Monday 23 April 2018

Wenger salutes fulcrum Fabregas

Judging from this performance, Arsenal are a side at last exhibiting maturity. Once they would have been cowed by the rough-house tactics of Bolton and Blackburn, but in two early matches they have emerged as easy winners.

"It would not have been possible two years ago," Wenger admitted, as his team cemented second place.

The Frenchman has made a habit of not emoting about specific players, but on the subject of Fabregas, he seemed achingly earnest, arguing, "I was always convinced he loved Arsenal. To make this team win will be a bigger achievement than anything else for Fabregas."

With Fabregas as their fulcrum, Arsenal registered their 1,000th and 1,001st goals under Wenger. The untested centre-back partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci also stood up against the bombardment, led by that wrecking ball Kevin Davies.

The midfielder was fortunate not to be sent off for a reckless early lunge on Jack Wilshere, followed by a jarring clash of heads with Koscielny, which left Gary Cahill to pay the price for the sum of Bolton's sins. His slide on Marouane Chamakh in the 65th minute was plainly mistimed, although hardly malevolent, and in a classic case of a young referee bowing to the baying of home supporters, 27-year-old Stuart Attwell brandished the red.

Owen Coyle, who felt that his Bolton players had sought to match Arsenal in the "pass and move" stakes -- a rather head-in-the-clouds claim -- was incandescent. A game delicately poised at 2-1 tipped, in an instant, towards Wenger's side.

"I'm frustrated because of how harshly the players have been dealt with," he said. "They were deserving of more than they got."

Wenger, used to conveying his views on Bolton's tackling with candour, was more gracious. "Bolton had full commitment," he admitted. "We had to get our passing to prevail."

Even if Andrei Arshavin endured another frustrating afternoon, Arsenal moved through the gears smoothly. Fabregas was at the centre of the attack from the outset, running on to a Wilshere chip for a neat cutback, bundled in by Koscielny.

Johan Elmander punished Arshavin and Arsenal's wastefulness, as the Swedish striker rose to convert Lee Chung-Yong's cross with a powerful header. The riposte, however, was short-lived, with Fabregas restoring the match's natural balance by steering a fine pass on to the head of Chamakh at the far post.

Bolton's faint hopes were doused when Cahill went through the back of the Moroccan striker in front of the dugout, drawing Attwell's unduly harsh sanction. Thereafter, almost every Arsenal pass was cheered as Alex Song, then substitute Carlos Vela, applied the coup de grace. The Mexican's goal, in particular, was sublime, his assured finish owing much to the perfectly weighted through ball from that man Fabregas.


Sunday Independent

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