Arsenal V Bolton: Comeback To The Front

Wow! That was some game. Arsenal’s credentials as league leaders were challenged and the team completed a phenomenal comeback displaying grit, determination, fighting spirit and all round quality.

At this point our place at the top of the league is well and truly deserved.

This game was ironical in many ways. Firstly, the visitors scored from freak chances and went up by two goals without really creating much. It’s ironic and perhaps poetic justice of some sort considering our clean sheet from the game at the Reebok when Bolton had some good chances. Secondly, Bolton actually came and played a clean game without a single dirty tackle only to suffer from a horrific one. Finally, Arsenal literally kick started the march to the top!

It was a lively start and within the first five minutes, Diaby and Arshavin had clear openings from outside the box but they could only manage tame attempts straight at the keeper. It was clear why Bolton have failed to keep a clean sheet and there was no doubt Arsenal were going to score a few in this game.

The first goal came from some crazy defending even by Arsenal standards. First, Diaby headed the ball straight up inside the penalty box while trying to clear a cross. Then, inexplicably, Clichy tried an extremely difficult clearance that looped the ball back towards the edge of the penalty box. Mark Davies beat Vermaelen to the ball and Cahill found himself in a position to tap in!

Apart from the obvious mistakes by Diaby and Clichy, you have to wonder how come Davies was free at the edge of the box? You also have to wonder why Diaby ran forward before the ball was out of the Danger area leaving Cahill free? The fact remains that most of our players are very poor at defending and we need serious work on this.

I wasn’t really worried by the goal as an Arsenal goal looked inevitable. Our players were moving well and it was only a matter of time before the final ball arrived. Cesc got a good chance with only the keeper to beat but the angle was too tight. There were some other half chances too as Bolton sat back for most parts.

Just before the half hour mark Denilson lost the ball near the half way line and Bolton moved it forward with pace to win a corner. A clumsy challenge from the Brazilian conceded a penalty. Almunia, having guessed right, dived to his left but failed to keep the ball out. Normally, I don’t like to blame a keeper for not saving a penalty but when you have reached the ball it goes down as a mistake.

I was still hopeful that we can win this one. Memories of the comeback at the Reebok a couple of seasons ago came flooding back. What we needed was a goal before half time. Bolton were able to frustrate us for a while by sitting deep and defending in numbers. It all changed in a moment of magic form Rosicky.

Fabregas wriggled away from Muamba who had been marking him all day before rolling the ball to little Mozart in an innocuous area just outside the box. As the Czech international strode forward it looked like he will have to turn back to avoid running into Zat Knight. In stead he let fly with a very short back-lift and the ball was in the back of the net before anyone could realize what had happened.

The second half started in a similar manner. With seven minutes gone, Gallas strode forward in support as he had done a few times during the first half. He misplaced a pass that was intercepted by Mark Davies and both players went for the loose ball. Gallas was late with his tackle and went high and studs first on the Bolton man’s ankle. If this tackle had been on an Arsenal player I would have been fuming so there can be no defending the Frenchman’s mistake.

It might not have been a big controversy had the tackle not lead to the goal. As Davies was lying on the ground in pain, Arsenal moved forward. Bolton players were guilty of losing their concentration and Cesc must be commended for maintaining his. After a mini pinball El Capitan kept possession, darted into the box and scored from a really tight angle.

Now it was only a matter of time as the momentum was with the home team. Another surging forward burst from Gallas resulted in a corner when Diaby tried to play the defender in. Bolton failed to clear the corner and Diaby won the second header. Vermaelen created some space for himself by letting the ball run across him before smashing a half volley in off the post. This goal showed the importance of missing the first man and the goal keeper on set piece deliveries. As long as we can keep the ball alive and make the defenders work, set pieces can always yield unexpected opportunities.

After the third goal Arsenal relaxed a bit and Bolton had their first period of sustained pressure. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t create any clear opening in the fifteen minutes or so when Arsenal were taking it easy. Out of nothing Arsenal got the ball to Eduardo on the edge of the Bolton box. His touch towards Arshavin wasn’t ideal but did enough. Once again after a bout of pinball, the ball fell to Arshavin who beat the last defender and slotted it past the keeper.

