Arsenal 4 Bolton 2: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Arsenal 4 – 2 Bolton Wanderers
0 – 1 Cahill (6)
0 – 2 Taylor (28 pen)
1 – 2 Rosicky (43)
2 – 2 Fabregas (52)
3 – 2 Vermaelen (65)
4 – 2 Arshavin (85)
“Hey boss, you’ve been telling everyone how good we are. Do you really believe that?”
“Mais oui, mon petit capi”
Arsene leaves dressing room
“Right lads, give ’em a two goal head start…and then we’ll marmalise ’em“
This Wasn’t In The Script
Were that it was so simple. With the summit of the Premier League at stake, a Dury-esque moment almost overcame Arsenal with a bout of first night nerves on this one night stand. Fortunately this morning, we are not discussing What A Waste last night was although it could quite easily have been so. Champions, we are frequently told, are made of steel and can retrieve losing situations. Arsenal gave another indication that they have the mental resilience to bridge the gap between winners and the rest.
Of course, there is a counter-argument that they should not have allowed a two-goal deficit to emerge in the first place. A sluggish start was duly punished by Gary Cahill’s sixth minute opener. That it was self-inflicted to a certain extent is as much the issue, the ball not cleared initially by Diaby before Clichy hoisted an ‘an up and under‘ as the late, lamented Bill McLaren would have said. Davies unsurprisingly won the resulting header, the ball falling for Cahill to swing at and bury past Almunia. Before that and immediately aftewards, the Arsenal strikeforce and midfield forced saves from Jaaskelainen.
Almunia was called into action rarely but when required, made the saves, a strong right hand turning away Taylor’s freekick as the first quarter of the match passed and he very nearly prevented the same player from doubling the visitors advantage from spot after Denilson had clumsily challenged Lee. No argument from anyone about the decision is possible but the criticism of Almunia for failing to stop the kick is baffling. A penalty should never be missed and when they are, it is down to the poor technique of the taker. If a goalkeeper is able to take advantage of that, fair enough but to if not, the outcome is only as it should be.
If the first goal penned Bolton into their own half, the second saw Arsenal fencing them in, herding them like sheep by recovering possession quickly. Errors abounded, Davies fortunate to see his header hit his own bar with the ‘keeper stranded and then bounce to safety.
The Charge Of The Slight Brigade
More shots peppered the goal but still the breakthrough would not come until half-time approached, Rosicky shepherded wider on the right of the area by Knight hit a powerful shot to the near post, the only part of the goal he could see. Jaaskelainen was apparently unaware of the Czech’s abilities to find a good strike, watching in awe as it flew into the net.
I wonder whether Arsene re-iterated Graham Taylor’s infamous half-time team talk. On entering the dressing room as his Aston Villa charges trailed by two goals at Crewe in an FA Cup tie, the much lambasted former England boss walked over, took a seat and said, “Gentlemen, you got us into this mess. You get us out of it.”
Within seven minutes of the restart, that was completed. Gallas gave the ball away midway in the Bolton half and went in late on Davies, who had been effective in the midfield battle as Coyle sought to smother – unsuccessfully – Arsenal. The ball pinged its way to Fabregas, Bolton had every opportunity to clear as the Spaniard and others bundled into the area, taking advantage of ricochets. When the shooting opportunity came, the angle was acute and the gap between Jaaskelainen’s legs wide enough for the ball to be passed into the net.
One way traffic beforehand became unstoppable, momentum behind the home team. Eventually the pressure told as the Bolton defence crumbled. The third was inevitable and it fell to Thomas vermaelen in an almost carbon copy of Cahill’s opener, the difference being that the Belgian let the ball bounce across his body before decent technique allowed him to half volley the ball home via the upright.
The third was the signal for the side to take a breather of sorts and to close out the match, which they were successful in doing. Pressure continued on the visitors, Fabregas denied a clear penalty for the third time in the two matches against Bolton when Jaaskelainen brought him down. The lack of awareness of the rules on the part of officials and pundits is alarming; it is irrelevant if the ball is heading out of play, that Fabregas had it under control before the Bolton custodian fouled him means that a penalty is instantly awarded. Obviously not if you are Alan Wiley.
The top of the league for the first time since the opening month of the season still beckoned, Arshavin the one to accept the invitation. Similar to Fabregas’ goal, the ball was bundled through weak and ineffective challenges before the opening arrived, the Russian burying the chance enthusiastically.
It sparked Arsenal into life, a fifth almost added when Vela sent Arshavin away. Walcott accompanied him in a 2 v 1 break, waiting for the pass, staying onside. The Russian decided otherwise and looked to be scoring one of the goals of the season until his finish let him down. Walcott was despondent but had no guarantee of scoring either.
The win showed the lessons of the past have been learned. No longer can teams with lowly positions come to The Emirates, mass the midfield and shut out Arsenal on a regular basis. Belief in the style of play, adherence to passing will bring results eventually. Sometimes, route one can be mixed in. Confidence though is high and not surprising with an eleven point gap removed until Chelsea play their game in hand. That home defeat to the second placed team seems a long time ago suddenly.
It Was Late And Bad
There can be no defence for the tackle which started the move which led to Fabregas’ equaliser, even if the incident was unintentional on Gallas’ part. The tackle was bad. If you hand out criticism when a player is the recipient, you take it as an offender.
Sarcasm from Coyle about the event, “The fact the referee’s not seen that, and the lad’s prostrate on the ground, and Arsenal being full of ‘fair play’ as we keep hearing yet carried on playing and score on the break“, shows a lack of understanding and gross hypocrisy on his part.
The amount of fouls suffered by Arsenal is ignored, save to ridicule Wenger for complaining. That it was one of his own players who suffered is not particularly surprising given his captain stoked up the matches by claiming before Sunday’s encounter that ‘Arsenal scream like little girls‘ after tackles. The lack of intelligence in his own leader on the pitch shone through although Davies is proof that little talent is no bar to having a long professional career.
As for not stopping the move, Fifa removed the ‘Sporting Behaviour‘ rule after it was seen to be abused and, let’s be honest, Bolton get little enough possession of the football in matches as it is, so if they kicked the ball out every time they fouled someone, their dwindling crowds would diminish further, failing to see their ‘heroes‘ kick the ball save for restarts. A signal that Arsenal are treating others as they are treated themselves. I believe it is called ‘English Grit‘ by pundits, something we have been accused of lacking.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Villa did win the cup-tie, 3 – 2 at Gresty Road. ’til Tomorrow.