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Arsenal 3 Bolton Wanderers 0

After a rather epic drinking session in Croydon on Friday night, from which I failed to return home until shortly before 6am, I awoke in a somewhat squiffy state at around 11.45am. Remembering that I had to meet Lord Lowe at Victoria at 12.20 to go to the pub, it was an auspicious start to the day. But hair of the dog was duly supped and despatched. The Gunners were perhaps a touch fortunate to run into one of the few sides in the league in more of a funk than ourselves.

However, Bolton might have taken the lead inside the first two minutes. Steinsson`s free kick was flicked on by David Wheater and Darren Pratley responded much more quickly than Kieran Gobbs to flick the ball goalwards. Fortunately, Wojciech Szczesny`s reactions were rather more wired and he reacted to scoop Pratley`s shot wide. It is a pleasing habit young Albert is picking up. (Albert is, loosely, the anglicised version of Wojciech). Arsenal goalkeepers often will only need to make one save a match. Szczesny is definitely cut out to be an Arsenal goalkeeper for as long as he wants to be.

The first half was largely very pedestrian fair from Arsenal. The pressing on Bolton`s midfield wasn`t happening high enough up the pitch and the build up play was far too laboured. As a result, Bolton found Arsenal very easy to contain. Mikel Arteta looked the most likely to create an opening and he carved the Trotters back line in twain with a slide rule pass that put Gervinho through on goal; but the bandy legged Ivorian took too heavy a touch and Jaaskelainen scurried out to foil the chance. The Gunners nearly contrived to break the deadlock with a deceptive set piece. Arteta shaped to shoot from 22 yards, but instead shifted the ball to van Persie, who hit a curling shot narrowly wide.

David N`Gog hobbled off for Bolton, meaning that Kevin Davies entered the fray. I always feel cheated when I pay money to watch this guy. I don`t deny the more physical specimen a place in the game, but it strikes me his only attributes are his elbows and his fat arse. I really fail to see what else he offers other than that. He can barely even trap a bag of wet cement, so poor is he with his feet. Arsenal`s only other opportunity of note in a damp squib of a half arrived when Arteta nudged the ball down the left for Walcott. Theo let the ball run past Steinsson before racing to the touchline and pulling the ball back for Robin van Persie. But his shot was excellently blocked by the sprawling David Wheater.

But the second half brought a much sparkier performance, aided in no small part by an early goal which settled anxieties. Gretnar Steinsson left Gervinho in a crumpled heap on the half way line, but the referee played a good advantage as Aaron Ramsey picked up the loose ball. He moved forward before playing a disguised pass to van Persie. The Dutchman took the reins, turning Muamba inside out by feinting to shoot before unleashing a left foot shot past Jaaskelainen`s front post. A piece of individual inspiration when we needed it. A captain`s contribution.

Suddenly Arsenal had found a groove again. Arteta won possession in the centre circle, Ramsey picked up the pieces and played Walcott in on the right, Theo nudged the ball first time to van Persie, but his low right foot shot was well saved by Jaaskelainen. Bolton`s task was already difficult, given that their most attacking player has all the subtely and guile of a sledgehammer. But the job was made close to impossible when Ramsey played another fine through ball to Theo Walcott, he raced clear but was tugged back by David Wheater on the edge of the area. It was the merest of tugs, but calculated and cynical nonetheless. It`s intent is what correctly yielded a red card for a professional foul. There may be an argument that Theo did not have the ball under control, but Wheater obviously felt there was chance enough to illegally impede his progress.

It was Gervinho`s turn to cause problems for the Bolton defence when hge danced past Steinsson on the left and picked out van Persie in the area. The skipper had the strength and presence of mind to hold off Boyata, before touching the ball back for Arteta. His low finish whistled just past the post. Bolton only threatened the once when the Gunners over committed to attack, leaving Petrov to pick out Chris Eagles as he bore down on the Arsenal goal. But he took a heavy touch onto his unfavoured right foot and ended up shooting straight at Szczesny.

But there were to be no more ventricular flutters for Arsenal fans as they began to dominate a tiring Bolton side. Gervinho set up Robin van Persie on the edge of the area and his curling shot flew past the post. Then Alex Song found Walcott- who enjoyed probably his best game of the season- out on the right. His looping cross found van Persie on the back post, but his header was clawed away by Jaaskelainen. Laurent Koscielny nearly became an unlikely scorer from distance when he collected Robinson`s headed clearance and volleyed on target from 20 yards, only to see Jaaskelainen beat it away again.

