Jan 172010

Bolton 0 Arsenal 2 (Fabregas 28, Merida 78)

A trip to the Reebok is tough at the best of times, but with the assortment of elbows and studs looking to impress a new manager, today was always going to be doubly so. Without our premier holding midfielder, and denied the presence and bite of Nasri with a late injury, our midfield had a distinctly wobbly feel to it, even with the return of the immense Fabregas. Eastmond was handed his first Premiership start, and the game looked set up for us to struggle.

In the early minutes, we did – Bolton started quickly, Klasnic firing in from an offside position, and a poor touch from Davies denying him a great chance. But we slowly imposed ourselves on the game, and should have had a penalty when Cesc was brought down by Jaaskelainen. No matter, the captain was soon to make his mark, finishing off a terrific move by burying a one-two with Eduardo in a congested area. It was a sublime series of touches that few teams would be capable of preventing.

Cesc’s reward for the goal was for Bolton to decide he was enough of a threat to kick out of the game. A second penalty shout looked good on a replay, but the crowd of legs made it difficult for Phil Dowd to see and he awarded the free kick the wrong way. More ugly was Matt Taylor pushing his leg into the back of the prone Spaniard’s neck in the aftermath. Minutes later, Robinson took him out with a crude late challenge and was booked.

All this served to make the game more fiery, which suited the hosts – their intention was purely to provoke, kick, and bully their way to victory. Rosicky reacted to a couple of kicks by Klasnic on Diaby by cynically bringing the Croatian down, picking up a yellow card for his trouble, but otherwise the players kept calm in the face of a typical Bolton display.

As for chances, Eastmond had a volley well saved, while at the other end Klasnic nearly beat Gallas on the stroke of half time, but the best opportunity fell to Cesc again, side footing wide from eight yards after Eduardo had missed Arshavin’s cut back.

The lead was merited at half time, but fragile all the same, and Bolton came out after the break as impressively as they had at the start of the game. Taylor missed two glorious opportunities, ballooning one from ten yards before not realising the space he was in, shooting wide from outside the box when he had a clear run on goal.

Much of the trouble was coming down our left side, where Traore couldn’t cope with the movement of Lee in particular, although in mitigation he was getting absolutely no help from Arshavin. Wenger acted, first withdrawing Eastmond, who had started well but faded, in place of Merida, leaving Cesc and Diaby to sit a little further back, and then replacing Rosicky with Clichy to shore up that flank.

As it happened, the substitutions did more than just keep things tight, they resulted in the second goal – Cesc was again the catalyst with a driving run, eventually laying the ball off to Eduardo, whose cross was deflected to Merida. The Spaniard controlled with his left, calmly buried the chance with his right, and the game was won.

Cesc’s performance was something special. He was always a great passer, and is now also an excellent finisher, yet he is somehow so much more than that – he brings that drive and inspiration you look to your captain for. For years Liverpool fans have purred at Gerrard’s ability to pull his team through a game, Cesc now possesses that quality, and he is still only 22. Incredible.

Certain others are facing flak at the moment, with varying levels of unfairness. Arshavin has been out of position, Traore is very decent for a third choice left back, but the most annoying criticism has been reserved for Eduardo. Fighting his way back to fitness and form, his touch is improving, yet it seems even his superb header to win the West Ham cup tie wasn’t enough to convince. Jamie Redknapp said after today’s game that Eduardo was carried, yet who was it who actually provided both assists, the first a perfectly weighted one touch pass? That’s right – Eduardo. Give the guy a break.

Overall, it was the sort of game we could easily have dropped points in, and perhaps would have done in previous seasons, but this team is certainly resilient, personified by the ever-combative Vermaelen, who, in partnership with Gallas, protected the clean sheet as if his life depended on it. It was our first away from home in any competition since Mannone’s heroics against Fulham in September.

As for Bolton, it seems ingrained into the players to go about the game in a thuggish way. Coyle believes in a footballing approach, but he has a tough job on to get that group to play the way he wants. Wenger will certainly bear their style in mind before allowing Wilshere to join on loan.

A repeat result at the Grove on Wednesday night would take us top of the league, an unfathomable position in the aftermath of the humbling by Chelsea. It would be a perfect tonic to take into the run of games against the other top sides, and if we come out in mid-February only a few points off the pace, we will have to be taken extremely seriously given our favourable run-in.

It feels good to be in a title race. Make no mistake about it, we’re in this one.

