Monday 11 December 2017

Fabregas runs show in Wenger's milestone game as Bolton rue Cahill red card

Arsenal 4
Bolton 1

John Ley

IT WAS a weekend for milestones, but one particular statistic left Arsene Wenger scratching his head.

Not only were Arsenal playing their 700th Premier League game, but when Alex Song claimed their third goal he was scoring the 1,000th in the competition under Wenger.

Perspective reveals the magnitude of this achievement: the 1,000 goals came in 528 games. The previous 1,000 were 683 games in the making and that was during the George Graham era when Arsenal won titles.

So, which was the best? Wenger's immediate response was honest: "How long do you want me to stay here? I'm proud our supporters saw 1,000 goals, it's not easy. I've seen some great goals: Henry, Bergkamp, Campbell against Chelsea, even Adams against Everton.

"The important ones you remember. But you have the important ones, the spectacular ones, like Dennis Bergkamp at Newcastle or Thierry Henry against Tottenham or Liverpool.

"But you have as well the little ones and the goals that get you a 1-0.

"I just feel we slowly built an offensive style," Wenger added. "People come here and see goals, and that's the most important thing. That's what people want.

"The club didn't talk to me about changing the style, they wanted me to do a good job and that's what I tried to do.

"We have players who are offensively gifted, talented and we have a collective game that can be played at a high pace so we can create goals and chances. That's what we work on on the training pitch."

After the reminiscing was over, the reality kicks in and the truth is, though Arsenal dominated, they looked comfortable only after referee Stuart Attwell -- no stranger to criticism in his early refereeing life -- left himself open with a poor decision.

The official sent off Bolton's Gary Cahill, with the score at 2-1 and the game still with 25 minutes remaining.

Bolton were unhappy that Arsenal had not been punished by a foul by Song on Chung-Young Lee and with the ball still in play, Cahill challenged Marouane Chamakh. It was clumsy but it was a yellow card at worst.

Attwell had been erratic before the card and may be asked today to consider his decision, with Bolton likely to appeal against a punishment which, if it stands, would keep their valuable defender out for three games.

When Johan Elmander equalised for Bolton -- after Arsenal scorer Laurent Koscielny headed needlessly into the path of Lee -- the visitors sensed the chance to steal a point.

But with Chamakh confirming his heading ability (not too many previous Arsenal strikers can boast that asset) and the ridiculous dismissal, the game turned.

And what we saw, throughout, was the best of Cesc Fabregas, still an artisan at Arsenal rather than a ball-winner at Barca. He was involved in all that was good about Arsenal, supplying the passes for all four goals.

The third was not only a milestone, it also came from a move involving 26 show-boating passes.

Of all those 1,000 goals, this one, perhaps, summed up all that is good about Wenger's empire.

Now he has to reach another milestone -- the club's first Premier League title for seven years.

Wenger added: "Of course we face massive teams, but this season is an important one because we have to show we can win with massive competitors -- Man City, Man Utd, Tottenham, Chelsea. It will be very difficult, but I believe we have our word to say." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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