NAL boss Arsene Wenger has warned his title rivals that Cesc Fabregas is only getting better after the skipper’s return inspired a hard-fought but crucial victory.
Fabregas crowned his return from a three-match injury lay-off with a goal and a hand in Fran Merida’s clincher as the Gunners stayed on the heels of the Premier League’s top two.
Wins on Saturday for Chelsea and Manchester United put pressure on Arsenal to do likewise, and Fabregas responded with his 13th goal of the season and an all-action display.
“It is difficult to say how much we have missed him but you don’t need to explain to anyone that it is important,” said Wenger.
“What is very interesting is Cesc gets stronger and stronger and has more personality on the pitch, like the whole team. He grows. He will be 23 this year; he is just starting.”
The captain’s return is all the more valuable to Arsenal after Wenger revealed fresh injuries would keep fellow midfielders Samir Nasri and Aaron Ramsey out for three weeks.
Defeat in his first match in charge of Bolton was perhaps harsh on Owen Coyle, given the verve and commitment shown by the home side.
The Trotters had third-placed Arsenal on the ropes early on, with winger Chung-Yong Lee tormenting left-back Armand Traore, although Fabregas might have had a penalty when he tumbled over goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Even after Spain star Fabregas put the visitors in front on 28 minutes, with a low drive into the far corner after a lightning one-two with Eduardo, Bolton posed a threat that belied their 19th place in the table.
Striker Ivan Klasnic and midfielder Matt Taylor both wasted clear openings either side of half-time as Coyle’s men refused to give the Gunners time to think.
But Fabregas helped seal three points when he charged forward and fed Eduardo, whose cross found Merida arriving late, and the youngster finished from close range.