A scuffle broke out when Arsenal did not put the ball out of play for the injured Paul Robinson. Of course, Bolton won the ball back in the same movement and also elected to play on. So how Bolton`s entire back four became so agitated I`ve no idea. But van Persie seemed more than willing to put them right! You could say it was a shame that it took so long for his team mates to back him up. But there again, having already picked up some stupid sendings off this season, the players have been warned not to indulge any kind of retaliation. Nevertheless, Robin`s next captain`s contribution was much more memorable.

Ramsey, who also enjoyed a very productive second half alongside the guile and experience of Arteta, found Walcott in the right channel. Walcott looked up and delivered a low cross which Robin van Persie beautifully flicked into the net with a deft touch. He becomes the 17th Arsenal player to reach 100 Arsenal goals. That`s 26 goals in 31 matches in 2011. I`ve said it before, but I think we`re watching the planet`s best striker. In a fallow period for his team, van Persie gripped the game by the scruff of the neck and won it almost all by himself. He`s one of the very few players in the top flight capable of doing so on such a perpetual basis.

By now Bolton were completely ragged and should have found themselves 3-0 down when Ramsey split their defence with a perfectly weighted pass to Walcott, who galloped towards goal untroubled. But his one on one effort was weak and easily read by Jaaskelainen. The home side did manage to put the seal on the resounding victory in the dying minutes. Ramsey found Sagna on the right, he had the presence of mind to cut the ball back to the edge of the area. Song manouvered inside Darren Pratley before curling a fine effort into the top corner to seal the three points. This was the first time Arsenal had won by three clear goals since defeating Wigan in early February courtesy of a van Persie hat trick.

Points were the premium desire but the second half display was enthusing too. Players who I think have struggled at points during this season; such as Ramsey and Walcott, enjoyed their best performances of the season. The midfield three of Arteta, Ramsey and Song looks to be rather promising. I think Arteta has very quietly brought some stability there. He has the capability and the intelligence to know when to sit and dictate from deep and when to push forward. I think he has liberated Ramsey too by allowing Rambo to play a more advanced role. Arteta is not Fabregas. He was never going to be. But he looks a fabulous team player and a welcome addition to me.

But of course the plaudits will go to Robin van Persie and rightly so. With the team toiling, he stepped up with the sort of individual brilliance we all know him to be capable of. His display was as good a captain`s performance as you`re likely to see all season. Leadership isn`t always about banging people`s heads against the wall. Let us hope he signs an extension to his contract and makes inroads towards Henry`s record. After the game I enjoyed a delightful beer or two with the man from East Lower, as well as several beverages with Gingers 4 Limparand Hayley Wright. A blogging fraternity if ever there was one! These are the rock n roll circles in which my life moves. I`ll drink to that and to the three points. LD.

13.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 4.MERTESACKER, 6.KOSCIELNY, 28.GIBBS, 17.SONG, 8.ARTETA (7.Rosicky `81), 16.RAMSEY, 14.WALCOTT, 27.GERVINHO (23.Arshavin `72), 10.v.PERSIE(c) (29.Chamakh `85). Unused: 11.A.Santos, 15.Chamberlain, 21.Fabianski, 26.Frimpong.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday September 25 2011

Time: 8:34PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Oh Mr. Stillman, correct me if I'm wrong. I had a weekend with some very bourgeois friends who, naturally had the modern accoutrements of modern life (Murdoch TV) and I'm sure I saw your moniker attached to a Sky piece on the travails of your once mighty A***. If it was truly your good self, I must apologise, as I was always against bullying schoolkids, and, honestly, I didn't realise. I feel so awful. By the way, is the Nick Hornby look still so prevalent up The Cesc Pit?
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25/09/2011 21:04:00

Stalker alert.
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25/09/2011 21:14:00

Yeah that was me. I'm flattered you go for my youthful looks.
Little Dutch
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25/09/2011 21:28:00

Why do I bother watching MOTD? Only good thing is that I get to watch a 5 min highlight of the game..But suffering Hansen and Shearer is too much..
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26/09/2011 03:01:00

I think you're confusing recognition with attraction. I'm just about young enough for the former, but far too old for the latter.
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26/09/2011 11:31:00

Could've fooled me.
Little Dutch
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26/09/2011 11:33:00

Don't be fooled LD. There wouldn't be any recognition by the pompous one if the attraction wasn't there. I thought Arteta was pretty good throughout the game. Not a Cesc but maybe more of what we've also needed and lacked in midfield. He did both the simple and difficult things well. Hurried when he needed to, took the time to create space when it was wanted, looked for the killer pass but knew when to keep it simple. You could see in the first half that this is still a team learning to play together. A split second longer to play a ball unsure of what movement a player might make could be seen in the hesitant nature of the overall play. It should become a little more automatic over the coming weeks but individually the players are very good. Gervinho's touch needs to meet the quality of his movement. Once he gets that right he is going to have quite an impact.
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26/09/2011 12:09:00

