Arsene Wenger believes Cesc Fabregas’s display in Arsenal’s 4-1 rout of Bolton demonstrated why the Spain midfielder remained at the north London club despite being pursued by Barcelona this summer.
Fabregas was the outstanding player in a game that initially turned on the controversial 64th-minute dismissal of Bolton defender Gary Cahill.
But while Cahill?s red card ended Wanderers hopes of getting anything from the game — they were trailing 2-1 at the time — Fabregas’s contribution ensured Arsenal cruised to a comfortable win.
The midfielder provided three assists and played with a freedom that suggests the extended speculation linking him with a move to Barcelona now firmly belongs to the past.
“I was always convinced he loved Arsenal as well and that he loves to play football,” said Wenger, the Arsenal manager.
“When he is on the pitch, he enjoys it. We play the game he loves to play, the game turns around him as well.
“He grew up in this team, and to make this team win will be a bigger achievement than anything else for Fabregas.”
Wenger — who watched Marouane Chamakh, Alex Song and Carlos Vela add to Laurent Koscielny?s first half opening goal — believes Arsenal?s achievement in claiming back to back victories over Blackburn and Bolton demonstrates the progress made by his youthful squad.
In particular the manager was pleased with the performance of the new-look central defensive pairing of Sebastien Squillaci, making his debut after arriving from Sevilla, and Koscielny who joined this summer from Lorient.
Wenger concedes the two defenders will take time to adjust to the Premier League but was pleased with the way they handled the physical threat posed by Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander.
“We have had two games, at Blackburn and today, which we certainly would not have taken six points from two years ago,” Wenger said. “The players can handle these situations.
“It was a good test for the centre-halves. When Koscielny was knocked down, he still came back and won every header, for somebody coming from the French league, that is a good sign.”
And Wenger added: “Overall it was a competitive game where we dominated and created many chances, but when you play against Bolton, as long as you don’t kill the game off, they can score – you can dominate 80 percent of the game and still lose.
“They marked us very tight, which provoked a very physical game, but they also played well.”
Wenger refused to be drawn on Cahill?s dismissal for a foul on Chamakh but claimed Bolton left back Paul Robinson was fortunate to escape punishment for a foul on Abou Diaby that forced the midfielder to leave the pitch minutes later.
“The challenge on Diaby was a bad tackle,” he said. “He is not in a very good shape, but they had full commitment and we needed to be patient, to get our technique and passing to prevail.
“Diaby cannot move his leg at the moment, so we will see how we get away with it.”
Wanderers manager Owen Coyle was convinced his side had been harshly treated in first being denied a foul on Lee Chung-Yong on the edge of the Arsenal area and then, seconds later, the dismissal of Cahill.
“I believe everybody who watched that game at 2-1 when Lee was very close to the penalty box and it should certainly have been a free kick,” Coyle said.
“We would have been playing 11 v 11 and it?s one of the biggest free kicks you?ll ever see in your life and it?s not given.
“From the resulting pass Gary Cahill went into the back of the lad and fouled him. And my initial reaction was it would be a yellow card.
“Certainly I don?t think it merited a red and all of a sudden we were playing Arsenal with 10 men. It’s difficult at the best of times 11 v 11 but we had put so much into the game that at that time we looked like the team who would get the equaliser.
“All I ask is that when my team plays we’re treated in the same way as the opposition and I don’t feel we were today. And the sad thing was at 2-1 I thought it was a great Premier League game.”
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