I am feeling fine again. Before the match I was a little nervous as I didn’t have the right feeling, during the match till we got the second goal the same anxiety dominated. Once the second goal went in I had a sense of relief and now that I have thought about the game a bit, there is even more belief that we are up for it this season.
It’s not that I didn’t believe we can do it, I am quite a believer as regular readers will know. But in the recent past we have shot ourselves in the leg quite often and every potential pitfall of a game brings back some concerns. In the same vein every good result, and this was an important win, serves as a booster dose of confidence.
After the game I read some reports that said the result could have been different if Bolton had converted their chances. I beg to disagree. Arsenal had two clear penalty claims and a couple of other gilt edged chances. Bolton, as far as I can remember, had only one clear chance when Taylor had a sight of goal with only Almunia to beat. The others were half chances or snapshots from outside the box.
The hosts started the game stronger but their pressure lasted for only a couple of minutes as Arsenal settled into a nice rhythm and controlled bulk of the first half. We didn’t create too many chances but looked threatening while going forward. Most of our attacks came from the center and the right while Bolton looked dangerous down our left side.
The first goal came when Rosicky sprinted to win a 50-50 and then put in a sliding tackle to win another in succession. The ball passed from Sagna to Eastmond who played a good ball through to Diaby. The center was crowded and Diaby lost the ball but we had four men pressing in that area and a slip by Steinsson meant that Cesc was in possession on the edge of the box. Within a split second he had played a neat one two with Eduardo and fired home through a defender’s legs with Jaskaleinen having no chance of saving it. I was really impressed with El Capitan’s shooting technique for this goal. It wasn’t a powerful shot but more of a fast paced through ball at a perfect angle.
Towards the end of the half Cesc, Eduardo and Arshavin got together to create another open goal situation but somehow the human side of Cesc took over and he missed. Given his form and shooting accuracy this season it was a big surprise. Eduardo’s movement might have distracted him but neither of them was at fault.
The second half was a bit surprising. I was expecting Arsene to address our weakness on the left side but Bolton came out with greater purpose and terrorized Traore. While watching it I was quite nervous but now I must say that the defenders dealt with most of the threat quite well and the keeper gathered everything cleanly. Gallas had a couple of loose moments and Taylor found himself free on one occasion but Almunia didn’t have to make any heroic saves.
Eastmond was replaced by Merida, a substitution I had expected at half time. In the morning when I heard Nasri wasn’t fit, my guess was that Merida will start. Like some of you in the comments, the boss went for Eastmond. It was a tough game for him and I will write more on his game in the individual section but the change seemed to help the team.
The second goal was fascinating. Bolton had numbers forward and the ball was floating around near our box. I think Vermaelen headed it out and it fell to Cesc half way in our own half. El Capitan held off two players before turning and setting Merida on his way. The commentator was excited and started talking of how Arsenal are dangerous on a break. The situation looked perfect for a counter but the young Spaniard didn’t have much support as he burst forward. In stead of running into trouble he held the ball and moved out right before playing it back to Sagna. The full back played it in the center to Diaby who passed it on to Cesc. Bolton had numbers behind by this time and I thought the moment had passed.
The hosts had lost their shape while rushing back and Cesc got a chance to run at their defence. He released Eduardo inside the box and the Crozilian’s cross was headed by Knight just as Arshavin was about to pull the trigger. The Bolton defender didn’t get much distance on the ball and Merida, who was lurking around the edge of the box pounced on the loose ball. His first touch was excellent and he reminded the boss of his talent with a classy finish.
Bolton’s bravado was well and truly stuffed. We had a disjointed final few minutes as we didn’t create much but the defence was firm. It was nice to see Clichy back and he looked quite like his old self.
The end of the match happiness was tinged by the news of injuries to Nasri and Ramsey. It seems like the injury gods are very specific. Towards the end of last season we struggled with defenders, this season it has been strikers and attacking players and now, just when Song is on national duty, almost anyone who can play as a defensive midfielder is marked out for a spell on the sidelines. Some might say Eastmond is blessed.
Almunia: Had a solid game without being exceptional. Caught everything that came his way. Needs more such games to get his confidence back.
Sagna: Another solid game. Was a little more defensive in the second half and might have been told to hold back a little.
Gallas: Made a couple of big mistakes that could have been costly. Overall his body language is not very good when under pressure or when someone makes a mistake.
Vermaelen: Competing with Sagna for the most consistent player of the season. Another great game. I think he should work on his free kicks as he has the talent to be lethal.
Traore: He started well when Gibbs was injured but last two games have seen him struggle. Not sure if he loses concentration or is it something else. Won’t have a future at Arsenal if he doesn’t improve.
Eastmond: He looked a little nervous on the pitch. At times I also felt that the players didn’t even want to pass to him. Even Bolton players seemed to ignore him as was evident on the corner when he was completely free inside the box. It only goes to show the difference between Carling Cup and Premier League intensity. A good experience for the lad but he needs to show more confidence on the pitch. If the boss can trust him enough to put him in the starting line up, he has to have the body language of a player who knows he belongs.
Cesc: Can’t say much more about the best player in the league. Although his defending is quite good I doubt if he will be able to play the holding role, as suggested by some of you, simply because he is attracted to the ball all the time. If we play most of our game in the opponent’s half he will invariably end up moving forward.
Diaby: The present team composition doesn’t suit him. He needs more freedom but I was happy with his contribution. Could have done more to help Traore and Eastmond but it depends on the instructions from Le Boss. Based on the way he played, I wasn’t sure if he was given instructions to attack or defend.
Rosicky: Showed plenty of ability in the attacking third. Didn’t have much defending to do as most of Bolton’s attacks were down the left. I kept wondering why he didn’t switch sides with Arshavin as the Czech maestro is certainly better at tracking back. I was also wondering why we didn’t switch play to the right more often, instead of hoofing it clear down the middle when under pressure.
Eduardo: Played better through the center. He is improving with every game and I am hoping that he will be fit for the rest of this season. Nice to see him pick up a couple of assists.
Arshavin: Worked harder than what we are used to seeing from him. He still has a lot more to offer but this was a step in the right direction.
Subs: Merida was excellent and with injuries to Ramsey and Nasri he deserves the chance to prove his worth. Clichy had a good run out and Vela didn’t get much time.
I will end by saying that Bolton were quite ugly and Taylor deserved a red card for his vile and violent behaviour. I doubt that there will be any retrospective action but Fabregas deserves kudos for keeping his cool.