt has shown why he is a cunt with such a cunt-like gesture.

If Sol’s reaction after Bendtner’s winner shows how much he wants this team to do well then his effort on 32 magnified that desire. His pressure on the Wolves defence forced them into conceding possession deep in their own half. That kind of influence goes a long way in me forgiving the walkout. I won’t lie, there’s still some lingering effects from that West Ham match but if he helps us win a trophy, I’ll forgive him completely.

Many of us were excited by Theo’s performance midweek. We couldn’t have hoped for a better sequel than what we were witnessing in the first 20 minutes against Wolves. George Elokobi was no deterrent for his pace and movement. It looked like the Theo we want to see ALL the time. Pity that his wonderful first act was ultimately followed by a denouement that proved anti-climactic. Signs were there as early as the 30th minute when he was utterly wasteful, crossing to nobody. While on 23 he’d volleyed sweetly from distance with his left foot.

On 13, 12, and 6 he’d produced some dazzling stuff to set up Sagna and Eduardo. There were moments in this match when Mr. Capello must have been drooling. There were also moments when he was wondering if he’ll be England manager long enough to see a more polished and consistent Theo Walcott.

Credit due to Michael Mancienne. He’s worked hard and done the little things that mean so much but often get little recognition. Kudos to Marcus Hanhemann. He was very good. Joe Hart was very good last week too.

We can afford a good goalkeeper. We have the cash. That’s all I’ll say on that topic for now.

In closing I must say that this season, win a trophy or not, will be the making of this group. What they’ve lacked in consistency they’ve shown in character, heart, and will. As I said Wednesday, those things may not win us a trophy but they are not just nice to have qualities, they are MUST HAVES, just like a trophy.

Keep the Faith

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