Connect with us

Post Match Review

Captain Vantastic hits the century mark and Arsenal get a win.

Gooners were all looking for something to be happy about and they got in two instances yesterday. The first, Robin Van Persie’s 99th and 100th goals as a Gunner led to the second a comfortable Arsenal win. A win of this sorts hadn’t been seen in these parts since Arsenal’s demolition of Blackpool last season.

Gooners were all looking for something to be happy about and they got in two instances yesterday. The first, Robin Van Persie’s 99th and 100th goals as a Gunner led to the second a comfortable Arsenal win. A win of this sorts hadn’t been seen in these parts since Arsenal’s demolition of Blackpool last season.

Bolton came in with a plan to stimey the midfield and cut off the lanes for the Arsenal passing game. In the first half Owen Coyle’s charges did a beautiful job of executing this plan. Their man marking forced Arsenal’s midfielders to start deeper on the pitch and made them play a more patient tippy-tappy game. It was frustrating to see so much posession but with little threat.  But credit to Bolton they had a plan, they stuck to it and they did the number on Arsenal for 45 minutes.

I mentioned after the Carling Cup match that if Arsenal are only going to give us one good half of football a match, it had better be the second – not the first ala Blackburn. I don’t know who gave the “hair-dryer” speech at half-time but it did wonders as Arsenal came out and within 38 seconds took the game over.

Using speed on the counter Arsenal created a signature goal that resulted in Van Persie scoring his 99th in the red and white. Getting the assist from Gibbs Van Persie took the ball deep in the box and from an angle reminiscent of his goal against Barcelona last February squeezed a hard shot on to Jaaskelainen’s near post. Beautiful, skillful and a goal that looks like it is becoming a signature Van Persie shot.

The only real chance Bolton would have in the second is on the counter when Chris Eagles took the ball deep into Arsenal territory. His shot was forced early by the Gibbs who used his speed to close down the Bolton player. He shot early and right into the arms of Szczesny. It was one of only the two real chances Bolton had on the day.

From there on in it was Arsenal all the way especially after Weater was sent off for denying Walcott a scoring opportunity. Truth be told Walcott for much of the game was ineffective shooting wise. The best case in point is his break away in the second half, with noone on him. Rather than make sure he has the shot he needs he rushes his shot right into the waiting Jaaskelainen. But the beauty of Walcott was as atrocious as his shooting was, his use of the his speed to get behind and set up plays was spot on all day long.  His speed and passing were the catalyst for Van Persie’s 100th.

Streaking down the right, he got behind the Bolton defender sent the ball into the middle with a low hard cross and Van Persie did what any good forward would do, and got his foot on the ball and directed it into the net.  Good skillful works on both ends of that goal.

The third goal from the much maligned Alex Song. For much of the game he did what was supposed to do and didn’t venture too forward sitting back more than he normally does. Only with Bolton with 10 men did he start going forward with any regularity. It was doing this that he was at the top of the box to get the ball and rifle a sublime goal into the right of net. It took good skill to do free from the defender and skill for the shot. All in all a good job by the player.

Song gets a lot of stick. Some of it is deserved. He played a great first half against Blackburn but was part of the reason we collapsed in the second. Against Dortmund he bossed the midfield with effect and against the likes of Wayne Rooney last season disrupted his style of play. Like many of the players on Arsenal he goes forward, much to the chagrin of the purists who expect their DM to sit back and cover for all of the match. Well, that’s not this team’s style. This team style is to go forward and score. And if Song goes forward, the likelihood is that Ramsey or one of the other midfielders rotates back to cover.  All in all Song passes well with an average of 86% pass rate and he sees the ball more get approximately 80 or so touches a game.  Many pundits feel he continues to grow into his position and are rating him highly but for some Arsenal fans used to the likes of Patrick Vieira prowling the midfield, its not enough.

But at the end of the day, it is Robin Van Persie who we should focus on. Prior to the match, I said that in order for Arsenal to succeed that when the team are down it is up to Van Persie to put them on his back and carry them over the finish line. He did that in spades yesterday.  A lot of people are speculating that it is Van Persie who did the motivating in the locker room at half-time (hair dryer speeches aren’t Wenger bag baby.) But he also motivated on the pitch with his performance and through him the Gunners took over the match.

Van Persie is a different player than Cesc Fabregas of that there is no doubt. But he is also a different Captain. Not only can he lead by performance on the pitch but he is not afraid to be vocal, something I am not so sure was part of Fabregas’ Barca DNA. He believes in the team and his teammates. But he isn’t afraid to call players on their antics when it happens. He wears his heart on his sleeve and shows judgement when needed (like not retalliating when 5 Bolton players surrounded him and one grabbed his face.) If Van Persie is healthy for a season look for a lot of goals and one player who will try and will Arsenal into winning silverware.

The Final Verdict

It’s a win. Nothing more. There are still 32 matches left to play and as has been shown we are capable when we are up for it. I thought the team showed that a lot of swagger and confidence were coming back as they bossed the game.  But with a long road to recovery for the Gunners more complete performances are needed. Matches of one good one bad half won’t suffice for too long in a league that is become parity central.  They need to build on this and believe they can win again. They get another test of their mettle this Wednesday against Olympiakos in the Champion’s League and then the biggie – the North London Derby. It doesn’t get any easier.

Just a final word about Bolton – tough luck for a club many had speculated on being a Europa Cup contender this season. They are a well managed side and have a solid defencive core. After obliterating Wigan 4-0 on opening day they have now lost 5 straight and it doesn’t get easier as their next match is against Chelsea. Ouch.

Player Ratings

Szczesny  7.5  – another solid performance always alert and effective especially on the early chance by Bolton
Sagna – 7 – a yeoman’s effort for for the best RB in the league
Mertesacker – 6 – still locked nervous/uncomfortable early on. Settled down but not really tested
Koscielny – 6 – quiet day still won a lot of headers and had a beautful shot on goal that Bolton were luck to save
Gibbs – 7.5 used his speed effectively to close down players and had an assist and some nice tackles to stop play
Song – 7.5 effective all match and with a wunderstrike by his alter-ego Songaldinho
Arteta – 7  Slowly growing into his role
Ramsey – 6.5 ineffective in the first half but a solid outting in the second.
Walcott – 7 couldn’t shoot to save his life but his speed and passing more than made up for it
Gervinho – 6.5 if he can do something about his lead foot first touch we might have a good player here
Van Persie – 8.5 did everything and more you want from a player of his stature

Next up – Champion’s League Football with a visit by Olympiakos.


More in Post Match Review