The squad Arsène Wenger has built are not often regarded as the Arsenal of old, but the manner in which they picked off poor old Wolves here was straight out of the counter-attacking book written by Herbert Chapman, with chapters added by Bertie Mee and George Graham.
Under the cosh for almost half an hour, they emerged with scarcely a bruise and responded with three goals before half-time. Even if the home side contributed to their own predicament with a couple of defensive howlers, it was just their luck that each should result in an own goal.
Cleaner efforts by Cesc Fabregas and Andrey Arshavin made it 36 goals in 11 League games and by winning what was effectively a game in hand, Arsenal moved above Manchester United into second place, having not looked back since suffering successive defeats in Manchester early in the season. They are only two points behind Chelsea, whose visit to the Emirates three weeks today suddenly looks as significant as their home game with Manchester United this afternoon.
Wenger has repeatedly said they can win the League for the first time in six years, though there were few prepared to believe him after the defeats at Old Trafford and Eastlands. The odds have shortened since then, and bookmakers are offering only 7-1 against them reaching 100 goals. They have been shared around, with Fabregas now ahead of Robin van Persie, and Arshavin chipping in too. That trio were excellent again, though no more so than the 18-year-old Aaron Ramsey, starting at this level for only the second time.
"If they scored first it would have been much more difficult but overall we could have scored many more," said Wenger. "Last year we were out of the [League] race early. Now we are in a strong position but let's keep our humility."
As for Wolves, as short of goals as Arsenal are full of them, they had sunk into the bottom three even before the game, and face a fight to avoid instant relegation again. It is a harsh world in the Premier League, as newly promoted clubs tend to discover, and they found that two defensive mistakes cost them goals after making all the early chances. Even worse, Arsenal at last produced some quality to add a third before half-time.
Mick McCarthy felt his side could get at the visitors and three times in the opening 20 minutes they did just that. Kevin Doyle, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Christophe Berra all connected with headers from precise set-pieces delivered by Nenad Milijas but none was on target.
Arsenal took an unusually long time to find their rhythm and had it disrupted further by an injury to Abou Diaby, who was replaced by Alex Song. Yet their first threatening attack, in the 29th minute, brought the lead. Fabregas took a corner that confused the goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, who prodded the ball feebly with one hand at his right-back Ronald Zubar and saw it bounce back into the net.
There was a second own goal only six minutes later. Wolves were badly caught when pressing forward and had only Jody Craddock back to defend as Ramsey and Eduardo da Silva broke. Eduardo still seemed to have wasted the chance with his chip but it struck the retreating defender and looped high past Hennessey.
Just before half-time Arsenal finally put together a move of the highest quality in which Fabregas set Bacary Sagna away, then continued his run to meet the pass that Van Persie cushioned back for him. Hennessey again had no chance.
The fourth goal also began with an error, by Zubar, leading to a corner that Hennessey only pushed out to Arshavin for a perfectly controlled shot. With two minutes left Craddock rewarded the loyal home fans by heading in a left-wing corner.
Referee: Steve Bennett
Man of match: Fabregas
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content