Arsenal 1 Wolves 0
The Birmingham match report last week was entitled 'It's not over till it's over'. Good to see that Arsenal are taking heed of this blog. Because with 60 seconds to play, we were going to be five points behind Chelsea (nominally six because of goal difference) and the fat lady was warming up her voice in the tunnel. The title challenge was all but over.
But this Arsenal side has a never say die attitude. Arguably, Bendtner's goal merely reclaimed for us the two points we so cruelly dropped last week at St Andrews but that's football.
Although Arsenal started brightly, after the first 20 minutes the game petered out with fewer chances for both teams. Well none for Wolves but that's another matter. It's often been said that Wenger picks Eboué over Sagna for this sort of game because Bacary offers far less going forward. But this was arguably Sagna's finest attacking performance, further highlighting the shortcomings in Theo Walcott's performance. Twice, he appeared in excellent positions in the box and was unlucky not to add to the solitary goal he has scored for the club.
But having seen Walcott - and bizarrely Silvestre - be wayward with their crossing it was Bacary Sagna who delivered the inch-perfect cross which allowed Bendtner to power a header home and secure the three points. And it was exactly what Arsenal deserved. What's more, it added to our astonishing home record this season: it reads Played 31, Won 27. By any measure that's an impressive statistic.
My father commented that if we struggled to beat Wolves, we didn't have a cat in hell's chance of winning the League. But this misses the point: the Arsenal team was missing seven of those who started in mid-week and that team was already missing arguably our best player, Robin Van Persie. It was mission accomplished today in a big way: we took three points, rested several players ahead of the bigger game in mid-week and did not pick up any injuries.
It's also disingenuous to say the sending off changed the game. The reality is, we didn't suddenly exert a far greater degree of control over the game after Henry got sent off. In fact, Wolves seemed to be galvanized by their perceived injustice of the sending off. It truly is clutching at straws to suggest that if Henry had been on the pitch Bendtner would not have scored that winning goal.
But more than this, it misses the crucial point. It was a red card. It was a bad, bad challenge. The media perception that a challenge has to cause an injury to be worthy of a straight red card is what perpetuates the culture which makes Ryan Shawcross think it okay to make tackles such as that which did for Aaron Ramsey. Henry went through Rosicky from the back with his studs showing. The tape that Rosicky had put on his leg showed just what a close call it was. It would be no bad thing if players stopped making tackles like that. Being discouraged from them by the prospect of a red card would clean the game up and reward technical ability which is right.
The reality is, that it will still be a struggle to win the League. Arsenal are in the odd position of wanting Sp*rs to beat Chelsea despite it boosting their Champions League chances. If that happens, we can take it to the final day and then it could all be up for grabs. But with six games to play, we need Chelsea to drop points twice, United to drop points once, and us to win all of our matches. It's a tall order. But if today has shown anything, it is that this team has astonishing resilience. So it truly is never say never: the fat lady might have to wait another year or two.
Keep the faith,