Sunday 12 September 2010

Can we play against 11?

Arsenal 4-1 Bolton

446 words. Estimated reading time 2 minutes

A red card for Gary Cahill confuses how this performance should be judged but there can be no denying we are building momentum.

On the one hand we created enough chances – most of which fell to Arshavin – to win three games, let alone one. But on the other it was only when we had a man advantage that we really got to grips with Bolton.

This season is already starting to mirror 2007/08 where we took advantage of a kind opening few fixtures to build a head of steam that set us up for a serious championship challenge. So far we have performed well in three games, two of which were against 10 men, two of which were lesser opposition.

A win away next week against a Sunderland team that keeps 11 players on the pitch for 90 minutes would give me more substantial hope. Assuming we remain unbeaten until then, it is the game away at Chelsea which will offer us the first real opportunity to see whether this squad has what it takes to challenge again.

If only we had someone, principally a striker, who could dominate the league and put in a season worthy of the player of the year. Yesterday was a day when such a player could have gone home with the match ball and won the game on their own, as Henry so often did in our silverware-winning campaigns.

Chamakh looks to have the potential to become a very important element of the team. His hold up play is certainly stronger than Van Persie’s and, from memory, only needed three chances to score one. But it is unlikely he will remain up front when Van Persie returns from injury and it is expecting a lot for someone new to the English game to become so influential in their first season.

One man who looked reassuringly solid was debutant Sebastien Squillaci. He may have missed a header in the lead up to the Bolton equaliser but otherwise he looked comfortable with their physical and aerial approach. In appearance and performance he reminded of Ricardo Carvalho and if he performs as consistently throughout the season he could a pretty resilient partnership with Vermaelen.

Koscielny was more at fault for Bolton’s goal and that was now his second error in as many games that led to us losing a lead. But they were the only faults in what were generally good games and what impresses me most is that the mistakes don’t appear to affect him. How long that remains the case and the slips don’t start to erode Wenger’s belief in him – or his teammate’s and his own – is subject for speculation.

Almunia 6; Eboue 6, Squillaci 8, Koscielny 7, Gibbs 7; Song 6, Fabregas 7, Wilshere 6; Rosicky 7, Arshavin 6, Chamakh 8.

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