So, international break over, time for another well-needed dose of Arsenal! The visitors to the Emirates this time round were Bolton. A couple of years ago this would have proved to be a very tricky tie, but with recent results- especially last year’s, where we beat them 4-2, after being 2-0 down, I think- and a manager like Owen Coyle who likes to play football the way it ought to be played, a win was expected.
Eboue Squillaci Koscielny Gibbs
Rosicky Wilshere Fabregas Arshavin
Very unfamiliar back-line, with Eboue and Gibbs coming in for Sagna and Clichy, and Squillaci making his debut in place of the injured Vermaelen. This would have been another chance for Theo to excel in front of the home crowd, if not for those blasted internationals! Hopefully it’ll not take long for him to regain his form when he’s back.
We started the match as we usually start at home, chance after chance. One fell to Arshavin, after an absolutely brilliant through-ball by Rosicky sent him clear, but his shot was saved by the debutant ‘keeper. With the nature and number of the chances being created, it was only a matter of time before we broke the deadlock, but I doubt anyone expected it to be a scrappy one! Wilshere floated the ball into the box, and with the Bolton defence panicking, Cesc touched the ball back to Koscielny, who’s effort hit the ‘keeper, the ball bouncing back onto Koscielny and into the net! Lovely reaction from Koscielny after scoring his first-ever Arsenal goal. That’ll definitely help his confidence in the long run.
Rosicky and Cesc were absolutely brilliant, pulling the strings, and it’s really great to see Rosicky getting a run in the team. Injury gods, keep away please, alright?! Rosicky himself almost doubled our lead, after nice work down the left by Chamakh, pulling it back for Rosicky after a Wilshere dummy deceived Bolton, but his effort was well-saved by the ‘keeper.
Another chance for Arshavin, this time the through-ball from Cesc, but he hit the side-netting! Same again shortly after, Cesc sending Arshavin clear after a lovely piece of skill to get away from the defender, but under pressure from the Bolton defence, he couldn’t hit the target.
It was all well and good, and it was just a question of how many we’d go on the score, but in true Arsenal style, we let Bolton back into the game, completely against the run of play! An error from Koscielny with his back-header let Lee in, to set up an easy chance for Johan Elmander, just before half-time. Very frustrating, but given the way the first half had been going, there really wasn’t any worry that we wouldn’t take all three points, but conceding a goal, especially an undeserved one is never a good thing.
So 1-1 at half-time, and I guess that conceded goal must have acted as a kick up the back-side. Second-half started in much the same vein as the first, with Arsenal chances being created all the time. One fell from Chamakh, after being sent clear (I wonder how many times that happened yesterday?!), this time by Cesc. I really thought he’d scored, but the ‘keeper make a top drawer save to deny him. But nevermind, he got his goal a minute or so later. From a corner on the right, after the resulting corner, the ball was worked back to Cesc, who stood the cross up into the box where Chamkah was there to meet it with a thumping header, about 15 minutes into the second half. Good goal. I wonder if all Chamakh’s goals this season will come from headers… Fine by me, really! Arsene made his first substitution just after, with Diaby replacing Wilshere.
With us still in the ascendancy, our job was made much easier by a Red Card to Gary Cahill with 63 minutes on the clock for a tackle on the by-line on Chamakh. Apparently Arsene said after the game that he thought maybe it shouldn’t have been a Red, but a light red or dark orange, or something along those lines. Hilarious! Still though, a Red was given by the referee. Straight red that is, not two yellows. A bit harsh this particular one, but seeing as Kevin Davies could have gotten a second yellow earlier on for a nasty clash of heads with Koscielny, maybe the referee had that at the back of his mind.
But whatever, Bolton were down to 10. I think that’s the 4th Red card this season in our matches, 1 for us, 3 for the opposition. interesting. Maybe just a little bit…
Anyways, with Bolton down to 10 men, it was up to us to capitalise and score as many as we could. Back to the Red card though, the referee really ought to have played the advantage in that situation, as Arshavin was bearing down on goal. He might not have scored, who knows, but there was a chance there.
Not too long after, another strong tackle, this time by Robsinson on Diaby. Definitely worse than the Cahill’s, but no yellow. Diaby, who’d only just come on as a sub had to be replaced by Denilson, as he couldn’t carry on. Not really impressive, all the tackles, and it seems Owen Coyle’s learning from his predecessor! Really hope Diaby’s not too badly injured, but the first soundings aren’t good.
But anyways, we continued to create chances, this time Arshavin turning provider and setting Rosicky up on the right, but the finish was lacking. Good chance there. Our third goal wasn’t far away though, and it was brilliantly created. As usual. Song won the ball in the middle, ran with it then passed wide to Fabregas on the right, who passed to Arshavin in the area, who then fed Song who rounded the defender and then lifted the ball over the ‘keeper who’d gone to ground early. And it was our 1000th under Arsene as well! Good stuff!
About 12 minutes left on the clock, and there definitely was no way back for Bolton, especially as we continued to pile the pressure. Denilson even had a go from outside the box, and the ‘keeper made a good save, especially with the ball bouncing just in front of him.
Arsene then sent Vela on for the last 10 minutes, and he rounded off the move of the season, 24 passes involved, with Cesc eventually sending Vela clear, and he kept his composure to slot the ball past the ‘keeper. 4-1, game well and truly over. Still could have scored more, but 4 goals after the interlull is a good return.
The performance as a whole was quite good, but ofcourse, there’s always room for improvement. The defence did quite well actually, especially as they’ve never all played together. Gibbs making his first start of the season played the whole 90, and I don’t remember him making any mistakes. Squillaci did well in place of Vermaelen on his debut, and it’ll be interesting to see who gets dropped when Vermaelen returns, because surely Vermaelen gets into the team almost by default? Competition for places never hurt, so it can only be a good thing.
One of the advantages of a team like ours is that we contribute goals from everywhere, so even though we’ve got 3 out of 5 strikers injured, we were still able to score 4. Really important that Vela and Chamakh were on the score-sheet though, and we will need them to get on the score-sheet, especially in tight games. All in all, it’s all positive at the moment, and if we can get through the next few weeks without Robin, Theo and Bendtner and keep churning out results, it bodes well for our title aspirations. 10 points out of 12 so far and second in the league shows we mean business. Hope we can keep this up…
Gotta turn our attentions to the Champions League now though, with Braga at the Emirates on Wednesday the first challenge. We ought to get out of the group fairly comfortably, but a very good win is needed on Wednesday…
Come on Arsenal!