So, that was a bit better, eh? The corner remains unturned, our backness on the track has yet to be determined, but we needed a performance and a result to at least start the confidence trickling back and we got that.
The only things worth talking about from the first half were a fantastic Szczesny save in the early minutes (that’s quite a nice habit he’s developing, even if you do wish we wouldn’t allow the chances), a van Persie free kick curled just wide, and a Gervinho shot which whistled not far over the bar. Actually, there was a great chance for Gervinho but his first touch was heavier than Mido on a night out with Mickey Quinn and it went a begging. Those moments aside it was dreary, to say the least.
Bolton defended well, got organised and men behind the ball and pretty much stifled us and it was a bit frustrating. A good start to the second half was crucial and boy did we get it. When Gervinho was flattened in midfield Mark Clattenburg waved play on allowing Ramsey to drive forward. He gave it to RVP who was helped by the fact Zat Knight turned and ran away from him, giving him space to drive past Reo-Coker and slam it home at the near post. 1-0.
Ten minutes later Bolton were down to 10 men. Ramsey played a lovely ball behind the defence, Theo got in behind and was vaguely touched by David Wheater. Down he went and out came the red card. Some might suggest that the contact was barely enough to make a grown man fall over, and in one sense they would be right. Like, that would never make you fall over in the street but on the football pitch, all day long.
And any sort of moral stance, suggesting that players shouldn’t do this, only works if all players don’t do it. The thing is, all players do, and I’ve seen countless Arsenal players sent off for exactly the same thing. I’ll take the red card because it makes our life easier and at this moment in time I’d frenchie a scorpion if I thought it’d make our life easier (please note: I may be exaggerating for effect). We didn’t score the free kick but it opened things up for us.
One dangerous moment from Eagles aside, who forced a routine save from SZCZ after a Bolton break, it was all Arsenal and we peppered the Bolton goal with shots. Jaaskelainen made some good saves but it wasn’t until the 71st minute that Ramsey played Theo down the right, he crossed for Robin and the captain got his 100th Arsenal goal with a deliberately shinned finish. Cheeky.
We ought to have had more, Theo had two great chances, one in particular when clean through was the sort he usually finishes quite well but the shot was tame, so it was left to Alex Song to put the icing on the cake with a late curler into the top corner.
It wouldn’t be an Arsenal game without some injury drama and as the game drew to a close Theo Walcott went down with what the manager said was a ‘sharp pain in his knee’, but early reports suggest it’s not as serious as it appeared.
Afterwards, Arsene said:
It is a deserved win that is welcome for us because we cannot drop many more points.
Which is pretty much all he can say. As in the build-up there’s not a great deal of analysis required. We needed a win, we got a win. We didn’t necessarily need a clean sheet but getting one was very welcome and will help build some confidence, and scoring three will obviously help too. As I said, there’s no point talking about turning corners or anything else yet, we need to produce results on a much more consistent basis before we can do that, but it’s a start.
The main post-game talking point though is Robin van Persie who got his 100th goal for the club today. When you consider how much time he’s missed through injury he could be well beyond that but let’s take nothing away from the achievement. Described after the game as ‘magic‘ by Arsene Wenger, he said:
It makes me very proud, I’m number 17 in Arsenal’s history to score 100 goals, which is a big achievement.
I started thinking about it when I scored my 82nd, my 83rd goal, I was looking ahead and thinking ‘Oh, this might be possible’. So today’s the day and it makes me proud.
And while the fans were praising him, he was praising them right back:
The fans were amazing again. Of course for them it’s a hard time, like for us, but I think everyone’s dealing well with the situation. We got a good win, three goals, so hopefully we can look forward with this result.
It was interesting to watch Match of the Day last night and hear Alan Hansen decry van Persie as a captain and a leader. ‘He doesn’t lead by example’, he said. ‘I wouldn’t have him as captain’.
I wonder, in all seriousness, how scoring 26 goals in 31 games in 2011 is not leading by example. If that’s not the kind of example players need then I’m lost as to what he actually should be doing. Strikers should score goals, van Persie scores goals, and lots of them. That’s a pretty good example.
Then there was the incident where he seemed ready to fight the entire Bolton back four. I didn’t see what sparked it – and if anyone can clear it up please leave a comment in the arses – but the way the snide Paul Robinson was left in a crumpled heap on the floor, I hope Robin gave him a well deserved clatter. Whatever it was though, the captain was left on his own to front up to the Bolton players and if that’s not leading by example I need lessons in captaincy.
That it took so long for his teammates to get involved is another thing entirely, but you cannot say that van Persie isn’t captain material or fails to lead his team by his actions on the pitch. Scoring twice and wanting to knock the shite out of the opposition is pretty much all you can ask.
Without taking anything away from him I do worry slightly that we might become over reliant on Robin for goals, and it would be nice to have a bit of faith that some of our other striking options can chip in now and again, but 100 up for any club is a fantastic achievment and here’s to many more.
It’s a good start to what is a big week for us. Our first home Champions League game, against Olympiacos, then the small matter of the North London Derby next Sunday at White Hart Lane. After that it’s an Interlull and how those two weeks without football play out will be entirely down to whether or not we can start to be consistent. Let’s hope so.