Wenger plays down flying start to his 'cruellest month'

Wolves 1 Arsenal 4
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The Independent Football

Many football managers would agree with T S Eliot that "April is the cruellest month", the time of year when their hopes are finally killed off. For Arsène Wenger, oddly, it is November that has in recent seasons been a wasteland of lost points and dreams. Three years ago, there were defeats at Fulham and Bolton to kill off any serious championship challenge; last year, successive losses to Aston Villa and Manchester City left them with too much to do, despite beating Chelsea on the final day of the month.

This time Chelsea are again the opposition on 29 November, but Arsenal are approaching the appointment in far better heart and form. Indeed, that suddenly looks like one of the season's key fixtures. From being in a minority in talking up his team's prospects after they sold Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Touré during the summer, Wenger has to talk them down in order to ensure that feet remain firmly on the ground.

After beginning the month with a second successive 4-1 victory to follow the 3-0 defeat of Tottenham on the last day of October, he said: "You are always cautious in football when you have a certain experience because it's a very fragile sport. Let's keep humility." His experience of 13 previous Novembers in charge of Arsenal is: "You have decisive games in the Champions League, you have the players who go on international duty, and that's the first period where the injuries kick in. Sometimes it is the fixtures. Now we have the international break and they all fly away. Let us hope they fly back in good shape."

Abou Diaby limped off in the 24th minute after Wolves had exploited what their manager Mick McCarthy had declared to be Arsenal's one possible weakness, in dealing with set-pieces, by creating three headed chances. None was taken and his own team's poor defending then led to two own goals in eight minutes, swiftly followed by a beautifully constructed goal entirely of Arsenal's own making. Cesc Fabregas finished off the move. Robin van Persie, who set him up, failed to find the net for once but Andrey Arshavin added the fourth before Jody Craddock did what the home team required much earlier on by heading in a corner.

Wolves can take some consolation from knowing that games like this one and their next, away to Chelsea, are not the ones that will determine whether they go straight back down. "We've got Birmingham after that," McCarthy said. "Let's see if we're better than the teams around us like Hull and West Ham and Portsmouth."

Wolves (4-4-2): Hennessey; Zubar, Berra, Craddock, Stearman; Edwards (Mancienne, 80), Henry, Castillo (Kightly, 65), Milijas (Jarvis,74); Doyle, Ebanks-Blake. Substitutes not used: Hahnemann (gk), Keogh, Halford, Maierhofer.

Arsenal (4-3-3): Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Fabregas, Ramsey, Diaby (Song, 24); Eduardo (Rosicky, 70), Van Persie, Arshavin (Nasri, 74). Substitutes not used: Mannone (gk), Senderos, Silvestre, Eboué.

Referee: S Bennett (Orpington).

Booked: Wolves Milijas, Ebanks-Blake; Arsenal Gallas, Gibbs, Arshavin.

Man of the match: Ramsey.

Attendance: 28,937.

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