The Russian had another glorious chance towards the end when he could have scored or collected an assist but his finish was not up to his usual standards.

In the end, Arsenal had 21 shots with 13 on target for their four goals. Bolton had 4 on target for their two goals. The visitors can’t really complain about the result. The tackle from Gallas was dangerous but I don’t believe it affected the outcome of the match. The common excuse that we often hear when our players are taken out is, “He is not a dirty player and there was no malice in the challenge.” Same applies in this case. I am worried that since Alan Wiley did not see the incident Gallas might face some action based on video evidence.

Individual Performances

Almunia: Decent effort but could have done better on the penalty.

Sagna: Made a couple of mistakes at the back but nothing serious. Overall another efficient game.

Gallas: Had no clue how to handle Kevin Davies. Put in a number of forward runs.

Vermaelen: Struggled against Kevin Davies. Otherwise a decent outing and picked up  good goal.

Clichy: Good effort for a comeback game. Needs to offer more going forward in the coming games.

Denilson: I thought the last game against Everton was his worst for Arsenal but this one might just beat that or might be forgotten as the result was positive. He really struggles in the defensive third, not a good thing for a defensive midfielder!

Diaby: Needs to work on his headers both defensively and offensively. Also has to work on his tackling, we cannot concede free kicks just outside the box against better teams.

Cesc: Not as good as he can be, but still the best player on the pitch.

Rosicky: Great goal, good defensive work rate, always looked lively. We have to keep him fit. Also good to see him getting his speed back.

Eduardo: Worked hard but he has to improve his shooting technique. I don’t think it is a problem due to the injury. He always had inconsistent shooting.

Arshavin: Will blossom if he plays regularly with Cesc and Rosicky. Work rate was excellent in this game.

Subs: Eastmond, Vela and Walcott didn’t get much time but they might have their day in the Cup tie.


15 Responses to Arsenal V Bolton: Comeback To The Front

  1. Maddy says:

    I agree about Denilson not being up to the mark yesterday. In fact he certainly could have been classified as piss poor.

    However, Bolton’s chances weren’t freak by any stretch of the imagination. Owen Coyle is a master tactician and he proved it by benching his top scorer Klasnic and putting out a 5 man midfield that gave them a lot more impetus going forward. They were able to win the 50-50s and they pressed real hard. And first half hour we were pretty woeful. So we deservedly conceded 2.

    As for Bolton playing ‘clean’ i dunno. All they didn’t do was deliberately pull hair and elbow someone. By their usual ugly standards maybe. They are the LAST team who have the right to complain about a dangerous challenge. Though we’re the LAST team who have the right to defend one too.

    In case you’re interested our on ground writer Felipe was at the game and filed this piece
    http://bigfourza.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/we-are-up-for-it/

    • desigunner says:

      I try not to be too harsh on the players because there are many factors that affect their performance and we might not know all of them.

      The reason I called their chances freak was because the mistakes from our players were really bad and not something we expect. The only other shots on target they had were efforts by Taylor from outside the box.

  2. Diceman1984 says:

    The thing is when Eastmond came on I felt Denilson relaxed and played a little better. I believe he’s in over his head playing DM, a couple of games kinda prove that.

    Arshavin did put in an unbelievable workrate considering his past efforts.

    Vermaelen was impressive yet again, love this guy…I like to think of him as a Martin Keown who has great techniques and can shoot like strikers.

    But a great comeback to show our determination to go to the top, we needed the two goal win margin and even with being 2 down the players delivered…..but if course we are still competing for 4th place huh….

  3. Sunaadh says:

    Pre-injury Eduardo had inconsistent shooting? REALLY????

    • desigunner says:

      IMHO. I always felt he had the ability to score crackers, and he will start doing that again, but he used to scuff too many chances even in his early days and in whatever I have seen of him with Croatia. It’s a genuine area of improvement.

  4. Pymwymis says:

    You don’t know that the ref didn’t see the Gallas incident. If anything I would say the opposite was true as he must have seen it to be able to wave play on as he clearly did !

