Arsenal 4 Bolton 1: Gunners Pound 10-Man Wanderers in Another Physical Test

Hamlet AbayaCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11:  Alex Song of Arsenal celebrates after he scores his teams third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers at The Emirates Stadium on September 11, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

With the news that central defender Thomas Vermaelen was going to miss the match against Bolton Wanderers, new signing Sebastian Squillaci was poised to make his debut against Owen Coyle's physical side. 

Indeed what the crowd of 59,876 at the Emirates Stadium saw was a testy match almost throughout.  

The Gunners started off well, testing Bolton 'keeper Bogdan early and often, dominating possession, corners, and shots on goal.  Cesc Fabregas, Thomas Rosicky, and Andrey Arshavin had many early chances, and it could have easily been 3-0 early on if not for Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan's heroics and the players' profligacy in front of goal.  

But it was Laurent Koscielny, in only his third competitive Premier League start for Arsenal, who opened the scoring with his first Arsenal goal. 

In truth, he had a mixed day.  On Arsenal's first goal, Jack Wilshere sent in a sublime cross into the box that was, intentionally or not, cut back in front of goal by captain Fabregas.  All Koscielny needed to do was pass the ball into goal for his first goal as an Arsenal player. 

But the young Frenchman was also liable in Bolton's 44th minute goal, as he headed the ball softly towards the path of an onrushing Lee Chong-Yung's.  Although Almunia did well to push Lee out wide, the latter had the sense of mind to send a measured cross into the far post where Johan Elmander headed powerfully into goal. 


Although Bolton's robust defense stood strong in the first half, the second half was another story entirely. 

Arsenal's passing game was on Song and captain Fabregas was again instrumental as he chipped in a left-footed cross from the byline to a waiting Marouane Chamakh, who again proved his worth with another powerfully headed goal in the 57th minute of the game.

That is when the game started getting testy.  

After having been booked earlier in the 18th minute for catching Jack Wilshere with a robust late sliding tackle, a few minutes after fouling Thomas Rosicky from behind, Kevin Davies again tested the referee's resolve by jumping in late against Koscielny and headbutting the Frenchman at full force. 

Both players required treatment for a prolonged period of time, but Davies was not booked for the challenge. 

Later that half, after a non-call over what Bolton considered a foul against Lee at the edge of the box, Arsenal was counter attacking before Gary Cahill scythed Chamakh outside of the field of play to stop the attack. 

A clever one-two by Arshavin and Chamakh had set the former free on goal, but the referee stopped play and gave Cahill his marching orders for a dangerous and cynical foul on the Moroccan, leaving Coyle's men with only 10 players.  

Later, with an already testy match getting more heated, Robinson lunged clumsily at substitute Abou Diaby at the edge of the box and caught him with a horrible studs-up high tackle that is waved away by referee Stuart Attwell. 

On second look, it was probably a much more dangerous tackle than Cahill's and had the referee seen it at the right angle, Robinson would have probably been sent off. 

Having been the victim of a leg breaking tackle himself, Diaby was incensed by the no-call and Robinson's weak attempt at an apology.  Both teams got into a shouting match and further fueled the fire between these two teams.  Diaby was then substituted after only 12 minutes on the pitch.  

A few minutes later, the game was all but over as Song scored Arsenal's 1,000th Premier League goal under Wenger.  After winning the ball in midfield, Song finished a beautiful Arsenal passing move as he chipped 'keeper Bogdan from an acute angle. 

Later in the 82nd minute, substitute Carlos Vela put the icing on the cake by capping off an exquisite 24-pass move by receiving Fabregas' lobbed pass with virtually no one in sight, and finishing coolly into the bottom corner.

Though the 4-1 scoreline might lead observers to believe that it was an easy match, it was anything but. Bolton's physicality and defensive mindset stifled the Arsenal offense early and made life difficult for the Gunners, and it was not until Song scored that Arsenal were truly sure of the win. 

Indeed even if they did not win, Bolton's physicality helped them on this occasion as the referee ignored many penalty shouts as they challenged several Arsenal players inside the penalty box and tackled them without getting any piece of the ball.  With a different referee, it could have easily been 7-1. 

On the positive side, as has been reported earlier, there were some brilliant individual performances by Fabregas and Song in particular, and the Arsenal offense in general.  Manuel Almuniaa was also active and did well in goal.  Plus, the season debuts of Kieran Gibbs and Denilson were a welcome addition.

Arsenal showed great passing ability and picked apart Bolton's defense throughout the game.  Were it not for some poor finishing, primarily by an otherwise brilliant Arshavin, the game would have been over much sooner.

Because of those early misses, the game continued to be competitive for much of the rest of the match, and Bolton's defensive exuberance and penchant for physical games resulted in a testy affair. 

But Arsenal stood strong, took Bolton's blows on the chin and didn't back down or lose their cool.  If anything, the players showed toughness and resilience in front of their bullying, and showed that they will be tough to beat this season. 

But on a more negative note, the injury situation could get worse as Vermaelen missed the today's game and Diaby walked off gingerly after getting tackled dangerously. 

Furthermore, the centre of defense is still a big question mark, especially with two new signings manning the position with defensive stalwart Vermaelen out injured. 

Squillaci had a good enough debut, but it was clear that the communication and understanding between him and Koscielny has not yet been perfected.  Koscielny's weak header that led to Bolton's goal was a testament to that. 

Hopefully, Arsenal continue to build on this strong start to the season and the club's problems are solved.  If the injury situation gets better, and with time, the club's centre backs improve their defensive  partnership as they understand each other better and gain more experience in the premier league, this Arsenal team could prove a formidable rival to red-hot Chelsea.


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