  14 Responses to “Bolton 0-2 Arsenal: Same old Bolton, but not the same old Arsenal”

  1. Completley agree arsenal are a different machine this year alot mor resiliant but i thick its still maybe abit early to win the league this year but lets push em till the end like they say its not over till the fat lady sings.

  2. If we can sustain and build on todays performance then the title is a possibility as these were the games we used to lose.Both Manure and Chavski are going to drop more points and if we can win again Wednesday then at least we have it all to play for.

  3. Never mind what such sore losers like Jamie Redknapp says about Eduardo. He himself was a waste of space on the pitch and now he is a waste of space in the TV studio.

  4. I honestly agree with your analysis.
    just that it may bee too early to think of winning the title,we are sure in this.
    waiting to see what role Sol Campbell is going to play in this.

  5. Jamie Redknapp is a tosser! Is 2 assists not enough from a striker definetly on the up, and returning to form??

  6. jamie redknapp is freakin cunt like his dad at the lane neva mind what he says

  7. I do find the critics Traore is getting a bit harsh. To his credit, he didn’t get much help from the midfielders who are always inclined to slide on the right, leaving him alone against two opponents most of the time. I wonder AW didn’t try to settle that problem, since it could be noticed in the last 4 games or so. Until the Everton game, I was wondering how long 20 years old Traore would handle it so neatly. Finally, he lost his composure and for me, that’s understandable.

    imo, we are missing Denilson at the link midfield spot. When Clichy came in, he wasn’t that special, he just had Traore providing the needed cover in front of him.

  8. I believe Arsenal well deserved this victory over Bolton. Bolton were all out playing footbrawl and not keen to match Arsenal’s football. Arsenal have now become a tougher and more resilient team playing with vision to outwit bully teams like Bolton. Beat them again this coming week will show the rest that Arsenal meant business and are no pushovers! Good to have Fabregas back! I fully agree with the writer that Wilshere should never be loaned to Coyle at Bolton. He will not fit into such a thuggish team!

  9. I can’t believe that someone who had as many injuries in their career as Jamie Redknapp did would criticise Eduardo in that way. Oh well we know he’s jealous cos his team Liverpool are becoming mid table mediocrity and his dad manages the shite down the road.

    We have shown a real resilience this season and have come back in a few games that we would have gone on to lose last year.

    Our big test however starts on the 27th January away to Villa, and then we have United, Chelsk and Pool in succession. If we can stay unbeaten or at least take maybe 9 points from those games then we’re definately in with a shout considering we’d only have Man City and Spurs left to play from the ‘big’ sides.

    I really hope Arsene sticks to his word and signs a frontman that doesn’t need too much ‘nurturing’as the forwards haven’t really been scoring lately. My only worry is that if we continue winning until Bendtner is back, Wenger will think that we don’t need anyone, however, after being out for quite a few months, there’s a good chance that he could pick up another niggly injury that could set him back a couple of weeks, so we can’t really take that risk.

  10. I  can’t how some of the Bolton thugs manage to escape yellow cards. The ref is to be blamed. The return leg is going to be another fiery affair with the thugs out to injure the gunners. Remember Feb/Mar 2003 where the gunners were syced /mowed down and the ref took no action.It’s about time this type of refs be red carded and banned from officiating Arsenal matches.

  11. Eduardo was also getting criticised on the coverage I was watching for being too slow!! The claim was before he broke his leg he would have made that pass from Cesc!

    I have also heard Almunia come in for a lot of flak for dropping one ball which led to a corner. Nobody mentions how many good stops he made yesterday or the fact he came out and claimed the ball very well.

    One blog even slated Eastmond for misplacing a couple of passes!

  12. I think Redknapp’s problem is that he feels he has to stick to his guns despite all evidence to the contrary. If he says pre-season that Arsenal can’t mount a title challenge (and in fact might slip out of the top four), he has to spend the season pointing out weaknesses rather than the fact that we could be top on Wednesday despite a huge injury list.

    As for Bolton, referees unfortunately turn a blind eye to a lot of their hacking. Seemingly it is just ‘their way’. Mind you, Eastmond got away with one in the first half too.

  13. Loved the remark about “footbrawl” because that’s what Bolton played. Has anyone else realised that we’ve only gotten 1 penalty this season since the Eduardo incident?

  14. Gunners will surely take 3 points at Emirate Stadium but I expect them to play safe because they clearly understood Bolton’s ability. Wenger’s side is confident to control the match after leading so Gunners will stop fire after score 2s and Bolton may has a chance to steal a goal in last minute.

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