Arsenal 4 Bolton Wanderers 1
Following on from an incredibly boozy all night session on Friday in honour of my mate`s birthday, not returning home until 6am, the pub probably wasn`t the first place I should have been heading to upon waking shortly before midday. But understand this reader, I am a man of my word and if I say I`ll meet you in the pub at 1pm, you had best be at the bar at 12.55 getting the Guinness`s in! After a few resuscitators, we left the Tavern shortly after Tim Cahill made it 2-3 in injury time against Manchester United. "We`ll get to the stadium and find its finished 3-3." Lord Lowe sagely predicted. We didn`t have to wait until we got to the stadium. The instant we set foot onto the Blackstock Road an almighty roar went up from inside the Tavern. The manager switched the team selection significantly with some of the players who had endured midweek internationals given time to blow off some cobwebs on the bench.
The tone for the match was set rather early on. Tomas Rosicky picked the ball up in his own half glanced up and sent an inch perfect pass with the outside of his right foot to Arshavin. The Russian almost had too much time to ponder on his finish and ended up being thwarted by the legs of Bogdan. Arshavin`s finishing tends to be much better when it is instinctive. Midway through the first half, Arsenal had the goal their play had merited. Jack Wilshere flighted a delightful left footed cross, which reached the back post, where Cesc Fabregas had plundered beyond the slumbering Muamba, he touched the ball back across goal for Laurent Koscielny to bundle home his first Arsenal goal. At this point the home side slipped into cruise control and should have buried Bolton well before Stuart Atwell blasted his whistle for half time. A neat piece of control an d turn by Chamakh on the touchline left Zat Knight looking rather foolish, the Moroccan pulled the ball back into the box where Wilshere dummied for Rosicky, who sent his side footed shot straight at Bogdan. Then Bolton began with the roughhouse stuff which you come to expect from them. Kevin Davies went in late on Jack Wilshere, meaning he required treatment. No apology or remorse from Davies for an ex team mate. I feel utterly cheated that I ostensibly paid money to watch Kevin Davies play football. Other than his nuisance factor (in other words, the fact that he`s a fat, fouling toss bag that throws his elbows around), I saw Davies actually control the ball on the deck twice. Both times he attempted a pass to an unmarked team mate stood less than eight yards away. Both passes missed their intended target.
The Gunners had a stranglehold on the midfield, and Arshavin was given another glorious chance when Rosicky, Song and Cesc played a swift triangle in the centre circle, before Fabregas released Arshavin, but he put his chance into the side netting with Bogdan narrowing the angle. The Russian once again was to profit from the genius of Fabregas, the captain received the ball on the half way line with Zat Knight at his back. A gorgeous turn and through ball later, Knight was made to look slightly sheepish whilst Arshavin bore down on goal once more. Gretnar Steinsson sprinted back and held Arshavin up, which contributed to his finish once again hitting the side netting. Arsenal`s profligacy hit them hard when the Trotters found an improbable equaliser. From Bogdan`s goal kick, Davies beat Squillaci in the air. The ball looked to have comfortably dropped for Koscielny, but he made a right sow`s ear of his attempted header back to Almunia. Lee Chung Yong rounded the keeper but had been pushed too wide to shoot, so he hooked a cross to the back post which Johan Elmander gratefully headed into an empty net. It was a quite poor goal to concede, Koscielny`s momentary lapse in concentration was compounded by the fact that Eboue appeared to be walking in the penalty area whilst the move unfolded.
