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Wednesday 20 September 2017

Bendtner back with a bang to keep the Gunners flying high

Arsenal 2 Hull City 0

Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner celebrates scoring against Hull
Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner celebrates scoring against Hull

Jeremy Wilson

Arsene Wenger was asked repeatedly this week to answer those armchair pundits who have dismissed his team's title credentials, but it was always the pitch rather than the press conference that would provide the most eloquent reaction.

And that response, once again, could hardly have been more emphatic. True, beating Hull City at home does not in itself represent a resounding statement of intent, but the circumstances of this most routine of victories did send another powerful message.

Mindful of the demanding fixture programme to come, Wenger opted to rest half the outfield from the team that had started against Cardiff City on Saturday and yet there was still no discernible drop in quality.

Arsenal's two goals, scored within two minutes of the start of each start, were both of the very highest class and the final 43 minutes of the match were little more than a training exercise.

Aaron Ramsey was again superb, Mesut Ozil drifted around the pitch with effortless menace and, shock of all shocks, Nicklas Bendtner even scored.

With Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta and Kieran Gibbs all looking on from the bench, this was also proof that Arsenal's squad has rather more depth than the 'Match of the Day' experts have acknowledged.

Wenger had used his column in the programme to explain the need for rotation ahead of what he described as a "heavy" and "mentally demanding" December programme. He went on to say that he could not make more than three changes without disrupting the balance of his team and then promptly ignored his own advice.

From the starting XI that had so impressively dispatched Cardiff 3-0 on Saturday, there were five new players, with Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson awarded rare starts at full-back and Bendtner making the most eye-catching reappearance of all.

Despite having almost left on numerous occasions over the past two years, Bendtner (pictured) was awarded his first Premier League start since March 2011. The subtext, of course, was that Olivier Giroud has been in desperate need of a rest after playing 26 matches this season, but, with Walcott another option, it still came as a major surprise.

It took less than two minutes for Wenger's players to prove that their fluid rhythm would not be disturbed. With Arsenal taking an immediate hold on possession, Rosicky fed Ramsey who, in turn, released Jenkinson down the right. His cross on the run was perfectly delivered, with Bendtner rising to head Arsenal into the lead.

An onslaught ensued. Ramsey had a plausible penalty appeal waved away after muscling his way past Maynor Figueroa before having his heels clipped from behind. From the corner, Allan McGregor spilt Ozil's shot into the path of Bendtner, whose heavy touch allowed the ball to squirm to safety.

Having already had two shots saved, Ramsey collected Ozil's deflected pass on the edge of the area and unleashed a powerful swerving shot. It looked destined for the bottom corner of the goal but McGregor got down brilliantly to fingertip the ball to safety.

Bendtner, whose all-round game had impressed, then crossed invitingly for Ozil to glance a header wide.

Just after the break, Monreal did well to stop the ball going out of play and what followed was another wonderful goal at the end of a blur of passing. Ozil had fed Ramsey to brilliantly turn inside and split open Hull's defence with his return pass. Ozil's finish was equally incisive, with the club record-signing side-footing his shot between McGregor and his near-post. Further chances came and went, and Arsenal remain four points clear. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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