Arsenal continued their impressive march towards an automatic European Champions League spot with a comprehensive victory over a beleaguered Wolves side as they strengthened their grip on third place and sealed a superb Easter period for the club. The win now leaves the Gunners in pole position to claim 3rd spot this season and creates an increasingly widening gap between themselves and fellow challengers Tottenham, Newcastle and Chelsea.
Wenger made three changes to the starting eleven following Sunday’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City as Ramsey earned a recall at the expense of Rosicky while Djourou replaced the suspended Koscielny and Santos was drafted in to replace the injured Gibbs. Arsenal began the game very strongly as they started where they left off against Man City and had the game all but sown up before it had barely started. After seven minutes Walcott was sent through on goal following a neat pass by Van Persie before being taken down inside the penalty area by on-loan Spurs defender Sebastian Bassong who instantly received his marching orders by referee Neil Swarbrick and led to Arsenal being awarded only their 3rd Premier League spot kick of the season. Van Persie made no mistake as he superbly tucked in the penalty with a cheeky chip down the centre of the goal past Wolves ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey to end his four game goal drought. Things got even better just two minutes later after a classy exchange of passes between Van Persie and Walcott led to the England international being sent through on goal again and this time he managed to slip the ball past Hennessey to double the advantage for the visitors.
It was a dream start for the Gunners and allowed them to dictate much of the play as the hosts were left visibly down and wounded. However despite this, perhaps due to fatigue from Sunday’s match, Arsenal chose to ease the pressure for the rest of the half and only produced a couple of half chances from Benayoun and Santos. The game did eventually become scrappy as Wolves’ frustrations boiled over as they became involved in some crunching tackles, with Kevin Doyle in particular receiving a booking. The hosts did also manage to provide a moment of danger for Arsenal in the first half as Christophe Berra powered a deflected header narrowly wide following a corner.
Arsenal re-gained the momentum at the start of the second half as they aimed to put the game to bed and could have added a third after 50 minutes through Ramsey but he all too predictably miscued his shot from close range. The Welsh international was again in the thick of the action shortly after as he fed a through ball to Arteta who burst into the penalty area and found Van Persie in the middle only for the Dutchman to uncharacteristically smash the ball high over the bar. The visitors were then almost made to pay for these misses after Szczesny was called upon to acrobatically dive down to his right to produce a fantastic save from a close range Kevin Doyle header after the Arsenal defence struggled to clear their lines. It was a truly magnificent piece of goalkeeping from the young Pole. That proved to be a pivotal moment in the game as Arsenal immediately added a third goal in the 68th minute after Song connected on to a forward pass from Van Persie inside the penalty area and cut the ball back towards the edge of the box to Benayoun who coolly planted the ball past the hapless Hennessey into the bottom corner of the net. That proved to be game, set and match.
Arsenal plundered their way throughout the rest of the match without any real conviction as they became happy to allow the clock to tick by as they came nearer to securing their eighth victory in nine league games. With the game already in the bag, Wenger brought on Oxlade-Chamerlain in place of Walcott while Carl Jenkinson was introduced in place of Sagna. There was still time however for Ramsey to produce a close range save from Hennessey after connecting on to a Van Persie pass, while Szczesny once again produced another fine save from a Nenad Milijas strike in stoppage time.
Once again this was a highly satisfying result for Arsenal. The team did well to ensure that there was no repeat of the recent slip-up against QPR at Loftus Road and rode their way towards another important victory comfortably enough. Special praise needs to be given to Van Persie for finding his goal scoring boots again as he equalled Ian Wright’s record of securing his name on the score sheet against seventeen different clubs out of nineteen in the Premiership. It was also encouraging to see Wojciech Szczesny, who despite experiencing a quiet night on the whole, manage to maintain a high level of focus throughout and was outstanding when called into action. Overall it was a great all round team performance which helped secure 27 points out of a possible 30 and ensured that third place is very much in their own destiny. Next up is another vital game at home to a rejuvenated Wigan Athletic side. Once again a professional and clinical performance will need to be shown in order to secure another priceless victory.