Friday, June 2, 2023

Arsenal 2-1 Bolton: progress continues

Video highlights and reaction

I can’t say a great deal about last night as I haven’t seen anything bar the goals but when you look at the team we had out, and the strength of the Bolton side, that was a very decent win. All the goals came in the second half, Frimpong was well and truly robbed by former Arsenal man Fabrice Muamba who went on to open the scoring, but two goals in a couple of minutes ended up sealing the game for Arsenal.

And as much as we like to see youngsters do their stuff, if I had to pick two players from last night’s starting XI to score it would have been Arshavin and Park. These are guys who, for various reasons, are kind of on the fringes of the first team at the moment. Arshavin, because his form has been pretty poor, Park because he’s still getting used to the game here.

The Russian equalised having driven into the box and firing a whizzer, with no backlift, into the bottom corner. He then set up Park for his first Arsenal goal which was Henry-esque in its execution, opening up his body and curling it in at the far post. I’m sure other stuff happened after that, but I didn’t see it so I can’t comment. But in a competition in which our focus is generally on youth, it was the experience which won the game for us.

For some bullet points from someone who was there and saw the whole thing, check out the report on Arseblog News.

Afterwards, Arsene said:

In the last 20 minutes our legs had gone a little bit and we were hanging on with a bit of luck. Many players have not played at that level and that intensity so it was vital for us tonight not to go into extra time. I have to congratulate the team because we had two young full-backs who are usually central players. In midfield we were very young and we have shown good spirit against a good Bolton side.

So on the face of it a good result against a decent side, some good experience for the youngsters, and some valuable playing time for more experienced players who have shown they can contribute. Park’s goal will have done him the world of good and the boss says he’s now ready for the real stuff:

I am very pleased with his performance. He had a very, very good game. He has shown intelligence in his link play with others. The quality of his movement was exceptional and his finishing is absolutely fantastic. He has shown tonight that he is a very, very good player. He is ready to play in league games, yes.

One goal does not a Premier League player make but let’s hope it’s just the first of many. Eye-witness reports suggest he was far, far better than his previous outing in this competition and perhaps the goal will have convinced the manager to use him in the league should he be required.

The other good news from the night was the return of Thomas Vermaelen who played almost the full game. He had to go off with about 5 minutes to go because of ‘tight’ calves, but reports of him being banjaxed again seem wide of the mark. He was, apparently, suffering from cramp which is no surprise given how long he’s gone without a competitive match. His last appearance was on August 24th against Udinese so struggling in the final minutes of a tough game is par for the course, really. Fingers crossed he’s ok for Chelsea on Saturday, although the form of Mertscielny probably means he won’t start (unless AW decides to use Kos at right back but more on that to come ahead of Saturday).

As for us that’s seven wins from the last eight games and the progress continues. Nothing spectacular, nothing showy, but we’re producing results and that was always going to be the way it had to be. Continuing in this competition allows us to provide valuable time to the youngsters, and the experienced players who need it, while the bread and butter of the Premier League returns this weekend with the small matter of Chelsea away. And there’ll be plenty to say about that in the next few days.

In other news, Robin van Persie used his programme notes to wax lyrical about Gervinho. The Ivorian is probably back on the captain’s Christmas card list after his failure to pass to him at Ewood Park, having set up both the captain’s goals against Stoke on Sunday. Robin said:

Two big assists and a big goal in a game like that against tough opposition shows that he capable of doing big things. He has so much ability in his body, and a certain way of changing his speed in the middle of a movement that lets him get away from people. That gives him an extra edge, and he used it very well – I’m really pleased.

It takes time in football for players to create partnerships and there are certainly signs that Gervinho’s pace in the final third, especially that burst he has to get away from defenders, might complement the movement of van Persie inside the area. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a beautiful, and highly fruitful, friendship.

And that’s about that for this morning. I made my very own Vermaelen-esque comeback last night having spent three months out injured. When you’re used to playing 3 times a week and you’re left in a situation where you replace your football with beer and sandwiches, it gets a bit frustrating. We lost, but there were no ill-effects thankfully, and we can go on and lose better next week!

Right, until tomorrow when we’ll begin to look ahead to Chelsea and there’s Arsenal’s AGM on the agenda. Recent form will make that a much more comfortable experience for all concerned than it might have been a few weeks ago, so there’ll be plenty to report on from there tomorrow.

Till then.

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