Sunday, 25 September 2011

Robin Van Persie Stars As Arsenal Beat Bolton 3-0.

Arsenal played Bolton yesterday afternoon in the Premier League at the rather unusual kick off time of 3 pm. It was a game they quite simply had to win with their league campaign already faltering badly. They started the game with only four points from five games, and in the lowly position of 17th place.

Arsenal have finished in the top four of the Premier League every single season under the guidance of Arsene Wenger, and anything other than that is almost inconceivable. It's a long way from where they are now back up to the top four, but before yesterday's game there were still 33 games left to play. The most important thing for them against Bolton was to take the three points, and begin the task of gradually climbing back up the table.

The team was more or less as expected with Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott coming in for Andre Santos and Andrey Arshavin in the only changes from the team that lost to Blackburn Rovers last week. It meant Arsene Wenger was showing faith in almost the same team that performed so badly at times last week. I was hoping the full week together on the training ground might make a difference to how Arsenal defended as a team, as the deadline day arrivals looked to fit in with the rest of the team.

The first half was fairly non-descript with the only real highlights being a couple of close efforts from Arsenal, and a great early save from Wojciech Szczesny after some poor defending. Arsenal needed to up the pace in the second half, and put the Bolton defence under a lot more pressure. What they needed most of all was a goal to draw Bolton out, and open the way for them to score some more.

It didn't take long for that goal to come in the second half when Robin Van Persie got his name on the scoresheet for the 99th time in his Arsenal career. With less than a minute gone Arsenal broke forward and Gervinho turned Gretar Steinsson just inside the Bolton half. The referee allowed the advantage, as Aaron Ramsey ran on to the the loose ball.

Ramsey found  Robin Van Persie just outside the Bolton box, and he brought the ball forward before finishing very well at the near post. I can be the first person to criticise referees at times, but he did very well to allow the advantage. Arsenal had the goal they needed, and now they needed to punish Bolton.

Only 10 minutes later Arsenal found themselves a man up when  David Wheater was given a straight red card for pulling Theo Walcott back after Ramsey had played him in. Wheater was the last man back, and the referee had no choice once he had deemed it a foul. Walcott looked to have gone down quite easily, but Wheater definitely impeded him, and it was a correct decision in my opinion.

Arsenal were creating plenty of chances at that stage, but they needed to get the second goal to put the game to bed against ten men.  Bolton did manage one good chance at that stage when Arsenal were caught on the break from their own corner kick. Thankfully Gibbs managed to get back and put some pressure on Chris Eagles who had to shoot early, and Szczesny saved well.

Arsenal have been caught on the break far too often this season when they have had corners, and it's an aspect of their game that has to be looked at. It seems to me that the problem occurs when the corner is first cleared, and Arsenal attempt to get the ball back into the opposition box. Some of the players who should be holding back push forward at this stage, and if the opposition win the ball Arsenal are very vulnerable on the break.

Bolton's best player at that time was their goalkeeper Jussi  Jaaskelainen who made some very good saves to deny Arsenal. Straight after Bolton's goal RVP almost scored again, but some of the Bolton players took exception to his attempt on goal. Paul Robinson was down injured at the time, and they felt Arsenal should have put the ball out to allow him to get treatment.

Four Bolton players confronted RVP, and he stood his ground and made his point back to them. Robinson was down when Bolton attacked and there was no suggestion that they should stop to allow him to get treatment then. The rules of the game are that it's up to the referee to stop the game if he believes a player needs immediate treatment, and the Bolton players should have remonstrated with him.

Not too long afterwards Arsenal got the second goal they needed, and RVP was again the scorer. Theo Walcott did very well to get clear of his man on the right hand side, and he put the ball low across the six-yard box for RVP to steer home with his shin. It was a very clever finish from him, and it was also his 100th goal for Arsenal.

He became the 17th  Arsenal player to reach that landmark, and hopefully he will be around long enough to double it. He has joined a very elite group which includes great players like Thierry Henry, Denis Begkamp and Ian Wright in recent history.

The game was effectively over at that stage, and Wenger brought Tomas Rosicky, Andrey  Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh on for Mikael Arteta, Gervinho and RVP. Arsenal missed a few more chances with Walcott in particular missing a great opportunity when played through on the keeper. He had loads of time, but he took his shot far too early and really should have scored.

In the very last minute Alex Song scored Arsenal's third goal, and he showed one or two others how to do it with a fine finish into the top corner. Walcott went down towards the end in pain, and there will be an anxious wait for the results of a scan he is having on his knee. Hopefully he will get the all clear, as the last thing Arsenal need right now is yet another injury.

The result saw Arsenal move up to 12th in the table, and they now need to build on it with wins in the next week against Olympiacos and Tottenham Hotspur. The trip to Spurs next Sunday won't be an easy task for them, and they haven't beaten their local rivals in a league game since October 2009. They had remained unbeaten by Spurs in the league for over 10 years, but Spurs have now won two of the last three meetings.

An Arsenal win would put them ahead of Spurs going into the international break, and hopefully move them into the top half of the table too. Before that there's the matter of a home  Champions League game against the weakest team in their group. Olympiacos have started well in their domestic league with two wins, but they have lost at least seven Champions League games in a row.

It looks like it will be a very interesting week for  Arsenal, and thankfully it started off on a very good note.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights from yesterday's game.

See You Tomorrow.

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