Chu-Young Park finally showed Arsenal fans what he can do with an excellent performance that helped the Gunners see off a strong Bolton side.
Like Wenger, Owen Coyle made a number of changes to his line-up, but most were experienced Premiership players and I’d heard of every one of them — I wonder how many Bolton fans knew of Yennaris, Miquel, Ozyakup or Boateng before kick off. So to beat them with a team containing only one first choice player in Vermaelen is a great achievement.
We lined up as follows in a 4-4-1-1 formation:
Yennaris — Vermaelen (c) — Squillaci — Miquel
Oxlade-Chamberlain — Coquelin — Frimpong — Benayoun
As you’d expect from an Arsenal side, the attacking players interchanged quite frequently. All of Wenger’s players are intelligent and adaptable and occasionally Arshavin would drift wide while Benayoun or Oxlade-Chamberlain supported Park, so it was a fluid system that worked well.
I switched off my phone to avoid the result and watched the ‘as live’ replay on Arsenal Player at 10pm — the quality was surprisingly good when I hooked up the picture to my bedroom TV. I placed more importance on the performances of the players than the result to be honest, and I suspect Wenger felt the same. If it took getting knocked out of the Carling Cup to find out that Park can lead the line effectively, Arshavin is far better playing just off the front man or that Yennaris is a decent right back, I’d have taken it. To actually progress too is a bonus.
As such I’ll analyse each player’s performance rather than do a conventional match report.
Lukasz Fabianski (7 out of 10)
I can’t recall another player who can scale the heights and then plumb the lows so often in one match as our tiny Pole. He made a terrific flying save in the first half, stood firm to kick away a one-on-one chance when Klasnic seemed certain to equalise late on and made a couple of other good blocks. But in between he made a complete hash of a long range effort from Eagles that clipped the top of his gloves and looped agonisingly onto the roof of the net while the Emirates held its breath. It would’ve been an almighty howler and he got away with it. Unfortunately, his ‘howler to saves’ ratio is not good enough yet and although he’s a reasonable back up, we can forget about a top four finish if Szczesny is out for any prolonged period.
Nico Yennaris (7 out of 10)
With the injuries to Sagna and Jenkinson this match was a good opportunity for Wenger to try out another option at right back. We know Djourou can play there, but we need another alternative so the 18 year old got his chance and did very well. A tenacious tackler who closes down opponents quickly, he looked comfortable on the ball and wasn’t fazed by the occasion or the big crowd. A promising debut and definitely one for the future.
Thomas Vermaelen (c) (8 out of 10)
The Verminator played like he’d never been away, making strong tackles and winning almost everything in the air. He made one superb tackle late in the game when a goal looked certain and struck a venomous free kick that was parried. I’m surprised Wenger kept him on so long and was willing him to be substituted after about an hour, but thankfully the niggle he picked up towards the end is nothing and he’s since confirmed he’s available for Saturday. I don’t think he’ll start but it’ll be good to have him on the bench. Welcome back TV.
Sebastian Squillaci (6 out of 10)
He played his usual game, doing a few good things and a few bad ones. Very lucky not to see yellow for a rash tackle early doors, he found his way into the notebook a few minutes later with another silly challenge. Let’s hope with Vermaelen’s return we don’t have to use Squillaci very often this season.
Miquel (6 out of 10)
He gets better each time I see him and considering he was playing in an unfamiliar left-back role he did ok. He did the basics right such as making a few good tackles, although he was too easily beaten by Kakuta late in the first half and his attacking play wasn’t up to much. But as he’s a centre back by trade that’s not a problem. I think the time has come for him to go out on loan and let’s see what he can do with a run of games.
Emmanuel Frimpong (5 out of 10)
You can sell Chamakh now boss, I'm ready
He disappointed me the most last night and looked far from the player we saw putting himself amongst the Liverpool players back in August. Apart from one good early ball to Oxlade-Chamberlain his passing was poor and he got caught in possession a couple of times, most notably for Bolton’s goal when Muamba dispossessed him on the edge of our area, played a one-two and scored.
Francis Coquelin (5 out of 10)
Another poor performance meant that we conceded the midfield battle too often last night and Bolton racked up far more attacks than they should have done. Bolton had 18 shots to our 8, mainly because they got through Frimpong and Coquelin far too easily. Like Frimpong, his passing was poor and his decision making also dodgy. If Song got injured tomorrow I wouldn’t trust either of these two to replace him and I still can’t understand why Wenger didn’t buy Parker and loan one or both of them out. They just aren’t yet good enough for the first team on this showing.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6 out of 10)
Much was expected from the Ox and many people were wondering why Wenger hasn’t played him recently. Last night provided the answer. He is still very raw and got caught in possession too often, making the wrong decisions that will be eradicated with experience. For example, early on he tried to take Zat Knight on when he should’ve shot and he needed Fabianski to bail him out when Pratley robbed him in his own half and unleashed a stinging shot which the Pole pushed aside. He’ll be an Arsenal regular in time, but certainly not yet.
Yossi Benayoun (7 out of 10)
The little Israeli buzzed about the pitch determinedly in a bright performance which showed he can offer much to the first team. He was involved in a lot of good moves, had a couple of decent efforts blocked and provides good back-up from the bench. It’s a shame he’s ineligible for Saturday’s game against his parent club.
Andrei Arshavin (8 out of 10)
After almost three years at the club, Wenger finally played him in his preferred position just off the front man. This is where he plays for Russia and he showed how effective he can be with an excellent goal and a clever assist. He ran at the defence as they backed off and made them pay with a low shot which kissed the post and hit the net. A few minutes later he again ran at the backline, holding play up while Park got himself onside before releasing him at the exact right time. However he did a lot of lazy things too, giving away possession a few times and making sloppy passes, so I can see why Wenger doesn’t trust him in such a focal position. He is a luxury player and some managers would take the sloppiness along with the goals and assists, but it seems Wenger doesn’t want to.
Chu-Young Park (9 out of 10)
The South Korean was the star of the show, leading the line well, combining nicely with Arshavin and taking his goal superbly. In the first half he cut across the pitch before unleashing a dipping twenty-yarder that Bogdan dived full length to keep out. Then he accepted a good pass from Arshavin and tried a first-time side-footed effort from range which Bogdan again pushed away. He finally got his goal after the break — running onto Arshavin’s pass, he ran around the ball, opened his body and curled a wonderful right-footer into the far corner. A finish of real finesse which reminded me of Eduardo’s quality in front of goal. He has surely jumped ahead of Chamakh now and looks a good deputy for van Persie.
Too little time to rate properly, although credit to Miyachi for a terrific block to stop Cahill shooting in injury time. He also showed a couple of neat touches. Ozyakup did ok playing keep ball to run down the clock, but I didn’t see Boateng touch the ball when he replaced Vermaelen with a few minutes to go.
So all in all a good outcome for Wenger and the club. Reaching the quarter finals is great, but unearthing a gem like Park was the best result of the night.
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