Ole ole ole ole .... GOAL !! Arsenal get into character

Only the other day I was telling of my disappointment at never seeing a series of OLE’S finish up with a goal. That ended yesterday when Cesc Fabregas picked out Carlos Vela on OLE no.24, who then finished with all the coolness of a Mexican mariachi band. Vela had entered the game a few minutes earlier with a boyish grin on his face. Sometimes it seems as if he just loves being a sub, coming on when the team are ahead to do a few tricks and keep the crowd warm. He plays the role well. Elsewhere, all the usual suspects were in character too.
Kevin Davies could have seen red for his tackle on Jack Wilshere alone. It was over the ball and one that reminded me of my early days playing Sunday league football. You’re younger and faster than most of the louts you play against so they see you as cocky. Wilshere received what any 18-year-old playing men’s football can expect: a thuggish ‘think you’re tough?’ late tackle. Davies and his tag-team partner Paul Robinson didn’t stop there, taking it in turns to belatedly clash with whomever. Their age and ponderous frames hardly helped matters.
Referee Stuart Atwell was fine with it all. When he did make the decision to send off Gary Cahill, any Arsenal fan could tell you it came after Alex Song had committed a foul on the edge of his penalty area. Cahill’s tackle wasn’t great and was punishable for sure, although like the Joe Cole sending off on the opening day people will have different views. He’s a strange one Atwell, being fast-tracked through. The FA are obviously proud of their squeaky-clean young referee, the Maniche of English referee school. Unlike the BBC’s Maniche however, there is nothing special about Atwell, shown in his leniency to allow Bolton to grunt and shove their way around and pretend he didn’t see.
Games like these can also expose the impatience of football fans. Arsenal were casual in front of goal and quite dreamy in parts. It wasn’t surprising then how they conceded the first goal. The header back to Manuel Almunia from Laurent Koscielny was there to be done, it was just untailored, as was the mood of Arsenal’s play at that point. By the end of the game though, their plan came through. Gradually Bolton stood off Arsenal and Fabregas was able to find his range of passes with meticulous ease. Usually, three assists would be enough to say Fabregas was in character. Enough to say he was playing the role we are used to. Still, I wasn’t wholly convinced.
Perhaps Cesc isn’t at peak condition, because usually we’d find him bursting through the middle more. His desire to want to be the goal scorer is also what seemed to be missing. One Arsenal friend today believed that if Cesc did score his celebration would be quite muted. A single fist pump rather than a knee slide and badge kiss. But it’s early days in the season. While Cesc may still have a thoughts of Barcelona tugging away at a few brain cells (especially after pointless international weeks in Argentina) all that’s needed is a derby at White Hart Lane or a day at the Emirates with Frank Lampard for company. Those savage days that fuel passionate footballers can’t be found in La Liga and it’s only a matter of time before Fabregas explodes into life. Three assists are merely signs of that.
So Arsenal did what was expected of them. Sebastien Squillaci carried out his role with the hallmarks of a focused professional, playing more like a well capped Arsenal player than a summer signing. He has the look about him of a German World War II fighter pilot and already has installed in me the same assurance as one probably would. Those who filled in for regular starters played their role. Marouane Chamakh netted with his head again. Generally it was another characteristic performance by Arsenal at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger got into character beautifully too, in response to Cahill’s red card: “… it was a dark orange, maybe a light red.” Wenger is at his most likeable when he comes out with such glowing one-liners and it gave the feeling that things simply went according to plan this weekend.

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