Arsenal 2-1 Bolton Wanderers: Inspired Arshavin leads the way
Team: Fabianski, Yennaris, Squillaci,Vermaelen (Boateng), Miquel, Frimpong (Ozyakup), Coquelin, Arshavin, Chamberlain (Ryo), Benayoun, Park
The Short Report
A 2-1 win at home to Bolton sees us into the Carling Cup Quarter finals for the ninth successive year and preserves our unbeaten record in this competition at the Emirates. The bumper crowd, bolstered by a number of young fans on school holidays, were treated to an entertaining contest that really sparkled into life after the break.
As the heavens opened, so did the game, with all three goals coming in a frenzied ten minute spell at the start of the second half. Former Gunner Fabrice Muamba put the visitors in front, before a superb strike from Andrey Arshavin levelled matters. Ju-Young Park sealed the win with a delightful curled effort minutes later for his first Arsenal goal.
There were a few nervy moments and we had some chances to make the lead more comfortable, but in the end it was a job well done from a side peppered with the usual mixture of youth and experience.
The Carling Cup definitely feels different to the more pressurised atmosphere that surrounds our matches in the league and in Europe. With that in mind, the normal match report doesn’t feel appropriate, so here are some general impressions of the night.
Undoubtedly one of the most frustrating players I’ve ever seen wear the red and white, Andrey certainly enjoyed one of his better nights. Given a chance in his preferred central role and charged with guiding the more inexperienced heads around him, he really delivered when it mattered. Going a goal down, could have triggered the kind of implosion we’ve seen all too often this season, but the little Russian inspired an immediate fight back.
He had one thing on his mind as he picked up Yossi Benayoun’s pass on the right wing. Driving forward into the box, he appeared to hypnotise the Bolton defence as not one of them attempted to engage him. His shot went straight through Zat Knight’s legs and in off the far post. It was a clever finish that took the visitors completely by surprise.
In setting up the winner, he had the intelligence to wait until Ju-Young Park got himself back onside before sending him clean through on goal. I was very impressed by his application and rather than drifting in and out of the game as he so often does, he was a threat all night.
Seeing Thomas back at the heart of our defence was the highlight of the evening for me, especially as the boss had indicated he was still ten days away from a comeback at the weekend. He showed little sign of rustiness and was a calm and reassuring presence at the back alongside Sebastien Squillaci. We were even treated to one of his trademark thunderbolts in the first half that forced Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan into making a fine save.
He left the pitch to a standing ovation on 84 minutes, but there was a slight scare as early reports suggested he had picked up a calf injury. Thankfully he has been given the all clear to give Arsene an interesting dilemma ahead of our visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The rookie full-backs
We have had a few glimpses of Ignasi Miquel since the turn of the year, but it was our first opportunity to see Nico Yennaris – rewarded with his first team debut after excelling for the reserves. Both gave solid performances but understandably didn’t provide the same attacking threat we would expect from our first choice full-backs.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain
The stratospheric expectations we all have for Alex might have come back down to earth after a subdued display last night. He never quite found his stride and his distribution was erratic. A misplaced pass in the first half allowed Bolton to test Fabianski and nothing he tried really came off. Wenger’ explained that he had omitted him from recent squads as he felt it was unfair to throw a youngster into a side still trying to find their feet. On last night’s evidence, it looks a wise decision .He is a serious talent, who should be allowed to develop at his own pace and better nights surely lie ahead.
Ju Young Park
Ju Young Park is another player the boss has been keeping under wraps, with an underwhelming showing against Shrewsbury being the only time we have seen him in action up to now. He gave a very good account of himself last night, growing in confidence as the game progressed. He got himself into some dangerous positions and had two good efforts on target in the first half. His goal was brilliantly taken, curling the ball deliciously into the top corner in the manner of a certain other ex-Monaco striker who used to play for us.
As our form improves, the latest stick the media are beating us with is an over reliance on Robin van Persie. Marouane Chamakh did little to put pay to that notion on Sunday, so it was refreshing to see the South Korean come in and grab his chance. Surely he has nudged his way into Saturday’s squad ahead of the Moroccan.
The Final Word
We are so used to seeing the youngsters excel in this competition, but last night it was all about the more experienced players seeing us through. Arshavin, Park and Benayoun stood out and it was as if Vermaelen had never been away. In the meantime, it is clear that the likes of Chamberlain and Frimpoing have some rough edges to iron out, but the quarter finals will give them another opportunity to shine.
All in all, the squad looks in good shape after a fourth win on the trot. As Chelsea struggle to deal with the fallout from their defeat at QPR, there is no reason why we can’t go there and get a result, especially as our old nemesis, Didier Drogba, will be among the absentees.
2011-12 | Match Reports