Bolton 1 (Davies 14) Arsenal 3 (Eboue 26, Bendtner 27, Denilson 87)
What a fantastic weekend, not a sentence often heard following trips to Bolton, but made so by a ruthless ten minute spell in the first half that anyone would have struggled to live with, and which Bolton crumbled under.
It hadn’t started so well. A dubious corner, given when Almunia was unceremoniously shoved into the ball before it went over the line, was appallingly defended, first when Gallas lost his man, then when Toure failed to even jump for the header. Clichy positioning on the post was also suspect as Davies powered a header past him.
What followed was a devastating passage of play that Bolton had no answer to. Toure fired wide, Adebayor hit the inside of the post from a delicious Bendtner through ball, Song hit the other post with a header, before the goals finally came. The name of the first goalscorer was a shock to everyone, as Eboue ran on to Bendtner’s pass to smash home at the near post.
Eboue was fractionally offside, but as I’ve said before on this blog those close calls should always go in favour of the attacker, which is why you never hear me complaining when we concede one like it. As for Eboue, a great deal of credit has to go to him – he is performing infinitely better this season, not hard admittedly, but still.
Just over a minute after the equaliser, a flowing move, centred around Adebayor, eventually saw Denilson cross for Bendtner, who got ahead of his man to slide home. The Reebok hoodoo was being lifted.
But just when you thought things were changing, Bolton reminded us that they are still the same team they always have been, when Davies dived in with an atrocious two footed lunge on Clichy just before the interval. That he got the ball was entirely irrelevant, it was two footed, dangerous, and Clichy found his shin caught in an almost identical place to Eduardo back in January. Fortunately, his weight was more evenly distributed, because had his foot been fully planted, his leg would now be in pieces.
Almost as appalling was Mark Lawrenson’s reaction of Match of the Day, claiming that if tackles like that were stamped out, the game would be ‘for the jessies’. But he misses the point entirely – while the physical nature of the game must remain, tackles like that are simply not acceptable when they run the very real risk of breaking someone’s leg. Pundits like Lawrenson do not help the matter with their consistent line of ‘Arsenal don’t like it up ’em’, as if that somehow excuses the sometimes violent challenges that come our way.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against hard but fair tackles, in fact crunching challenges are great for the game, but Lawrenson has now defended both Davies and Taylor for abysmal challenges, all while showing hypocrisy by (rightly) condemning Diaby for a similar challenge in this fixture last season. He just seems to enjoy Arsenal players being chopped down, an attitude which does not make him the neutral pundit he is supposed to be.
Anyway, back to the game, and the second half was one that could have gone either way – Bolton did have some chances, but you always felt there would be a breakaway goal, and so it proved when Walcott embarked on a now trademark mazy run, before Adebayor fizzed an excellent low cross into the box, Denilson neatly tucking it away.
And that was the end of Bolton’s fight, as Arsenal returned to the top of the league. With Liverpool dropping two bad points at home to Stoke, and United and Chelsea cancelling each other out yesterday, it made for a perfect weekend. Even Spurs are bottom.
It is a far cry from that Fulham defeat a month ago.