Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Captain's century from RvP inspires a win

The Gunners produced a really good performance against Bolton on Saturday to get a deserved win that looked, certainly by Arsenal’s recent standards, relatively comfortable. Pleasingly, there were few real defensive dramas – despite some nervy moments through some frustratingly predictable set-piece weaknesses – which, combined with a much improved performance from the Pole between the sticks (sorry), gave us the additional and unexpected bonus of a clean sheet. Both Mertesacker and Koscielny look to be improving their understanding, and if Szczesny provides better direction from behind (he already does so far more effectively than either Fabianski or Almunia) the back-line should continue to consolidate and gel.

At the other end of the pitch the more experienced players in the team stepped up to provide a sustained attacking threat that reaped rewards in the form of a classic striker’s brace from Robin van Persie and an equally adept finish from Alex Song, who fought it out between them for the accolade of 'best player on the pitch'. That now makes it three goals in our last three games. Although Gervinho was surprisingly subdued, Ramsey played well if unspectacularly and both Arteta and Walcott made numerous telling contributions. Mikel was quietly effective, again proving his worth, while Theo was typically menacing but also occasionally erratic, missing a good one on one but on the other hand also providing a good assist for van Persie. Arsenal’s task in the second half was made easier after they grabbed a lead through Robin van Persie in the opening minutes, but the turning point was the dismissal of David Wheater not long thereafter. Wheater was making his first start this season in place of the injured Gary Cahill, whose absence also undoubtedly made the Gunners' task easier. After the sending off Arsenal began to look fairly comfortable and the highlight of the game was a second moment of mastery from our number 10, his 100th goal for Arsenal – a really neat flick that showcased the Dutchman's technical skill. But even putting those two excellent goals aside, it was a real captain’s performance from RvP who showed he was more than prepared to match the physicality of the Bolton players, and in so doing undoubtedly helped to restore some more belief in the team. Whether a 3-0 win against a struggling Bolton team constitutes ‘turning a corner’ I don’t know, but before the game many Arsenal fans (including myself) saw this as a tricky fixture, and the fact that the Gunners came through it with a certain amount of confidence, resilience and yes, finesse (thanks Robin), make it certainly another step forwards.

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