Arsenal move away from danger after impressive win over Bolton
Premier League: Arsenal 3 Bolton 0
This time Arsenal will be hoping the corner really has been turned. A comfortable, and eventually commanding win over Bolton has pulled them away from the lower reaches of the table with which they are so unaccustomed.
Robin van Persie’s double strike, taking him to 100 in an Arsenal shirt, and a late goal from Alex Song saw another troubling week at the Emirates end on a high.
The Gunners now have seven points from six games, and while that still sees them trail the Manchester clubs and Chelsea by sizeable margins, this was a welcome victory.
For Van Persie, 2011 is becoming a stellar year. The Dutchman has now scored 21 goals in 23 league games so far this year, with 26 goals in 31 in total.
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He was too slick for Bolton, who slipped to the bottom of the table. Having been billed as the game when Arsenal finally got to see what they missed by not signing Gary Cahill, the England defender cried off after being ill overnight, not the best news for a Bolton side who had lost their last four league games since winning 4-0 across London at QPR on the opening day.
Nevertheless the visitors fashioned the first chance of the game early on, with Arsenal’s defence looking on ponderously as a cross was headed back across goal by David Wheater and Darren Pratley’s hooked shot forced a good save from Wojciech Szczesny.
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Arsenal seemed becalmed in the first half, Gervinho surged clear but then overran the ball, allowing Jussi Jaaskelainen to come out and smother, while the Ivorian also flashed one effort over the bar.
But Bolton’s combative midfield, which included the former Arsenal academy graduate Fabrice Muamba, was compact and organised, and the likes of Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey found it very difficult to get into the game.
Just before the break Walcott wriggled clear on the left and cut the ball back for Van Persie, but the Dutchman’s shot was blocked and the sides went in at half-time all square and needing to improve.
The change at the start of the second half was instant. Straight from the kick-off Bolton were dispossessed, and the ball broke via Ramsey to Van Persie on the edge of the Bolton box.
The Arsenal captain turned, jinked away from Muamba, and then unleashed a low shot inside Jaaskelainen’s near post to give the Gunners the lead.
The goal completely changed the complexion of the game, although Owen Coyle would probably argue that Wheater’s red card just before the hour mark was equally decisive.
The former Middlesbrough defender seemed to try and tug Walcott back as the Arsenal man surged clear, but the contact was minimal and the visiting players were furious when referee Mark Clattenburg brandished a red card.
Immediately Bolton were on the ropes although they did have a glimpse of an equaliser when Chris Eagles broke clear and fired wide.
But Arsenal were now clearly on top, with Arteta seeing one shot blocked and then Jaaskelainen clawing away a Van Persie header as they pressed for the second goal.
It arrived 19 minutes from time, this time Walcott was the creator as he stormed down the right flank and sent in a low cross which Van Persie diverted past Jaaskelainen with a deft flick of his left foot.
That settled the match, although Walcott should have added to the tally later in the game, first missing dreadfully when through one-on-one with Jaaskelainen and then trying a curling effort that went horribly wide.
Song showed him how to do it with two minutes to go, curling a delightful finish beyond Jaaskelainen to send the Emirates fans home happy with a third goal.
The only down point was the sight of Walcott hobbling off with what looked like a muscle strain in injury-time. Arsenal will hope that is not a long-term problem after the bad news concerning Jack Wilshere on Friday.
‘One Arsene Wenger’ sang the Emirates crowd. It has been a terrible start to the season for the Gunners, but this was actually a fifth win in 10 games in all competitions. However, White Hart Lane next weekend will prove a far more serious test.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Song, Arteta (Rosicky, 81) Ramsey, Walcott, Gervinho (Arshavin, 78), Van Persie (Chamakh, 85). Subs not used: Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabianski, Frimpong.
Goals: Van Persie 46, 71, Song 89.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Robinson, Wheater, Knight, Muamba (Boyata, 57), Reo-Coker, Eagles (M Davies, 70), Pratley, Petrov, Ngog (K Davies, 20). Subs not used: Bogdan, Tuncay, Gardner, Kakuta.