Arsenal 3 – 0 Bolton: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Three goals. Three Points. Three Cheers.

Well, I am sitting here in a cabin at the smoky mountains and everyone with me is keen to move out into the forest so I will keep this short.

I thought both teams started brightly. Bolton came with a plan to press Arsenal all over the pitch, a plan that has worked for many teams, and a high-ball strategy (let me not call it long ball) that almost reaped instant dividends.

Koscielny went for a high-ball aimed at Ngog. The Frenchman never got close but bumped into the striker with the duo clashing heads and needing treatment off the field. The free-kick was stood up on the right side of Arsenal’s box where Sagna was supposed to  challenge Wheater. It was a no-contest as the Bolton defender headed the ball into the danger area.

The visitors didn’t have many bodies in that area and Arsenal could have cleared it easily. But Gibbs was waiting for the ball to drop so that he could kick it away. Pratley attacked the ball better and stuck out a boot to direct it goalwards. Szczesny reacted well to palm it away for a corner. It seemed like an ominous start but Arsenal managed to ensure that was the visitors’ best chance.

Bolton were pressing well but just didn’t have the right organization to back it up. Inside ten minutes a simple ball from Arteta put Gervinho in behind. But the Ivorian kicked it too long allowing the Keeper to smother it.

After that the game was hard fought in midfield. Arsenal were moving well but Bolton were effective with their chasing and pressing. Arsenal created a number of half-chances, like Van Persie going close with a free-kick, in the first half but Jaaskelainen wasn’t being tested much.

The first-half ended on an even keel with Arsenal dominating the attack while Bolton respectable in defence.

The second period started with a bang. Koscielny kicked one to Gervinho who played an intricate flick just as he was fouled. The ref played advantage when Ramsey pounced on to the ball from the winger. The Welshman played a simple pass to RvP after advancing towards the Bolton box. Van Persie took it in a central area just outside the box and advanced to a tight angle on their right. After beating Muamba’s attempted block with a dummy the Arsenal skipped notched number 99 with a blast past Jaaskelainen on the near post.

Just like the first period, about eight minutes into the second half Gervinho got another chance as he cut inside and played a one-two with Song that put him in behind. Once again his touch was poor and the ball trickled out.

Soon after, as Bolton were committing men forward, Ramsey found a wonderful through-ball for Walcott. Wheater pulled Theo back and was sent off for DOGSO.

Then the game became a one-sided affair with Arsenal creating numerous chances and scoring two. Van Persie reached his ton with a deft tap-in of a Walcott cross that had been created after a one-two with Ramsey.

Song scored his finishing qualities with a wonderfully curler from the edge of the box.

Jaaskelainen made a number of saves and the other defenders made some blocks to keep the score respectable.

At the other end Szczesny was only worried when Bolton were able to break on a counter. This happened when Arsenal had four or more bodies down the right wing but lost the ball to a poor touch/pass. As I’ve discussed before it happens often enough with Arsenal. Thankfully, Chris Eagles didn’t have the skill to finish. Conceding such an equalizer against 10 men at home would have been embarrassing.

On the whole this was a good game from the Gunners and there were some encouraging signs as far as the movement goes. The understanding and final pass quality is still not at the level desired but it should come with time.

Despite the clean sheet I would not call this an example of good defending. This was more like a game with little or no defending to do. As I have said in the past, Arsenal look really good when they can pull the opponents all over the place and pin them back. But that does not mean the defence is good. When the ball movement fails, the defence is challenged and we haven’t seen any consistency on that front. I am not saying this was bad defending, just that much should not be read from such match.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Largely untroubled. Made the saves when he had to.

Sagna: Looked like he was a bit restrained with his forward movement in this game. Struggled against Wheater in the air but at least provided some sort of a physical tussle. Played a part in the third goal.

Mertesacker: Had very little to do but looked very composed on the ball. Passing seemed flawless.

Koscielny: Struggled against the strikers in the air but you could see he was trying. Moved forward with the ball on a few occasions which is an art he has to develop.

Gibbs: I thought he had more of a license to venture forward compared to Sagna. Decent performance on the left without any outstanding moments.

I thought the defenders weren’t very comfortable in the air but Bolton lacked creativity and never got enough bodies forward even when they won the first high-ball. This and the presence of the Arsenal midfield in support made the defence fairly solid.

Song: Spent a lot of time higher up the pitch. Provided some interesting passes. Goal was really well taken and the wingers could learn a thing or two from that. Good work rate and was present at the back on most occasions.

Ramsey: In a role reversal with Song, Ramsey spent  a lot of time in deeper areas especially in the first half. Picked up two assists even if those particular passes (one just bounced of his shin) weren’t special. Did play some a couple of quality through-balls. Lacked a bit of pace while chasing back.

Arteta: Was the most impressive passer in the game. Can create a lot of chances from deeper positions as he seems to be getting a better hang of the movement of the wide players. Also hit the target with a couple of well-taken shots.

I thought this was the best midfield display of the season. Bolton’s midfielders were working really hard and it was a tough battle that the Arsenal trio won. Passing can be better, some go short while a few are over hit, but it’s headed in the right direction.

Walcott: Good assist, excellent movement up front. Won the red card, if that’s the right way of describing it. Produced some good passes in the final third. Should have finished when he got into a one-v-one. The strike was well-directed but the Keeper was able to read it. Needs to work on his finishing, which has improved but has to be a couple of notches higher if he wants to play centrally.

RvP: This time I think I am with the popular choice for the MotM. Was popping up all over the pitch. Both goals were well-taken. Another inspirational effort.

Gervinho: Good movement and had some nice touches. But his technique let him down twice. Exciting and frustrating as ever.

