Come from behind win for Arsenal as we progressed to the quarter final of the Carling Cup competition. Owen Coyle started with a side that is packed with Premier League experience but found it hard to get into the game in a rain-soaked Ashburton Grove. Arsene Wenger went for a mix and match and was vindicated in his selection, in more ways than he could initially hoped for.
The only major surprise in the starting line-up was the inclusion of Andrey Arshavin while Tomas Rosicky was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t only that, the Russian also got to play as a central attacking midfielder for the first time in his Arsenal career. While others may have thought that his had a bad game, I begged to differ.
He was involved in both goals, scoring and creating the other. He can make that kind of impact in a football match. The risk he takes are much bigger, in terms of the passing choice. When it comes off, it looks great. When it doesn’t, we chastise him for not picking the easy pass. The way Arshavin scored the equaliser was just like that. Dribbling in from the right hand side, he reached the edge of the penalty box and took a chance with a shot. Before it went in, through a sea of legs, I’m sure most of us asked why didn’t he pass the ball.
He also assisted Park Ju Young in opening the South Korean’s accounts for Arsenal. Park was anticipating the first pass but Arshavin did not release the ball. Coming back and adjusting his line to the Bolton’s defence, Park waited again for the second ball and this time it came. It was a sumptuous finish. A curler to the top corner beyond the despairing dive of Adam Bogdan.
Park had showed intelligence all night. Playing the lone striker role, he brings a style to it than Robin Van Persie. He started off by dropping deep to get involve and managed to interchange passes nicely with his team mates. One of such occasion with Yossi Benayoun, created the chance for him to have a shot from outside the box in the first half. That shot represented our best chance to score in the first half.
That gave him the confidence and every single touch and run from then on, looks far more assured. It’s only his second ever appearance for us but you can see signs that he will fit in and could very well do a job for us. He needs to pick up and adapt to the pace of the game and how quickly he will get close down. Once Park gets that, he will play an important part of our season.
On the evidence of yesterday’s game, Park doesn’t look like the only one who needed to adapt to the pace of the game and the closing down. Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin both dallied when in possession of the football and sometimes, eventually lost the possession. One such time, Bolton took the lead. Fabrice Muamba put Frimpong under pressure and managed to nicked the ball off the latter. Muamba drove towards our goal and eventually finished well from a Darren Pratley cutback.
That’s on the ball attributes which will need to be further improved. However, off the ball, both of them did well. Never was there a time in the match where both players can be caught high up on the pitch together. Someone was always further behind than the other. No doubt, communication is not a problem with them, given that they have played together through Reserves too.
Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain did not have the same impact as his last 2 appearances but that is to be expected from someone so young and inexperienced. He will learn a lot out of this experience, that not every game will be a blockbuster for him. Though, to be fair, Bolton did realise the danger and tried to double team AOC whenever possible. Ryo Miyaichi also had a cameo late on but there wasn’t enough time to show the full extent of his capability. That last minute challenge on Gary Cahill showed how matured and responsible the young Japanese is in sensing danger for the team.
I also thought our defence did well. Playing as a unit for the first time against a Premiership harden side, cannot be easy. Nico Yennaris and Ignasi Miquel were both surprisingly splendid as full backs. While they offered close to nothing going forward, they concentrated on defending and gave Tuncay Sanli and Gael Kakuta respectively, no chance. Good outing for both and positive to see them adapting well to different roles.
Thomas Vermaelen and Sebastien Squillaci also played well. The Frenchman had a good game. Blame has always been attached to Squillaci (some are very justified) for some of our failings last season but on an individual performance like this, no one can complain. I was only hoping for Vermaelen to get some minutes on his clock but he only came off in the 84th minute.
Arsene Wenger said it was precautionary request from Vermaelen due to some calf problem but the Belgian himself told BBC that it was just cramp. While every Gooner will no doubt be pleased for him to come through the first match of his return, we are also aware of the risk being taken. I felt we should have given Vermaelen more time to recover and the spread the minutes about.
Lukasz Fabianski was the last of the defence and he did well. When you don’t play consistently, you do take time to pick some things back. While he spilled a couple of shots (the rain and greasy pitch didn’t help), he recovered from that and kept us in the game. That save from Tuncay being the pick of the bunch.
So, onto the next stage we go. There are still some big sides left in the competition and let’s see who we draw next. Biggest crowd of the competition round once again, I only hope this time around, no ones choose to pick on that.