Sajit - glad to see fans of other clubs dislike Shearer, Hanson and co. as much as I do. Dixon is the only decent thing about that programme.
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26/09/2011 12:26:00

Greate report as always LD, not in agreement with you about Walcott having one of his best performances tho. The runs he made were no better or worse than his usual but his touch and finishing were horrific. The rotating front three really stank in the first half when Theo was on the left, and in the 2nd he let himself down receiving the ball and failed a collection of simple passes. Such a frustrating player at times - I really don't think his pace is enough to warrant his position.
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26/09/2011 12:27:00

rThought the free kick pass between Arteta and RVP was an example of how this team is starting to gell. The boss seemed to be also of the same mind when he commented on our defense especially in the second half, (praise going to Mertesacker; who seemed to grow more in control of the defense) . Worrying are the comments coming from RVP about his contract, I expect the Middle Eastern teams manager will be on to RVPs agent and a new Cesc/Nasri saga will now start.
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26/09/2011 13:49:00

Given the context, it was a good performance, the 3 pts being the most important. I only hope the team doesn't get carried away by this win, coz Bolton was quite poor. There is a need to continue to the good work (the defence looked alright) into a few more games, before this team is back to form. Agree with MTG about Walcott - he has some really good moments, but some really bad ones as well, esp when he has the ball. He has not developed his football skills quite so effectively, no doubt the reason why we still see him on the wings, rather than upfront.
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26/09/2011 14:42:00

I'm no expert, and you don't always get the full picture when you're there, but I didn't think Walcott was making the right runs or always getting into the right positions. He's okay when there's lots of space and when its obvious, but when the opposition has retreated, he doesn't seem to know how to create space. The alternative view is that in Cesc we had someone who could see a pass in tight spaces that no one else could, but we don't really any longer. I'm not yet entirely convinced about Theo, but Wenger seems to be. Defence, midfield and attack; it's all going to take time to gel this season. In the meantime, as LD and others have said, it's time to scrap our way to results whilst the work is going on at the training ground.
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26/09/2011 16:24:00

Good on Van Persie. At least now he's put himself in the shop window in preparation for when he leaves in the summer. For Spurs, on a free, because he wants to play for a big club that competes in the Champions League. :)
Tony Rocky Horror
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26/09/2011 17:42:00

Keep dreaming gramps, maybe when hes 40 he'll take a huge drop in status to trawl the European backwaters facing the wrath of the mighty Shamrock Rovers but I really wouldn't hold your breath....actually scratch that, hold it for as long as you can.
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26/09/2011 18:37:00

I think some are letting some weak finishing in this game colour the view of Theo's overall performance in this game. LD is right to say that it was generally effective. An assist and four other attempts created, good movement from which Wheater's sending off was a direct result, all help to balance only one shot on target from six attempts, but that shouldn't blind us to the positives.
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26/09/2011 20:53:00

To be fair, i don't think Theo has the tricks (ala Nani/Ronaldo) or the cunning (ala Pires Ljunberg) to be a winger. His main asset is running from deep with his speed and that is difficult against packed defenses. His decision making also needs work. This was one of his better games but he doesnt do it often enough imo to hold down the spot. My single worry now is RvP getting injured as we have become over-reliant on him bailing us out.
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26/09/2011 21:37:00

A good a yardstick as any for the performance of an attacking player I find, is how many times they're mentioned in the match report. Theo was at the centre of most of our best chances yesterday and that says something. "on a free, because he wants to play for a big club that competes in the Champions League. :)" You just won't let that Sol Campbell thing go, will you? :-)
Little Dutch
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27/09/2011 08:20:00

I'm not disputing Theo's good moments in the game (and the positive things that he does bring to the table), just that there are indications that his overall game has not quite improved enough in the past 5 years since he signed for Arsenal.
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27/09/2011 22:44:00

Walcott's game has come a long way in the last 18 months. His finishing is much improved, his crossing is better than before and his compatibility on field with RvP is a major asset for us.
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28/09/2011 06:29:00

When he came off injured on Saturday, there were groans from the fans and I recall thinking how the side will miss him if that was a long term injury. If that does not say something for how important he has grown to become for the team, I wonder what else does.
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28/09/2011 09:56:00

It's so so good to get back to talking about football on the pitch... I felt drained and sick of football over the summer.. Even this website felt tired at some point i think. let's build on this victory with another good performance tonight.
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28/09/2011 14:47:00


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