View From The North Bank: Arsenal 2 Bolton 1
Another day, another Arsenal win! And a win that offered encouraging signs for the strength of our squad – a squad that is continually questioned.
I’m not going to get carried away with a 2-1 win at home against a team stuck in a terrible rut of form, but some individual performances – and that of the team – last night certainly improved my confidence in the squad.
Chu-Young Park has grabbed most of the headlines this morning and rightly so. He grew into the game after in inconspicuous start; his movement is so intelligent – certainly closer to the RVP spectrum of movement than that of the static Chamakh.
Park took his goal with aplomb and linked well with Arshavin all night. His work rate was commendable and it was also noticeable to see the reaction of his teammates when he scored. He’s a well liked member of the squad and has integrated well to life in England. That performance should certainly place Park ahead of Chamakh in the pecking order.
A number of the youngsters had solid games; Ignasi Miquel was steady enough at left back and Nico Yennaris impressed at right back with a performance well above his formative 18 years.
The three most experienced players played their part: Squillaci did his job, Benayoun bobbed and weaved, using possession efficiently and Arshavin revelled in a free role behind Park.
The little Russian seemed free of his usual left wing shackles. Whether Wenger can find a way to utilise Arshavin in that way more often is unlikely given the makeup of the current starting XI. He was particularly bright in the second half, scoring a typical goal with that non-existent back lift of his.
And of course, we had the return of Thomas Vermaelen. With Mertesacker and Koscielny’s partnership improving with each game, the need for Vermaelen’s return is not as desperate as it was when we first heard that he required another operation. But, there’s no denying that we’re a better team with him taking his place at the heart of the defence.
He looked like he’d never been away, and Bolton pressure towards the end of the game provided a great test, not only of his fitness but the mental challenge to get him straight back in the groove.
Of course there was the pre-requisite Vermaelen fitness scare, when with 10 minutes to go he waived towards the bench and began hobbling about. Wenger, as stated in his post match interview, was reluctant to take him off as the defence was under a lot of pressure, but he was substituted and first fears suspected a calf strain. Vermaelen was quick to point out in the mixed zone after the game that it was just cramp, which the club have now confirmed. Panic over. I would be surprised if Wenger will bring him in for the Chelsea match anyhow.
Most disappointing last night was the performances of the midfield pairing of Frimpong and Coquelin. The Frenchman in particular didn’t have a great night. He was sloppy in possession and missed a few tackles – but he’s young. Like Oxlade-Chamberlain – who was also a little disappointing given his previous first team outings – young players have off games. Frimpong improved as the game went on and provides invaluable assets to the team without the ball, but his passing needs to improve.
Perhaps most surprising of all was that Squillaci was solid. And that one of Fabianski’s flaps didn’t result in conceding a goal.
A good night’s work in front of a very respectable crowd – including a number of next-gen Gooners – not only put Arsenal through to another Quarter-Final, but also reassured us Gooners that Wenger’s eye for a player is still with him. Time will tell with a lot of these players, but last night they were making all the right noises.