BOLTON // Arsene Wenger and Owen Coyle are fully paid-up members of the Cesc Fabregas appreciation society. The Arsenal manager hailed his captain's influence yet again as they overcame a sterling effort from Bolton, whose manager was in awe of the midfielder. Back after a hamstring injury, Fabregas opened the scoring in the 28th minute and played a part in the second for compatriot Fran Merida 12 minutes from time.
He also kept his cool when he was targeted by the home side. After having his second penalty appeal turned down, he had his hair pulled by Matt Taylor in the ensuing tangle. Seconds later, Paul Robinson was booked for clattering him. It seems such cynical play is the only way to stop great players, but, at the moment, Fabregas appears unstoppable. Wenger admitted the key to his side's title challenge is keeping him fit. "You just don't need to explain to anybody it's important to have him. We have lost Aaron Ramsey and Samir Nasri [with thigh and hamstring injuries]. For us, it's important not to lose any player and especially him in a period against opponents who fight for the championship.
"We survived OK when he wasn't there, but with big games to come, we need him. Cesc gets stronger and stronger. He grows and he's nowhere near his peak." For Coyle, Fabregas is the league's best midfield player. He added: "He can play for anybody in world football. Your Barcelonas or whatever. How I like football to be played, I think he's the most pleasing on the eye. He's got everything in his locker. "Pace to burn that you associate with a top-class striker, a level of composure, movement and anticipation, intelligence and imagination. He's just a quality player and Arsenal are very fortunate to have him."
The quality of Fabregas made the difference after a promising Bolton display that lived up to Coyle's pre-match message for the supporters in his first game as manager. "I want us to play in a manner that will entertain and get points," he said. Bold words, but evident in the first two minutes as clever running and precise passing left Arsenal exposed. The lively Chung-Yong Lee was involved both times. First he latched onto a ball from Fabrice Muamba and set up Kevin Davies inside the box, but Arsenal scrambled clear.
Seconds later Lee sneaked inside Armand Traore on the left, but his final ball created little threat. Ivan Klasnic did find the net with a low drive, but was offside. Bolton did not look like a side in the bottom three as, eager to impress Coyle, out came the fancy football, the flicks and the tricks. But Arsenal showed there are no better exponents of this style than them. A typically fast-paced break saw Eduardo release Fabregas and he tumbled under a challenge by Jussi Jaaskelainen. No penalty, but the Spaniard got his retribution with the opener.
A slick build-up resulted in an exchange between Fabregas and Eduardo on the edge of the box and the former finished effortlessly for his 13th of the season. Klasnic almost levelled before the end of a breathless first-half when he lifted the ball over William Gallas, but Manuel Almunia saved. Undeterred, Bolton continued to mix fight with flair in the second half. But Coyle's men, particularly Matt Taylor, lacked composure when the chances came.
Arsenal stung them at the other end when Fabregas made a forceful run from deep, released Eduardo and his cross fell to Merida to claim his first league goal. Man of the match: Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org