  5. Nitin Damodaran says:

    wassup gooners
    I juss read a few articles about the last game covered by The Telegraph and some other journals. I have observed this very weird bias in the british media and the Indian media as well (espn star)– that every time manu or chelsea are able to grind out ugly 1-0 reults or in general just ugly comebacks, they are often lauded as men with charactr, made of stell , stuff of champions.
    HOWEVER when arsenal wins hard faught matches they are often criticised even more.
    Yes i agree that winning ugly is not our way but atleast be fair. Manu have lost ther attacking style since the acadmaey boys went out and chelsea never had a style (hell there football looked like a bunch of high skool bullies left unsupervised)

    What do u guys think…DESI ..is it the same over there ? or am i being biased in my own way ?

    • desigunner says:

      Nitin, I am a very anti-media kind of a person mainly because of the kind of dross they dish out. You are right in saying they are biased, at least some of them.

      My solution has been to read only selected articles. These days I can almost tell from the headline and the source if it’s worth reading or not.

      United and Chelsea are teams that have a clean sheet as their first priority, which is very different from Arsenal. That’s the reason I don’t value their achievements.

  6. Thomas Rooney says:

    I’m suprised you didn’t mention Gallas’ challenge when looking at his individual performance. Had quite a big impact on the game wouldn’t you say?

    On the Eduardo front… The injury has affected him a great deal I would say. His finishing in particular seems to have got worse.

    Regardless… cracking analysis. Not many blogs do you get this detail so soon after the game!

    On another note, could you please drop me an email when you get the chance? Got something that I would like to run by you.

    • desigunner says:

      Thanks Thomas.

      I left out the challenge because I had covered it in the main piece and there is going to be a lot of talk about it anyway.

      Will drop a mail soon.

  7. Samuel says:

    Arsenal,s player of the match was clearly Vermaelen who had to do so much sweeping for the inept ballwatching clown Gallas .All those high balls into the Arsenal box and not even one won ,even the commentators picked up on that .

  8. 0.9 Calibre says:

    Am not sure how many of you all watched the game on Fox sports, I did and I was mighty pissed with the co-commentator! If you guys havent heard an anti- arsenal guy talk in real life then I suggest you get hold of the FSC highlights of the game! The free kick save by Almunia was “ok” and apparently when there is a challenge on the pitch “Arsenal are the first ones of to complain”.. Really moron? Have you looked at our injury list? If we had moaned like the other teams we’d be clear of chelsea by 10 points by now.. I agree the tackle on Mark Davies was bad but why should we abandon all rules and kick the ball out? “Play until the whistle” and so we did! I was impressed by Le Boss’ post match interview where he responded to the gallas tackle issue and said to the journalist “Why dont we watch videos of the tackles we have suffered? Then perhaps we can make a fair assessment! ” Spot on Boss!

    Now the game! One of the best games we have played this season! people keep saying that this is some fairytale finish! Heck! we are not Hull city, We are the Arsenal! its just that we showed today what the team was about… After the goal by the Little Mozart I was really impressed by the attitude of the players who didnt celebrate it..it was like “1 down, 2 to go, lets get to business now!”.. Almunia had a good game and I hope he keeps it up.. The penalty save attempt was good but just plain unfortunate.. he just needs to work a little more to be of the Arsenal standard… Denilson had a bad game but considering the fact that he came back from injury in a physical game we ought to let this performance go.. Diaby was good, his passing has really improved, he is launching the passes quickly and his movement is potent but defensively he needs to work harder we need tall guys like him working well in the defence.. Cesc, Arshavin , Rosicky and Vermaelen literally “CARV”ed out a win for us.. Each and everyone of them are captains and they put up an authoritative show on and off the ball.. we need quality like this on the pitch alongside our young guns to keep our winning touch going.. Now am really confident Eduardo will comeback in a few more games and set the stage on fire, his pace isnt that great these days but his movement and his run timing is getting more lethal.. His finishing according to me is of least importance right now, if he keeps up this movement then he is sure to feed players like Cesc and Arshavin who are in great finishing touch.. This was the perfect way to go into those four games of death! The confidence is high now and this is the perfect time for us to negotiate those four difficult games! I bet the fixture computer didnt see this coming! lol!

  9. desigunner says:

    Yeah I saw it on Fox and the commentator was a pain. Although I have a feeling it was a British commentator and Fox just patched the feed through.

    Nice one about the fixture computer, lol.

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