Post Match View – Bolton Wanderers F.C.

I like beating Bolton. I’m over the moon not just from our 2-0 victory at the Reebok but also because I know we get another chance to beat them Wednesday. That the match today and the one upcoming midweek are very significant in the title race makes facing them even more exciting. We’ve answered some tough questions so far. This Bolton fixture may not be as difficult as it has been in the past but the result is just as sweet.

Craig Eastmond came in to play the holding role. Cesc returned and it was good to see that he hasn’t lost the form of his life. Noteworthy inclusions on the bench were Emmanuel-Thomas, Coquelin, and the returning Gael Clichy. Our No. 22 has missed 15 games with a back injury. I haven’t forgotten his performances were pretty bad before getting hurt. Let’s hope he sorts that out.

Bolton were up for it. In the first two minutes they’d already shown their intention to take the game to Arsenal. Armand Traore was too willing to let that happen. Yet in fairness to the boy (and to Mark Bright who also said as much) maybe he should have been given more support. Chong-Yong Lee will never have an easier opponent marking him.

By the fifth minute, we’d weathered the early storm. Cesc threatened Jussi Jaaskelainen’s goal after a decent spell of possession. Eduardo was beaten to the ball in similar fashion by Jaaskelainen on 7 and 17. Sandwiched in between, Diaby lost the ball three times and Cesc had a clear penalty not given. On 15, Traore was caught in possession. Seconds later, Almunia spilled a very easy ball to handle for a corner. The cynical Gooner could been forgiven at that point for feeling that it was going to be one of those days.

Arshavin was having yet another fairly anonymous game up top while we’d tried and failed to spring Eduardo on at least three occasion. It was going to take something special from someone else on the pitch. Step up somebody, please. Chelsea and United victories on Saturday made three points an absolute must.

Vermaelen headed away bravely on 20. Traore was at fault again. What the Italians call a tiro cross found its way past Jaaskelainen on 24. It looked like Diaby might have got there if he wanted it more or had at least anticipated better. At the other end, Gallas was forced to give Bolton an unnecessary corner. His stare at Almunia was telling. Again, it was clear that our No. 1 does little to help take pressure off the men in front of him.

On 26, an Arshavin shot won us a corner. He shouted instructions to Eastmond after. The debutant was having a so-so game. Anyone hoping to see glimpses of perhaps the next Alex Song will have to wait a bit longer. On 27, he escaped a booking after a clear and clumsy challenge on Lee. Maybe a more experienced player would have spotted and dealt with Lee’s threat to Traore better than Eastmond did.

On 28, Diaby sparked a quick scramble on top of the Bolton 18. The ball fell right for Cesc. He exchanged a quick one-two with Eduardo and then buried a neat shot past the far post.

1-0 AFC

On 30, Traore headed well back to Almunia to stop a potential one on one for Lee. It was one of the very few bright moments for the left back. Two minutes later, Eastmond shot through a crowd but Jaaskelainen saved it. Meanwhile, Mark Bright might have forced a few viewers to mute their televisions with gems like “11 men are always better than 10”, “Bolton must not concede a goal”, “the next goal is crucial, Bolton hopes it’s them”, and my favorite, “all good free kicks go in”.

On 34, a series of assaults on our captain started with a boot to his face and a tug of on his hair by Taylor while he laid face down in the Bolton penalty area. A minute later, he was taken down from behind by Robinson. On 38, Almunia saved from the aforementioned hair pulling Wanderer. On 40, Almunia saved well from a Klasnic shot that was not easy to see through the crowd in front of his goal.

I’ve heard the term ‘total football’ used may times in ways that didn’t necessarily describe anything that had to do with total football. Vermaelen’s run down the left wing to receive a ball from the Captain exemplifies total football – any player on the pitch can slot seamlessly in almost any position, at any time. We saw the same run from Gallas down the middle in the second half. Neither player ended up with the final ball but the concept was evident.

There were a couple more Traore mistakes for Lee to capitalize on and at least one more foul on Cesc by Robinson before the Half Time whistle. The Second Half would require a better performance from the nightmarish Traore, green Eastmond, anonymous Rosicky, sloppy Diaby, ineffective Arshavin, and as always, sure hands Almunia.

On 46, Klasnic could have done better after beating Gallas to a Davies knock down. I can’t remember him doing more than beat Vermaelen for that header the entire match, the sorry thug. On 48, Almunia, who looked steadier in the Second Half, did well to get to yet another Lee cross before Taylor could pounce.

Gallas headed a Cesc free kick high on 51. It looked like a decent chance. Lee would force a corner off of a Gallas deflection on 54. Bolton were winning all the battles at that point.

Taylor and Diaby shots were wide and high on 60 and 61. Zat Knight did well to clear a low Traore cross as Eduardo approached. On 63, Wenger sent Merida on for Eastmond. Clearly the turning point in the game from a tactical point of view. Bolton were working hard to win midfield but the addition of another Arsenal player to keep possession or to just make better decisions with the ball was a key to the final outcome.

On 65, Cahill’s vital clearance prevented a free header from the well positioned Eduardo. One minute later, Zat Knight stooped to head away with Eduardo on his hip. On 71, Taylor beat the trap but shot wide. He’s done well against us in the past but he must have forgot to put in his contacts today, such was his accuracy.

Clichy came on for Rosicky on 74. Vermaelen’s free kick on 76 went just over the bar. On 78, a good run by Cesc and then a good cross by Eduardo found Merida at the far post. He slotted home with his right foot.

2-0 AFC

Bolton pushed a high line and maintained pressure in pursuit of a consolation goal. I wondered if we’d catch them out for a third. The away support was fantastic at the Reebok with ONE ARSENE WENGER echoing throughout the stadium. Traore and Taylor continued their nightmares with a give away and an errant shot respectively. Perhaps Wenger wanted to let Traore work his way through what was an awful performance. He cannot play worse than that and will learn from it. I hope.

Eduardo’s form of late has been a concern but he has scored in three of the last five matches and assisted on both goals today. I’ll take that. I’m confident that he’ll find his form and make a difference.

Bolton Wednesday. I can hardly wait.

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