Apologies for the late post, I’ve only just got back from the Emirates.
I’ll keep it short and sweet…and bullet-pointed. Because everybody loves bullet points.
- Lukasz Fabianski had a topsy-turvy night. Made an important save at the end from Klasnic, almost had a howler with a dipping effort by Eagles, kicked the ball well both from hands and off the ground, but twice, in his eagerness to start attacks, threw the ball to Bolton players. He can’t be blamed for the goal, but you sense he’s still some way from challenging Szczesny for a regular starting berth.
- Thomas Vermaelen made his return from a two month absence and marshalled the defence with all the experience and aplomb you’d expect from a man of such terrific ability. Sebastien Squillaci started slowly, got booked, then settled. Outside the experienced pair youngsters Yennaris and Miquel both looked solid, the latter at one point collecting a long ball out of the North London air like a young Dennis Bergkamp…he promptly gave it away, but let’s overlook that.
- Coquelin and Frimpong are full of energy. We knew that before, but promisingly while they give the ball away from time to time, they also have the tenacity to win it back. Our #deeeench Ghanaian was forced from the field before the end with an injury and replaced by Oguzhan Ozyakup.
- Yossi Benayoun again proved a calm head, I don’t have the requisite stats to hand but I bet he had a good pass completion rate. On the right wing, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed flashes of his pace and skill on the ball, but found it tough getting the better of the experienced Gardner. Definitely a less ‘sensational’ showing than against Shrewsbury and Olympiakos, but another important game under his belt. He’ll get better, no doubt.
- Andrei Arshavin – where do you start? Pretty much appalling in the first half. He started the second in a similar vein and then for five minutes took the game by the scruff of the neck, scored a cracking goal and laid the winner on a plate for Ju Young Park. Then went back to huffing and puffing and managed to get knocked out by a stray elbow…from the referee!
- Ju Young Park looked dangerous and took his goal very well. It was a promising shift, even if he was regularly frustrated in the first half by constantly getting caught offside. As Arsene said, he’s going to be one who takes time to settle.
- Ryo came off the bench with fifteen minutes to go and had a couple of good runs down the left wing. He also made a storming challenge in the final seconds to prevent extra-time. At least I think it was him.
- All in all, a good run out for first team fringe players and a few of Academy graduates. Bolton were solid, but they played like a side who once behind had little confidence. The draw for the next round could prove interesting.
- Also worth mentioning there was another good turn out at the Emirates. Definitely pushing 52,000 if I had to guess and always loud and supportive.
“I have to congratulate the team because we had two young full-backs who are usually central players. In midfield we were very young and we have shown good spirit against a good Bolton side.”
Meanwhile, while Sky try and scare the shit out of everyone by spinning a ‘Vermaelen injury-scare’ line every fifteen minutes in glorious HD, it’s worth noting that Wenger has played down the Belgian’s tight calves:
“He did very well. He had to come off for a minor calf problem but I hope it’s not too bad. He will be a bit short for Saturday, I don’t know yet what I will do. We have to test him tomorrow, but it doesn’t look too bad.
“He has been out for a long time, he had only one training session yesterday with the team. I didn’t really expect a game of that intensity, it was a tough one for a centre-back. They put us under pressure in the second half and the intensity of the game was very high.
“We don’t think it is a calf strain, it is just tight calves. He has not played a proper game for two months. He wanted to come off. In fairness I did not want to take him off because I thought it was too stupid now with four minutes to go to concede a goal. He was adamant he couldn’t go on so I hope it’s not too bad.”