When I saw the starting line-up I was a bit worried. We knew Van Persie, Vermaelen and Walcott will be missing but we also had three second choice defenders and a fifth choice midfielder who is just a kid. Add to this the inexperience of the central defenders against the Rugby style and I thought we are in for a hard but winnable game.
As things turned out, it was a much easier game than I’d imagined. Bolton were rubbish. Don’t be fooled by what the pundits say, they didn’t make this game difficult for Arsenal. We had four or five easy chances in the first half-hour or so and we made our lives difficult by not taking them. Bolton played with two strikers and that made it really easy for our midfield to control the centre. I’ll discuss these issues in the article focussed on tactics and technicalities. For now, Arsenal should have buried the game, and with the chances we got we’d have, red card or no red card.
That brings me to the ref. He was shocking, pathetic. That means almost like any other official in the League so I can’t really single him out. I thought he should have sent Davies off for two yellow cards when he showed him his first. If you see the foul Gibbs was booked for, there is no reason to say Davies’ foul on Rosicky didn’t deserve a booking.
I’d also say his head butt on Koscielny was a booking at the very least. Many people don’t realize that a bad challenge with one’s head can be just as bad as a late tackle on the ground. And make no mistake Davies was late with that challenge, really late. And he was fully aware of what he was doing.
Justice was done when Stuart Attwell sent Cahill off for a two footed lunge. Many will defend him, which is really unfortunate, but if you look at the tackle carefully; Cahill had both feet in the air, both were high, and both were studs first. Just because he didn’t make enough contact with Chamakh to break his legs doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a red card offence. In fact, if for a year the refs in the Premiership give out red cards for such fouls we will surely see a rise in quality of football across all teams.
Diaby who came on the hour for Wilshere was hurt by another shocking tackle by Robinson. This time the ref didn’t take any action and that just compounded his mistakes. I hope the Frenchman hasn’t suffered any serious damage.
About the goals, the first one came from sustained pressure on a set-piece. Wilshere was on the ball 30 yards out when Fabregas made a brilliant diagonal run at the far post. The youngster picked him out with a peach of a ball and Cesc cushioned it into the danger area. Koscielny was first to pounce on the ball and after a bit of pin-ball he stabbed it home. It was great to see Koscielny on the score sheet. He’s had a good start and this will help his confidence. I was impressed by his poaching instincts and desire to be first to the loose ball.
The equalizer for the thugs came from a long ball. Davies, or was it Elmander, won the first ball while no one tracked the run of Lee. Koscielny tried to head it towards Eboue but ended up putting it between the Right Back and the Keeper. Almunia was exposed but did well to push Lee wide. Eboue didn’t sprint back to challenge Lee and there was no one marking Elmander. That meant Lee had a lot of time to pick his man and Elmander had a free header in the six yard box with the Keeper stranded. Once again the defence screwed the keeper and it was a collective failure to deal with a long ball.
We got the lead with some great work by Fabregas. He took the ball to the by-line and picked out Chamakh with his left foot. The Moroccan hung in the air before powering it past Bogdan. After that it was easy.
Song, who was too far forward on many occasions, scored with a deft flick. His first touch to get past Knight was delightful, and the vision to dink it past the keeper was brilliant. Vela got on the score sheet as Fabregas put an Arsenal player through for the umpteenth time in the game. Nice goal for his confidence and a finishing lesson for Arshavin and Rosicky!
Before I get into the thoughts on individual performance, I want to note that City, Tinies, and United have all drawn. The Mancs had a tough game but blew a two goal lead and that’s the second consecutive away game where they failed to hold on to a lead! Do they need an English spine, strength in depth, or what? I’ve not seen the City game but it’s not surprising that they’re struggling to open teams up even at home. How long does Mancini have? I hope he gets long enough to screw their season. The Tinies couldn’t even win at West Brom. No disrespect, but the Baggies are a team that plays a relatively open style and should not have been tough to beat with all those “international players” in the Spuds line-up. It’s a different matter that WBA probably deserved a win. Gallas was left for dead by Fortune in the build up to the equalizer and in general he was quite poor. This is fun.
Also, did anyone see how the ref blew his whistle just as Everton were building an attack? Sometimes it’s so blatant we don’t even have to say how the refs play for United.
Almunia: Didn’t do much wrong. Certainly not at fault for the goal. Came out on a couple of occasions when he should have stayed back but that’s down to some hesitancy by defenders. Was talking to the centre backs and telling them what to do.
Eboue: He had a decent game overall but switched off for the goal. When Lee ran onto the loose ball the Ivorian should have been sprinting back to close him down but he was lingering on the edge of the box.
Koscielny: Scored a good goal, won many headers, and did well in a difficult battle with aerial balls and physical strikers. Made a wrong choice – should have headed it away from the goal.
Squillaci: Another one who won some headers, made a few clearances, made 40 passes all successful, looks like another brilliant signing.
Gibbs: He really surprised me. The thugs targeted his wing but he dealt with most of the pressure despite lack of support from Arshavin. He was impressive going forward and put in a couple of accurate crosses. Will surely get many more games this season and that will help Clichy remain fresh as well as competitive.
Song: Did well in the physical battles, and was reliable with his passing, tackling, interceptions and blocks. I was surprised he pushed forward so often. Was he given the license to go forward? I thought he should have stayed back, our defenders needed some support with the second ball.
Fabregas: As good as any three players on the pitch put together. Incredible physical strength, amazing work rate, superb vision and execution, and led by example. Would have had half a dozen assists if the finishing had been clinical. The through balls were inch perfect but the one that sent Chamakh through showed unbelievable technique. It hung in the air, fell at the right spot, and spun into the path of the striker while going away from the defender! The one that set up Vela was similar.
Wilshere: Probably the weakest link in the team. I don’t mean it as a criticism but he went missing on many occasions. Was disposed easily a couple of times and didn’t look comfortable under pressure. Fabregas was forced to drop deep time and again as Wilshere wasn’t able to take the ball from defence and move it forward. I think he was given this game so that he can learn how hard it is at this level and the experience will be invaluable.
Rosicky: Didn’t do justice to his talent. Missed a couple of clear chances, gave the ball away at times, also had some very good moments. We can get away with such an effort at home but he needs better concentration. We all know he has the skills to perform at a much higher level.
Chamakh: Excellent work rate, good physical presence, contributed in defence, and scored a first class header.
Arshavin: Should have had a hat-trick. I was disappointed with his finishing but not surprised. It was good to see that we got him through so often. All through last season I was wondering how we don’t get in behind teams like Bolton when they push up to the half way line. He got another assist and that’s a big positive. Has already equalled his assists tally from last year!
Subs: Diaby was unfortunate, Denilson looked comfortable, Vela finished well.
On the whole a big, big show of depth by Arsenal. In the preview I’d hoped for a Chamakh goal, Fabregas back to his best, and a clean sheet. I knew the last one was optimistic 😉