Arsenal 3-0 Bolton.
How long have the Gunners faithful been waiting to say that this year? In their sixth EPL match of the season, Arsenal finally put together a game that yielded results we are used to seeing as they surged past Bolton in the second half to secure their second win of the season. Of particular note was Robin van Persie scoring a brace and celebrating his 100th goal for Arsenal, becoming only the 17th player in team history to match that feat.
After a threatening first half ended nil-nil, Robin van Persie ended the stalemate with a blistering shot to beat Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen only 38 seconds into the second period and with the pressure off, suddenly the Gunners found their confidence.
In a game where the home side started slow, Arsenal fans held their breath to see how their heroes would play this fixture. Near heart-attacks threatened in only the second minute as Darren Pratley received a well placed header and volleyed a shot onto target. A fantastic reaction from Wojciech Sczcesney denied the Wanderers, however, and it would be but one of three shots that the visitors attempted all afternoon.
Arsenal dominated possession 63 percent to 37 percent throughout the game, but the second half was far more lopsided than that percentage indicates. Arsenal attempted 27 shots to Bolton's three. Arsenal had nine corners to Bolton's two (2' and 90' with little bearing on the match). Only terrific saves from Jaaskelainen prevented the Gunners from heaping even more misery upon a side that sits at the absolute bottom of the Premier league table.
Theo Walcott made a statement of his own against his detractors with a solid performance that saw him in an assisting role, though the young winger wasted a golden opportunity in a one-on-one with the keeper in the second half. Nonetheless, his pace wore down the Bolton left side and it was his pass with terrific pace that enabled RvP to score his second goal and secure his century scoring mark for the Gunners.
Theo's productive night, however, was marred by the possibility of serious injury as he pulled up short on a run in the closing moments and clutched his left leg. The injury comes at a time where Arsenal are already without starlet jack Wilshere who is now out for the rest of 2011, but all is not lost. This may provide just the opening that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain needs to shoehorn himself into the starting line-up. Only time will tell.
Arsenal's third goal was scored on a marvelous bit of offensive prowess from a man that rarely celebrates goals and is known for his defending—Alex Song. His perfectly timed run and strike from the top of the box sealed the win for the Gunners in the 89th minute and was a fitting cap to an excellent defensive showing from him. What a difference his presence in the line-up makes and he atoned well for his own goal last weekend in the loss to Blackburn (to be fair, there was no way anyone could have prevented that own goal a week ago).
All is not peaches and cream for Arsenal, however, as their defensive frailties still reared their ugly heads at times and only exception plays by the defense maintained the clean sheet. Wojciech Sczcesney's save at the 2' mark, Gibbs tearing back (on a night he played wonderfully) to force an early shot on a rare Bolton breakaway counter-attack, and Song following up his goal with a block at the end preserved the scoreline, but illustrated that the defense was still vulnerable.
Continued work will have to go into the defense, in particular on Pratley's attempt that saw six Arsenal defenders in the box, but no one marking Pratley himself until just before his attempted on goal.
That being said, this is a wonderful result for an Arsenal side that has been looking for consecutive victories all season. With a Champions League fixture at home to Greek side Olympiacos Piraeus on Wednesday, the Gunners have a chance to make it three wins a row in their build-up to the North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur in one week's time. Such a streak could imbue a talented but still unstable side with the confidence to take-on and defeat their North London rivals.
With any luck, this win will help turn about a season that has seen Arsenal FC floundering and be the stepping stone for the Gunners to claw their way back to respectability. Come what may, today is a day to rejoice for all Arsenal fans and I, for one, will enjoy it for as long as possible.
Gooner for Life!
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