Arshavin hits top gear to drive Gunners past battling Wanderers
Published 26/10/2011 | 05:00
The dark clouds of unease are still some way from lifting over Arsenal. But the longer they keep grinding out wins like this, the sooner they can start feeling like a big team again. This was not an easy victory -- it never seems to be for them these days -- but for a young, inexperienced side, it will certainly do for the time being.
Just as against Shrewsbury in round three, they came from behind. Just as then, it was a performance at times disjointed and frequently error-strewn.
But there was just enough skill, just enough character and just enough resolve to give grounds for optimism.
It was a contest that only really sprang to life in the second 45 minutes, when three goals in the space of nine minutes swung the match first the way of the visitors and then, in a flicker, towards Arsenal.
Much of the first half was intriguing rather than truly gripping. Ju-Young Park and Thomas Vermaelen, playing his first game for two months after injury, managed to work Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan in the first half. Darren Pratley was Bolton's brightest player, and he forced a sprawling save from Lukasz Fabianski with a fierce shot from 20 yards.
But if Arsenal were marginally the better team in the first half, Bolton came roaring out of the blocks in the second. Emmanuel Frimpong was too casual in his own half, allowing Fabrice Muamba to steal the ball. Muamba slipped it left to Pratley, who played it back into his path, the finish slammed high into the roof of the net.
The home fans were momentarily stunned, but what they still had in their favour was the one genuinely classy player on the pitch. Yossi Benayoun had impressed all game with his vision and range of passing, and one pass picked out Andrey Arshavin.
The Russian cut in from the flank and danced towards goal, Zat Knight content to let him shoot from an angle. To his horror, the ball flew in between his legs, beyond Bogdan and into the far corner. There was no reaction from Arsene Wenger. He was still some way from satisfaction.
That was to come three minutes later, when Arsenal broke with more verve and purpose than they had managed to muster in the entire first half.
Again Arshavin shuffled towards goal. He waited for Park to find some space, played the pass, and the Korean curled the winning strike past Bogdan. (© Daily Telegraph, London)