Sunday, 25 September 2011

Ton up for Van Persie in Bolton win -Walcott injury latest

Morning Gooners.

Three points is what we wanted and it's what we got after Bolton finally surrendered to our attacking threat in a thoroughly disappointing first half and a second period where I was left wondering how many chances we'd get to kill the visitors off.

Arsene Wenger made two changes from the side which lost to Blackburn. Kieran Gibbs returning for Andre Santos and Theo Walcott replacing Andrey Arshavin.

And for me the game changing moment happened in the second minute. Wojciech Szczesny making a first class save to deny former Arsenal schoolboy Darren Pratley. If that chance had gone in, the game would have been significantly different. However with the Pole making the stop, very similar to the save he made against Swansea,  the home side were able to build from a rather nervy start.

Gervinho was in my eyes head and shoulders above the rest of our players in the first half. He offered us directness and imagination but unfortunately his final touch wasn't always the best and he was unable to convert his chances.

I thought one of the biggest problems we caused ourselves was not pushing forward one of Aaron Ramsey or Mikel Arteta to be closer to van Persie. In one attacking movements, the Welshman and the Spaniard were outside the box along with Alex Song, which meant RVP was yet again isolated in the middle.

Theo Walcott is a frustrating player to watch as well. He's fast we know that but he still lacks the end product all too often and sometime it felt he was drifting inside too much. For me he hasn't developed a level of consistency. I know he's still 22, but I would expect more progression from a player who has made 107 starts for the club and 76 substitutes appearances in six seasons at the highest level.

The home team's attacking play was all too predictable. We lacked urgency and spark. But the crowd stayed behind the team and fair play to the guy in the East Stand who was on his feet for quite a while in the first half encouraging those around him to sing and support the players.

In the second half we came out a different team. And I imagine the players felt a lot better when they had the ball in the back of the net within two minutes of the restart. Good build up work from Aaron Ramsey who brings the ball forward into the heart of the Bolton defence who passes to van Persie and just when you think the Dutchman has removed a shooting angle he fires the ball in low at the side of Jaaskelainen right foot to score his 99th goal for the Gunners.

The Arsenal captain had the chance to add to his tally before the sending off of David Wheater for hauling back Walcott. It seemed like it was minimal contact and perhaps the Arsenal man could have stayed on his feet but if you're running at speed the slightest of touches could bring you down. Anyway, with the way Walcott was misfiring in front of goal I would have taken the free kick over Walcott trying to beat Jaaskelainen.

Before the free kick was taken Owen Coyle took off former Arsenal player Fabrice Muamba and replaced him with Dedryck Boyata to cover for Wheater. I found it strange that some in the home support shouted out "Who" as the announcer called Muamba's name out for the change to be made. Surely they knew Muamba used to play for us?

The sending off allowed the Gunners more space to move the ball around for 35 minutes with an extra man. Arteta had a few chances but whilst we were creating opportunities, we weren't able to put the ball in the back of the net.

One of Arteta's shots took out Paul Robinson in a rather delicate area. He was rolling around on the ground near to the goal inside the six yard box as Chris Eagles attacked at the other end. Bolton could have taken the opportunity to put the ball out but chose instead to attack. When Eagles shot was saved by Szczesny, Arsenal came forward themselves with Robinson still on the ground.

The player could have rolled off the pitch to prevent himself playing the Arsenal players on side. But he chose to roll around in the box. It wasn't a head injury so the referee didn't stop play. And after van Persie shot wide, the Bolton players ganged up on him. It seemed like van Persie was being pushed around for ages by  four/five Bolton players before any of the Arsenal players came over to support their captain.

Where was the team unity? Why weren't they there supporting van Persie who had done nothing wrong? To me if showed an insight into this team. They don't appear to want a fight and that's what we're in at the moment. We're fighting for our future and I was left very disappointed that no one had the balls to sort these players out who were ganging up on one of their team mates.

Walcott, Gervinho and van Persie had more chances in front of goal before the Gunners captain score his second of the game and 100th for the club. It was Ramsey involved in the build up again as he fed Walcott on the right. The England man played a low ball into the box for the Dutchman to touch home.

Walcott then had a chance to add Arsenal's third. He was set clean through by a great pass from Song. But couldn't put the ball past the keeper. A wasted opportunity.

Gerrvinho and Arteta were replaced by Arshavin and Rosicky for the final ten minutes  And van Persie has an  opportunity to score his hattrick before he is substituted for Chamakh but his shot is blocked.

In the final minute Song makes it three with a beautiful shot into the top right hand corner after good build up by Bacary Sanga and Ramsey.

Walcott came off in injury time after pulling up. The injury isn't thought to be too serious and the England man could be available for Wednesday's Champions League game.

And with a remarkably different second half performance from last week, the crowd sang out "There's only one Arsene Wenger" for the first time in a long time. He's had a tough week but he obviously made some changes at half time which enabled this team to play with the handbrake off and it was encouraging to see how many opportunities we created.

Post match Arsene Wenger said:
"At the start of this game it was a question of nerves, of patience, of intelligence, and I think we controlled the game well even if Szczesny made a good save at the start of the game.  
"In the second half I could not see Bolton scoring a goal although to their defence they were down to ten men and that made it even more difficult for them."
It was good to get a win under our belts so soon after what happened last weekend. We played some very nice football, if only we could take more of the chances we create. Hopefully that will come as the season develops and the understanding between the players build. But yesterday was a very important win and now we've got two big games before the international break.

And special mention must go to Robin van Persie for his 100th goal for the club which is a huge achievement. He's looked a lot fitter and stronger since his return from injury last season. We'll have more on the centurion in our late afternoon tactical post.

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