Cesc Fabregas inspired Arsenal’s 4-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers as Arsene Wenger’s side took full advantage of the controversial second half dismissal of visiting defender Gary Cahill.
Summer signings Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny netted along with Alex Song and Carlos Vela to secure the win that moved the Gunners into second place.
But Bolton — who had equalised through Johan Elmander on the stroke of half time — were left frustrated at the 64th minute dismissal of Cahill for a challenge on Chamakh when the score was 2-1.
Cahill’s challenge appeared innocuous but Owen Coyle and his players were left incensed by the decision.
However there was little doubt that the home side were the superior team overall with captain Fabregas the game’s outstanding player.
The international break hadn’t been kind to Arsenal with Theo Walcott sustaining an ankle injury on England duty that will keep him out for six weeks while centre back Thomas Vermaelen damaged his Achilles playing for Belgium.
Vermaelen’s absence meant a first start for Sebastien Squillaci, signed from Sevilla shortly before transfer deadline day, and the Frenchman lined up alongside countryman Laurent Koscielny in a new-look central defence.
Koscielny admitted last week he is working hard in the gym in a bid to handle the physical demands of the Premier League and the confrontation with Bolton’s forward pairing of Kevin Davies and Elmander was always likely to provide a testing challenge to the home back four.
Davies in particular has traditionally posed problems for Arsenal and the striker should have given the visitors an unexpected lead in the 12th minute when he connected with Zat Knight’s nod down and saw his effort saved by Manuel Almunia.
By that time, though, Arsenal had already carved out an even clearer opening when Tomas Rosicky’s superb through ball sent Andrei Arshavin clear on the goal but the Russian was unable to provide a finish to match the pass.
Predictably, the home side dominated possession with a succession of neat passing moves while Bolton were forced to work hard to restrict Wenger’s side to a number of half chances.
Less predictable was the manner in which Arsenal finally found a way through in the 24th minute with the home side’s goal coming from a goalmouth scramble after Fabregas had headed down Jack Wilshere’s cross to the far post.
Davies and Koscielny both went for the loose ball with the Bolton forward combining with keeper Adam Bogdan to divert the ball into the Frenchman’s path and the ball rolled over the line from a yard out.
However Bolton drew level when winger Lee Chung-Yong rounded Almunia and chipped to the far post where Elmander rose unmarked to head home.
The goal fired Bolton’s belief and the Trotters started the second period positively with Squillaci this time looking uncomfortable under pressure.
But Arsenal re-established supremacy in the 57th minute when Chamakh headed home Fabregas’ far post cross moments after being denied by another excellent save by Bogdan.
And Bolton’s hopes of clawing their way back into the game disappeared when referee Stuart Atwell adjudged Cahill’s tackle on Chamakh to be worthy of a red card.
The visitors complained, although Wanderers left back Paul Robinson was fortunate to escape punishment minutes later for an ugly challenge on substitute Abou Diaby.
Then with eleven minutes remaining Alex Song added a third with a neatly taken finish after good work by Arshavin before substitute Carlos Vela completed the win seven minutes from time.
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