Subs: Arshavin and Rosicky showed some good touches when the pressure was off. Chamakh didn’t see much of the ball.

Wenger: I won’t be surprised if Arsenal have been doing specific work on their movement and co-ordination. More of the same please, with steady improvement. Starting eleven was good and did it’s job. The subs were given a few good minutes.

I thought the forward players showed much better co-ordination in this game and the midfielders were able to find their runs more often. It will take a  few weeks to get at the level Arsenal need in order to challenge for the bigger trophies but the signs were encouraging.


10 Responses to Arsenal 3 – 0 Bolton: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Tim says:

    Although he does run down a lot of blind alleys and can be inaccurate with his passing, I thought Ramsey made several telling contributions, being directly involved in all three goals and playing the through ball for Theo which saw Wheater sent off. He’s inconsistent and sometimes frustrating, but when he gets it right as he did in the second half you can see what Wenger sees in him.

    Fantastic brace by captain RvP, and overall a fine second half performance. If Robin was our hero, then Aaron was a great sidekick – Aaron was Robin to Robin’s Batman, so to speak.

    Three points and a three-goal win. Just what the doctor ordered.

  2. ManBearPig says:

    Reliant Robin – what a legend!
    Can’t wait for Van Raping defences with our OxCoq… Heh, heh…

  3. omotayo says:

    van persie is a world class striker we need him more than nasri and fab i hope he make history at the emirate.come on you gunners

  4. Kay says:

    I said after the defeat at blackburn that our attack and mid-field are really impoving but the only weak point in defence and in time, that will be solved.
    The goals against us at blackburn were just unfortunate. Arsenal is turning the corner and we would successfully turn it by winning at Tottenham.

  5. Tee Song says:

    I think you’re being a little harsh on the defense. No, it wasn’t backs to the wall, last ditch defending like against Dortmund or the highly organized defense we saw against Barca (at least when we had eleven men) but I think three total shots and a clean sheet means the team defended well. When we have a significant technical advantage over a team (which should be most of the time), part of our strategy for preventing goals is to establish a territorial advantage by playing as much of the game as possible in the opponents half. Especially in the second half, Arsenal picked up the tempo their game significantly, both in terms of their passing and movement and, when we lost possession, closing down Bolton players in their own half earlier. They were unable to play it out of their half and were forced to long hoofs to try to get into their attacking third. Our defenders had little to do other than avoid Kevin Davies’ constant elbows and clean up the long balls. I understand your point that we did little “defending” in the sense that Bolton found it tough to have meaningful possession in our half of the pitch but for me that meant that we executed our gameplan well. For this team, attack is the best form of defense.

    Having said that, it does take a little of the gloss off the defense to realize that we gave up two great goal scoring opportunities. Set piece defending could have undone the team again and only an outstanding save by Szczesny prevented us being a goal down after just a couple of minutes gone. Chris Eagles’ breakaway once agains showed a failure of positional discipline. When we lost possession at the edge of our own penalty area, Gibbs was the only player back. Both Song and Ramsey should’ve realized that fact and rotated back instead of loitering around the edge of the box. Ramsey was in the best position to cover Sagna who was playing the overlap on the right. If he had done so, he’d have been in position to intercept the pass to Petrov or at least close him down so he couldn’t play the quick pass to Eagles. And Eagles’ run started right down the center of the pitch where Song should’ve been. Only Gibbs’ speed and determination enabled him to force Eagles a little wider and rush his shot, which was easily saved. If that had been Rooney or Aguero, things might not have turned out so rosy.

    Overall, the team played pretty well other than a few lapses in concentration and this game should be the blueprint of how to beat most teams that we face. Other than Eagles’ breakaway, the midfielders and fullbacks did a good job of rotating and seemed aware of each other’s positions so that when some players pushed forward, others stayed back. It’s a good building block and will hopefully be the start of a trend toward better performances.

  6. Yang says:

    Very good game, The first couple of games are very unlucky for Arsenal. 2 Own goals in 1 game etc. Arsenal is not a bad team at all just suffer from losing important link men Csec and leaky defense.

    Bolton is very soft at center I think they lost 2-3 important players too they will be in trouble if the injury situation is not improved asap, hmm this is sound familiar.

    Until now, Arsenal lost a bit too many points tho, so need to pick up few more wins and get reinforcement in Jan to fight for CL spot.

  7. el bizarroni says:

    what does it say about me when an Arsenal win only gives me a sigh of relief…

    Olympiacos up next. let’s keep it up, lads.

  8. Charlie says:

    Bring back the Verminator. To me he is the missing link and the most comfortable defensive performance of the season was against Newcastle in my opinion when he was in the team. He seems to bring composure to the whole back line and if we can get that back we’ll have a team that can win trophies. Wilshere is obviously crucial too but we have players such as Ramsey that can step up to take his place, we only have one Verminator. Koscielny seems to lack confidence at times, he can play well but top defenders such as Vermaelen always seem to be in control of any situation and Kos doesn’t. Mertesacker hasn’t been very noticeable so far but sometimes you don’t want to notice your CB too much. I share your optimism about the midfield and attack Desi. We have so much depth in those areas now that we can cope with injuries where Spurs, for example, can’t and they will certainly improve as the season wears on. The difference between the top 4 (Arsenal included) and the rest is in the last 10 names in the squad list, not necessarily in the first 10.

  9. Kushagra India says:

    Desi ur analysis and what I have seen shows me that zonal marking wont work on set pieces especially in EPL we need a right mix of man marking and zonal system…… for different regions of the pitch..and situations…

  10. Kushagra India says:

    and a stat showed that over the years we have conceded the most percentage of goals conceded in set pieces…

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