Arsenal Rise Above The Rough And Tumble Bolton To Defeat
Arsenal 4 – 1 Bolton Wanderers
1 – 0 Koscielny (23)
1 – 1 Elmander (43)
2 – 1 Chamakh (60)
3 – 1 Song (78)
4 – 1 Vela (83)
Gary Cahill sent off (64)
Ghosts of season’s past rose and were reinterred at The Emirates as Arsenal squeezed the life from Bolton, before cruising to victory, capitalising on dropped points at Goodison Park whilst keeping Chelsea with touching distance. A match which saw Alex Song score the 1,000th Premier League goal of Arsene Wenger’s reign, was shaping as a reminder of failures in previous seasons before three goals in the final thirty minutes reinforced the notion of a squad which is coming of age, maturing into serious title challengers.
Wenger made several changes, forced and voluntary, the visitors tried, ultimately in vain, to unsettle with a robust approach, at odds with the pre-match assertions that Owen Coyle was moving the club away from its inglorious past under Sam Allardyce. Arsenal were not shaken but stirred as the new faces in the starting line-up clicked through the gears seamlessly.
Of the back five, only Almunia and Koscielny had played in the first team together this season yet Bolton failed to capitalise on the lack of understandings which this scenario brought about. It mattered not as the midfield, inspired by Fabregas, roared into life. The Spaniard mesmerised Robinson before Bogdan saved, the same outcome suffered by Arshavin minutes later, the Russian released by Rosicky’s exquisite pass.
The breakthrough came midway in the first half. Wilshere’s cross found Fabregas, the captain put the ball into Koscielny’s path as the centre back scuffed the ball home at the second time of asking. In matches of yesteryear, Arsenal might have eased back, particularly in the immediate aftermath of international breaks. A tentative sign of this not being the case any longer arrived as Fabregas and Rosicky found Bogdan in the visitors goal in inspired form, conspiring with fates to keep the lead down to one goal.
Warning signs had been seen earlier in the half as Davies brought a save from Almunia but the frailties of a new defence were exposed when Koscielny inexplicably headed into the path of Lee. The Korean showed great composure at the bye-line to find Elmander with his cross, the simple tap-in punishing the sloppiness of the centre-back’s play.
The interval allowed Arsenal to regroup but the visitors started the second half re-energised by their equaliser, Almunia denied Holden to provide evidence of his continued improvement on last season’s displays. As the hour approached, Arsenal woke from their slumber. Fabregas freed Chamakh, the Moroccan once more kept at bay by Bogdan. It was to be temporary respite. From the resultant corner, Fabregas found the time and space to pick out Chamakh, his header firm and true into the net.
The tempo upped and within five minutes, the balance of power swung firmly into the home side’s favour. Davies escaped a deserved second yellow card following a clash of heads with Koscielny. Incensed by the failure of the referee to punish a foul on Lee, Cahill went through the back of Chamakh with the finesse of a plough working Lancastrian fields in centuries past. He deservedly received a red card.
He might well have been accompanied by others. Robinson’s challenge on Diaby forced the Arsenal substitute to be replaced whilst Gibbs could quite easily have received a second caution later on. The inconsistency of officiating was highlighted by the failure to suitably punish all offenders irrespective of the colour of their shirt.
The outcome was put beyond doubt when Arshavin found Song in the area and the Cameroonian provided a Vela-esque touch to lift the ball over the sprawling Bogdan for the end of the millenium of goals under Wenger. There is no substitute for the real thing though. The final goal of the afternoon provided a fitting way for the count to the 2,000 goals to begin.
The passing and movement evoked memories of Giles, Bremner and Lorimer toying with a hapless Southampton three decades before, the pass of Fabregas, the timing of Vela’s run all trademark for Wenger’s new generation, the Mexican driving the ball confidently past the visitors goalkeeper to seal an emphatic scoreline.
For Wenger the result was confirmation of the growing confidence and belief of his charges, post-match he made the point that it has been a while since his team has emerged from back-to-back wins over perceived nemesis. That might be overstating the case somewhat, pandering to media assertions which pass too frequently as truth. The point can be emphasised with a win at The Stadium Of Light next weekend, a place at the Premier League summit for twenty-four hours assured for twenty-four hours at least.