Arsenal 2 Bolton Wanderers 1

Andrey Arshavin has been much maligned of late, and for anyone who witnessed his Carling Cup performance in the 2-1 win over Bolton will be wondering why. The Russian was full of attacking intent and also put more than a shift in to help the defence. After former Gunner Fabrice Muamba netted to give the visitors the lead three minutes after the break, Arshavin replied for the leveller, then teed up Ju Young Park for a well taken goal on his full home debut – and all within the space of nine second half minutes. The Emirates faithful also warmed to the sight of Thomas Vermaelen back at the heart of the Arsenal defence, who drew huge applause when replaced with five minutes to go.

Exposure

Arsene Wenger reverted to his policy of putting out a young Carling Cup side. There has been much clamour for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to start games, and although here he did against Bolton, in his programme notes Wenger revealed that there is still some work for the teenager to get through. Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Ignasi Miquel and Nico Yennaris also got valuable first team exposure alongside the experience of Arshavin, Sebastien Squillaci, Yossi Benayoun and South Korea international, Park.

Vermaelen quality

The opening proved to be a lively affair, with Adam Bogdan’s fine saves the only reason why the score remained 0-0 at half time. Given the captain’s armband, Vermaelen looked as if he had never been away as he efficiently organised the young Yennaris and Miquel alongside him. Frimpong has clearly been told to play a more intelligent game, and his midfield power alongside Coquelin was a feature of Arsenal’s positive start.

Menace

When Frimpong found Oxlade-Chamberlain with a raking 50 yard cross pitch pass, the teenager raced towards the byeline and curled high and wide when a more central dart would have provided more menace. And that decision making is what Wenger alluded to. Park then drilled from 25 yards with a venomous shot that was too hot for Bogdan to handle. Given a rare start, Benayoun showed his class with a twisting and turning run and shot that had the better of Gretar Steinsson, but just wide of the upright, as Arsenal ramped up the pressure. Then a neatly worked free kick powered by Vermaelen was on target until Bogdan again parried for a corner.

Park life

Park was showing his many talents, and when he took a well paced pass from Arshavin and shifted his position, only Bogdan’s save well low down to his left kept the score goalless. The South Korean was getting in good positions, but on this evidence his timing needs to be adjusted, as on more than one occasion he was caught offside. Mainly on the defensive, Bolton did trouble Lukasz Fabianski as Darren Pratley almost capitalised on a defensive mistake. It was to be the visitors who were to take a shock lead as once again the defence were exposed. Coquelin lost possession, Muamba took a return pass from Prately to net the opener on 48 minutes.

Confidence

There was no panic in the Arsenal ranks however, and six minutes later they drew level. Arshavin is having something akin to a renaissance in his Emirates career, and as he surged forward he had time and space to score low down, and how he enjoyed the goal, celebrating with his trademark finger to lips move. In the ascendency and with much to prove the Gunners’ visibly grew in confidence. Again Arshavin was the creator, only this time, Park timed his run perfectly to take the return pass before a cool finish beyond Bogdan gave Arsenal a lead they were not to relinquish. Ryo Miyaichi came on for a brief cameo of pace a trickery and showed that he has the potential to be a huge favourite at the Emirates.

Gael Kakuta, Gary Cahill and Ivan Klasnic went close, but a combination of Fabianski’s saves and defensive solidity ensured that Arsenal were once again in the hat for the last eight of the Carling Cup.

In his post match press conference Wenger revealed that Vermaelen came off with a tight calf and will have a fitness test ahead of the clash at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.