Following the shock of conceding from such a commanding position, Arsenal struggled to reassert their rhythm in the second half. Needless to say, when they came out of the rut and into the grove again, it was the imperious Fabregas choreographing proceedings. A delightfully impudent lofted ball over the top of the Bolton defence saw Chamakh racing through onside, but his left foot shot was touched around the post by Bogdan. The resulting corner was cleared as far as Arshavin on the edge of the box, he had the intelligence to work the ball back to Fabregas on the left, who sauntered to the by-line and stood a perfect cross up to the back post where Marouane Chamakh bagged yet another headed goal. Chamakh my bitch up! Any doubt as to the destination of the three points was extinguished a few minutes later. Alex Song appeared to trip Lee Chung Yong on the edge of the Bolton area, but Stuart Atwell waved play on. Song played the ball down the line to Chamakh who was taken out by a late tackle by Gary Cahill. Chamakh still managed to flick the ball onto Arshavin, who would have had a great chance of scoring had the referee, in keeping with his overly fussy performance. Atwell produced a red card which I felt was slightly harsh, if not the most outrageous red card I`ve seen. That`s three games now in which the opposition have had a player receive their marching orders, there seems to have been a crack down on reckless tackling which is no bad thing. Cahill`s tackle was late, from behind and studs were showing. In fact, it was rather similar to the one Ryan Shawcross executed on Adebayor two seasons ago. Obviously at this point, I am at pains to point out that Shawcross is not that type of player. But I felt the tackle by Robinson on Diaby was more worthy of a red card, it was high, it was late and it ended Diaby`s afternoon. Robinson`s feigning injury to try and get out of trouble was pathetic. Likewise Kevin Davies smashed into Koscielny very deliberately with zero chance of getting the ball, hurting himself in the process. Eboue was booked for being unhappy about it. It was clear that Atwell was an incredibly long way out of his depth.
From there it was merely a case of how many Arsenal would win by. Arshavin cut in from the left and sent a perfectly weighted pass to Rosicky on the right hand side of the area and Rosicky blasted the effort wide, proving he too could be as wasteful as Arshavin had been. But the two goal cushion duly arrived on 78 minutes. Alex Song won the ball from Stuart Holden in midfield, which freed Fabregas to again forage forwards and find Arshavin in the area. Song continued his run and Arshavin turned and picked him out on the edge of the six yard area. Song took one delicate touch past Knight before dinking the ball over Bogdan with a consummate finish worthy of any £30m striker. By now, it was time for the party pieces and the Gunners ran Bolton ragged, moving their beleaguered opposition around with twenty four consecutive passes. It was like watching a prime fighter reel off a string of body shots. Then Fabregas supplied the uppercut which drew blood from the upper lip, chipping yet another sublime through ball over the top of the Bolton defence. Carlos Vela gratefully ran onto the pass and administered the knockout blow with a sumptuous left foot finish. A move begat with 25 consecutive passes. I would bet money that Kevin Davies will not complete 25 passes before retirement.
The referee still had time to make another ludicrous decision, as Eboue careered into the box and was clearly taken out by Robinson in the area. Atwell gave a goal kick, thereby admitting that the Bolton player did not touch the ball. Nope, I can`t figure it out either. In the end, it was another pleasing and deserved victory and by and large an excellent performance. Rosicky once again impressed, whilst Arshavin looked as though he was very up for the game, even if he was a tad wasteful. The rhythm did not seem to desert the team after the international break and that would largely have been due to the rotation of the starting line up. But the afternoon well and truly belonged to Fabregas, who reminded you why we spent all summer fighting off the vultures. Casting an eye down on my notes taken during the highlights, the word "Cesc" is ubiquitous. He was involved in everything and the quality and weight of his passing must be a dream for our forwards. If Fabregas was off colour and lacking match fitness at Ewood, the Fabregas we saw this weekend was the one we have come to know and love. The turn and pass for Arshavin in the first half was effortlessly impudent. The sort of moment that makes you draw breath and remember why you parted with your hard earned for a ticket. His continued fitness will be a crucial factor in deciding our fortunes this season.LD.
1.ALMUNIA, 27.EBOUE, 6.KOSCIELNY, 18.SQUILLACI, 28.GIBBS, 17.SONG, 19.WILSHERE (2.Diaby `59, 15.Denilson `73), 4.FABREGAS(c), 7.ROSICKY, 23.ARSHAVIN, 29.CHAMAKH (11.Vela `81). Unused: 3.Sagna, 8.Nasri, 21.Fabianski, 22.Clichy.