Wenger reflects on 1,001 reasons to be cheerful
Arsenal 4 Bolton Wanderers 1
Monday 13 September 2010
There was, arguably, no better way to celebrate the 1,000th league goal scored by Arsenal under Arsène Wenger than by starting the second thousand in style.
Shortly after the industrious Alexandre Song's landmark strike put Arsenal into a decisive 3-1 lead on Saturday, Cesc Fabregas crowned a move of more than 20 passes with a pinpoint-through ball that allowed Carlos Vela to set the seal on a 4-1 victory.
The finish would not have disgraced Arsenal goalscorers that have gone before, such as Ian Wright – the scorer of the first goal of Wenger's reign, back in 1996 – Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and the rest.
But perhaps the quality of the goals is less significant than their quantity. Wenger reached four figures in only 528 games, the previous thousand taking 683, which reveals the upheaval in Arsenal culture created by the arrival at Highbury from Japan of the man dubbed "Arsène Who?" by one tabloid.
"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," Wenger said. "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.
"The important [goals] you remember, the spectacular ones, like Dennis Bergkamp at Newcastle or Thierry Henry against Tottenham or Liverpool, but you have as well the little ones that get you a 1-0."
That scoreline, Arsenal's trademark under George Graham, is now a fallback position rather than a target. But Wenger admitted that style without the substance of victory leads to frustration, which has grown over five seasons without a trophy.
"I think the Arsenal fans want to win and be entertained," he said. "But of course when you do not manage to win with style, you still want to win. But I think both go together.
"That's what the challenge is for us now. This season is an important one because we have to show we can win with massive competitors – Man City, Man United, Tottenham, Chelsea. It will be very difficult, but I believe we have our word to say. You need a stable defence, but I'm confident because we have come out of two games against Blackburn and Bolton with six points."
Those successive victories over teams whose physical approach have posed problems for Wenger's men in the past suggest that Arsenal will no longer be bullied, and on Saturday both Jack Wilshere and Laurent Koscielny shrugged off shuddering challenges from Kevin Davies that revealed the old Bolton under the surface of a more progressive approach under Owen Coyle.
Davies was lucky to stay on the field when his teammate Gary Cahill was shown a straight red by Stuart Attwell for a foul on Marouane Chamakh that was little worse. It came soon after Chamakh had headed Arsenal into a 2-1 lead, Johan Elmander having cancelled out Koscielny's first goal for the club.
Coyle, though, was incensed that the officials had missed a foul by Song on Chung-Yong Lee seconds before Cahill's dismissal, which will result in a three-match suspension. "It doesn't help given the fantastic talent Gary is, and there was probably an element of frustration because the initial foul wasn't given," he said. "It's a double whammy. It was a big decision, and had they got it right we would have been well placed to try and get something from the game.
"Anybody that knows about football knows that it was clearly a free-kick and then, all of a sudden from a dangerous position, we're down to ten men against Arsenal. It's difficult playing 11 v 11 against Arsenal, never mind being a man short. But we should have defended better."
Arsenal (4-3-3) Almunia; Eboué, Squillaci, Koscielny, Gibbs; Song, Fabregas, Wilshere (Diaby, 59, Denilson 73); Rosicky, Chamakh (Vela, 81), Arshavin. Substitutes not used Fabianski (gk), Sagna, Nasri, Clichy.
Bolton (4-1-3-2): Bogdan; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Muamba; Lee (Taylor 81), Holden, Petrov (O'Brien, 66); K Davies, Elmander (Blake 81). Substitutes not used Lainton (gk), M Davies, Klasnic, Ricketts.
Booked: Arsenal Gibbs, Eboue Bolton Davies, Steinsson
Sent off Cahill.
Man of the match Song
Possession Arsenal 60% Bolton 40%
Shots on target Arsenal 14 Bolton 6
Referee S Attwell Attendance 59,876
Match rating 7/10.
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