Catalonia Combo Gives Arsenal Three Points Away to Bolton

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Catalonia Combo Gives Arsenal Three Points Away to Bolton
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

A double straight out of Spain gave Arsene Wenger's side all three points in the first part of this double header against Owen Coyle's Bolton.

With snow causing havoc over the past two weeks, both clubs find themselves in unusual circumstances where they face each other back to back in the league. Wednesday night sees them face off again at the Emirates.

The spoils today went to Arsenal who close the gap on league leaders Chelsea to three points. A victory by two clear goals for Arsene Wenger's men midweek would see the Gunners go top of the table.

Despite good value for their win, the result could have been oh so different had Matty Taylor worn his shooting boots with the Bolton player guilty of missing some gilt-edge chances.

Before the game, Arsenal's injury problems were compounded by a hamstring problem to Samir Nasri. 

A league debut was handed to 19-year-old Craig Eastmond in the middle of the field while Armand Traore continued at left back despite the return from injury of Gael Clichy.

The home side got out of the traps quickest and created two good chances in the opening three minutes in front of their new manager.

Ivan Klasnic, in particular, was giving the Arsenal defenders all sorts of problems.

However, Arsenal started to find their stride with Cesc Fabregas once again leading his troops from midfield.

The Gunners's Captain slid a glorious ball into Eduardo, but the chance was scuppered by Jaaskelainen as the Croat was not quick enough to reach it.

Minutes later, it appeared that Fabregas got to the ball ahead of the Bolton goalkeeper and was felled, but Phil Dowd waved his penalty calls away. It was a real 50/50 that went in favour of the home side.

However, Arsenal were soon to take the lead, and it was through that man Fabregas.

Diaby played the ball to Fabregas in the box who played a quick one-two with Eduardo before slotting home.

One-nil to the Arsenal.

Bolton should really have been level going in at the break, but Klasnic couldn't beat Almunia after lifting the ball over Gallas.

This came after a period of argy-bargy as Rosicky was booked after reacting to Klasnic kicking out at Diaby.

Dowd booked the Arsenal man which seemed to restore some order.

The second half started as the first with Bolton streaming down on the Arsenal goal.

Armand Traore had another tough afternoon with attack after attack coming down his side. Although he's not been at his best, it must be said he had little in the way of help down his flank from the Arsenal midfield.

The best chance for the home side fell to Matty Taylor who really should have put his side level.

Instead of running with the ball for a one-on-one with the keeper, Taylor decided to shoot from 25 yards out and dragged his shot wide. Relief for Arsenal, anguish for Coyle.

Wenger rang the changes as first Fran Merida came on for Craig Eastmond and Gael Clichy replaced Tomas Rosicky to give Traore a helping hand. It was Clichy's first appearance since October.

As it was, it was the Spaniard Merida who sealed the three points for Arsenal with a cool finish.

Eduardo crossed from the left and with Zak Knight only able to flick it on, Merida came in at the far post to calmly slot it home.

The finish showed the young man's quality but with Fabregas, Ramsey, Diaby, Song, Denilson, and Wilshere all vying for a midfield slot, Merida has found his chances limited, and it is looking increasingly likely that he will leave the club on a free in the summer for Athletico Madrid. Wenger's post-match comments did little to change this opinion.

In the closing stages, Coyle threw on Elmander and Gardner but to little avail, and Arsenal saw out the match.

The home fans will take some comfort from their team's play and chances created. Bolton sacked Gary Megson despite him not losing any of his last four games, Owen Coyle played the exact same team but ended up on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline.

However, it is extremely harsh to base anything on this game. Any new manager would find a double header against an in-form Arsenal a tough start, never mind one taking over a club hovering around relegation.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger can feel pleased with the three points. Once again his side dug in when needed and played pretty football to score the two goals.

He will be delighted to see Cesc Fabregas take up where he left off and will hope he can lead from midfield again come Wednesday.

As it is Arsenal are well into this title race, but Wenger will have to surely bring in reinforcements in the form of a striker in the next fortnight. 

Robin Van Persie is out for the season, Nicklas Bendtner is plagued by a groin injury, Carlos Vela isn't consistent enough, while Eduardo is linking well but not scoring.

A short term fix a la Sol Campbell up front for Arsenal would not be a bad decision by Wenger.

Still, he has seen his team come back from eleven points down on the league leaders to now be in with a shot of going top of the table midweek.

That game is all important and three points are a must as Arsenal then face Aston Villa away, Manchester United at home, Chelsea away, and Liverpool at home. If anyone's league aspirations will be settled in the next few games it will be Arsenal's.

But first up the Gunners and Trotters do it all over again on Wednesday night. 

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