Premier League - Van Persie puts Wolves bottom
A brace from Robin van Persie gave Arsenal an easy 2-0 win at home to Wolves, keeping the Gunners four points behind leaders Manchester United and sending Mick McCarthy’s side bottom of the Premier League.
The in-form Dutchman - who now has 10 goals in his last seven league games - beat the impressive Wayne Hennessey with clinical finishes in either half of a match the Gunners dominated, thanks in part to a virtuoso performance from new England midfielder Jack Wilshere.
Arsenal’s win keeps the pressure on United, with the Gunners four points behind, while Wolves slip behind West Ham after the East London side snatched a 3-3 draw at West Brom.
While Wolves had bits and pieces of possession and occasionally threatened from set pieces, Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny was largely a spectator as his side asked all the questions.
Cesc Fabregas had the ball in the back of the net in the fourth minute but the whistle had already gone for a foul on Wilshere, and while Arsenal were frustrated by the lack of advantage they were soon ahead thanks to a wonderful finish by Van Persie.
Fabregas found the Dutchman with an excellent ball from the right side of the box and, with his back to goal and on the turn, the in-form striker spun into an acrobatic volley which he put low into the bottom right.
Andrei Arshavin missed a gilt-edged chance to make it two soon afterwards, miskicking his far-post volley wide after the otherwise excellent Hennessey flapped at a Van Persie corner.
Arsenal somehow failed to extend their lead on the half-hour when, after a super run from Arshavin, Theo Walcott was denied by an excellent stop from Hennessey and Fabregas’s low finish on the rebound was blocked on the line by Richard Stearman.
Hennessey was again called into action, denying Arshavin after he sprung the offside trap to get on to Walcott’s through ball, and in stoppage time at the end of the half Hennessey again earned his coin with a superb stop with the boot from Van Persie’s low finish.
Arsenal started the second half like they were the team trailing, and seconds in Walcott was guilty of a dreadful miss, putting wide with the goal at his mercy after another hypnotising run from Wilshere.
In an advanced role behind the strikers, Wilshere was wreaking havoc and almost created another, his mazy dribble and low ball hitting Stearman but kept out by Hennessey with Alex Song lurking.
Arshavin half-volleyed just wide after buying himself space with a flicked first touch and eventually Arsenal got their second in trademark fashion: a spinning through ball from halfway by Fabregas released Walcott, who used his searing pace to stretch Wolves to breaking point before sliding the ball across to Van Persie, who just had the keeper to beat and did so with a rasping finish.
It was Walcott’s fourth assist of the season, and his fourth for Van Persie, as Arsenal hit peak attacking form before the title run-in.
It was the least Arsenal deserved and the next 10 minutes saw them pound the Wolves area, as Fabregas, Walcott and Van Persie caused problems without testing Hennessey.
The latter stages saw Arsene Wenger opt for a more Wolves-friendly physical front two of Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner, but it was Walcott who had the best chances, curling one wide and another straight at Hennessey after cutting inside from the left flank vacated by the tiring Arshavin.
The last minute saw Wolves sub Sylvan Ebanks-Blake spurn their only real chance of the match, putting it over from 12 yards after good work by Ronald Zubar down the right, but anything would have been flattering to McCarthy’s side, who now lie three points shy of safety.