Arsene often refers to his team as being intelligent footballers... but today, I saw no evidence of that. Bolton enjoy long ball football... they play it, they practice it... so you'd presume they are quite good at it... so why did Arsenal play long balls into the box all game? That is playing to Bolton's game plan... and that is why it took so long to break them down yesterday.
Arsenal should have played to Bolton's weaknesses today... but they didn't... instead we struggled away for 85minutes... picked our game up at the end and showed a bit of vintage Arsenal by squandering countless chances only to grab it at the death.
There were a lot of complaints in the stadium about the way the game was played out... understandable, it wasn't pretty and the first half was nothing short of shambolic from an Arsenal perspective. However, I will defend the coach on this one... becasue nothing has changed since last week. The proposed signing of Arshavin was never going to make an uncreative team become creative... so yesterday was to be expected.
Arsenal crabbed the ball about quite nicely... if there was an award for the most sideways passes yesterday, we'd have won it hands down. The teams confidence seems so fragile at times, that no one is willing to risk that killer pass incase the crowd get on their back. This started to change in the second half with introduction of our Mexican magician, Carlos Vela. When he came on Bolton began to waver. The problem Bolton had with Carlos is they couldn't sit back from him... when they did that, he'd go round them... and this was a key contributor for Bolton losing their shape and eventually, the game.
Arsenal really started to play after about 65 minutes... Nasri moved into the middle and began to orchastrate the revival... Carlos hussled and harried out wide... The young frenchman began to work some magic and slowly started to unpick the tightly organised Bolton defence. Adebayor was the first to be played through with a superb ball... he found himself in acres of space, but he panicked, took an age to mavourver himself and the first clear cut chance of the match was defended well.
Nik B then entered the fray... he looked like a man with a point to prove. Almost immediately he latched onto the end of a high ball into the box only to be denied by the Bolton keeper. 5 minutes later he found himself in the box, but he couldn't craft anything meanigingful on the shot/pass. Then, right at the end... Clichy played RvP through with a well weighted pass... RvP floated a ball to the back post and Nik B buried the ball hard and low into the bottom corner. The crowd erupted, and Arsenal held on for a win.
Almunia: Another weak performance from the Spaniard. On two occasions he didn't call for a ball and confused his defence. He has also started punching crosses again... which is a sign of a keeper low on confidence. 6
Clichy: I thought the ref did a superb job of not protecting our man from the sporadic attacks by Kevin Davies. Gael played well though and started the move for the winning goal. 7
Toure: The difference in defence between Kolo and Gallas is that when a 50/50 ball is up for grabs... you know Kolo will put his neck on the line to win it. I thought Kolo showed the passion and heart we expect from a captain and I hope his new found responsibilit will be the starting point of great things from the Ivorian favourite. A spirited performance. 7.5
JD: I can't fault him really. He and Kolo mopped up all day at the back and I think they dealt with Bolton's sometimes physical approach well. 7
Sagna: A few of his crosses were a bit wayward, but it says a lot about his game that I have to criticise that... because his defending is always top notch. 7
Nasri: A very sparky performance today. He is starting to show consisitency and he is starting to justtify that price tag. He floats accross the midfield, linking play and always looking for someone in a good position. He doesn't waste too many balls and the rest of the team are starting to look to him now. He looked great in the more central role, and I wouldn't bet against him ending up there. 8
Diaby: A man struggling to make his mark in this Arsenal team. Having bucket loads of ability means nothing if you can't show that in a game. He reminds me of the kid at school who was amazing in the playground and could do all the silky skills till the cows came home... but when thrown into a game where tactics and positional play are more important... they'd fail. 5
Denilson: Superb performance today. He was productive in the middle of the park and he was diciplined. I really am beggining to enjoy this guys game and though he lacks dicipline sometimes, I really believe he is trying his best to become a great player. 7.5
Eboue: I thought he played ok today... well, in the sense he didn't make too many bad passes and he didn't do anything silly defensively. However, in the grand scheme of things, he doesn't create and he doesn't really defend that well. When you throw him into midfield... you are just throwing a body into the team. You need goals and creativity... if you can't offer either out wide, why are you there? 6
Adebayor: So used to reading about how much the fans dislike his high line play... Ade appeared to be playing a lot deeper today. This reduced his overall effect on the team and took something away from his game. He fluffed his lines when we were at 0-0 and he looks like a player in need of a goal. Currently, Arsenal fans are witnessing a power shift... 5
RvP: That power shift is moving towards Robin Van Persie. He is the man who is taking over as numero uno at the club.. The status quo is returning. The Dutchman was superb today... he fights for everything, he is strong and he creates. The only thing missing from him today was a goal, but an important assist will do. When Robin starts firing... we will have a player on our hands. 8
Vela: Has all the ingredients to make us a real threat. Why isn't he started? 6
Nik B: Has he taken a good long look at himself in the mirror and decided he needs to work for his place at Arsenal? Could have done... he looked like a different man out there today and took his goal brilliantly. 7
Rambo: Not on long enough to pass comment.
So not the best performance, but 3 points against a team who have been our bogey side for many years... made all the more important because the bindippers drew and Villa won.
Lets take the positives and move on to the next match in the hope we sign someone up pretty sharpish.
See you in the comments!
P.S. Thanks to the guys in the Hen and Chicken for letting me join them while I waited for a mate!