Failing to score against a Bolton side who've only managed 2 clean sheets this year was embarrassing. Taking 8 points taken from the last 24 is worrying. 12 points behind Spurs with a 45 left to play for feels like a charcoal induced stomach pump.
We lined up with a strong side, no complaints on that front. Our back 4 consisted of 3 seasoned internationals and a Frenchman some have called the best centre back in the league. Out midfield saw the return of Arteta and up top Chambo continued in the side.
We started off in fairly explosive fashion considering out recent starts. Vermaelen was played in with a superb Sagna cross but he drove his header into the ground. Minutes later Ramsey found himself through on goal but fluffed his finish.
Chamberlain was making things happen, he was looking alert and motivated. He found Robin wide with a lovely outside of the boot pass, Robin cut sharply inside his full back, laid off Chamberlain who skewed wide. Arsenal were opening up Bolton with ease but the finishing was poor. Sagna in particular was giving us balance and a threat on the right. Oh how we've missed him...
Arsenal didn't have it all their own way. N'Gog brushed off Koscielny with ease and struck a shot across goal that the keeper did well to keep out. The Frenchman found himself in hot bother shortly after when he lost his footing watching a looping ball, N'gog capitalised but couldn't keep his half volley inside the post. Worrying how shambolic our defence looks at times. Worrying how poor Koscielny was playing for a second game in a row...
Our best chance of the game came when Chamberlain picked out Theo though the middle, Mr '£90k please' had all the time in the world but somehow conspired to pull his shot wide. Yet another terrible miss to add to his portfolio.
Arteta vented his frustrations crunching a Bolton player into a lino who looked like Ed Miliband. I'd have done the same...
The attention had been off Chesney momentarily, so he decided to showboat from a back pass, nearly losing out. Someone needs to pull him to one side and give him a bollocking for unnecessary messing around like that.
Theo and his poor technique continued to let him down in the second half, particularly his touch. It's just not happening for him. I wonder if he feels put out by the emergence of a player who looks like he's having the career Theo wanted?
We didn't have such an eventful second half. The two best chances fell to Robin. His close range effort from a Sagna cross hit the post, then later on, he turned the Bolton defence inside out he floated a delightful chip to the back stick but sadly hit the bar. I was going to say Bergkamp-esque, but it could have been Bentley-esque (againt Boro' at Highbury?).
Chamberlain went off for Thierry, I'm not sure why, Theo was the man who looked like the rookie. We also saw the introduction of Rosicky. Two players well past their best and it showed. We created hardly anything.
It was Bolton who went for the jugular bringing on two strikers. N'Gog's finishing stopped them nicking the points at the end when Koscielny was beaten by a Petrov cross, the header didn't match it. Mark Davie, who was excellent, beat three defenders at the death, only a superbly judged save kept him from rounding the keeper... some thought it could have been a penalty. He had another great chance when he cut inside Sagna and Song but pulled his shot wide.
The whistle blew and it was the Gooner faithful who were relieved. Sorry, sorry times...
We didn't play terribly. I mean, it wasn't vintage, but chances were created. Robin Van Persie hit the post and the bar, Theo somehow missed a pearler of a one on one and Aaron Ramsey was equally guilty in the first half. Who cares though? At the end of the day, did we win? No. Is there a league table of 'if we'd scored our sitters where would we be?' Probably. But it doesn't matter. What football always boils down to is the end result. We dropped 2 points and we were lucky not to drop 3.
We're a one man team. People sneered about that press comment at the start of the year, but without Robin, we'd be in a world of trouble. The only other player on the pitch willing to take a lead is our 18 year old rookie. Again, he was one of our biggest threats and he was taken off over someone who would struggle to get into the Bolton side. Theo Walcott is as technically retarded on the pitch as I am with a server. His poor control and lack of intelligence on the pitch is painful to watch, especially considering his wage expectations to sign on again. Aaron Ramsey for all his bluster is really struggling to be productive. He does a very good job of looking busy, but he's extremely inefficient and it doesn't look like he's improving at the moment. As for our subs? Well, without meaning to disrespect a great, didn't Thierry and Rosicky look their age?
I don't blame the players though, I really don't. It's not their fault they're not good enough, it's the fault of manager who has known they're not good enough since last February. We're on a slippery slope now. We've managed 8 points out of 24 and our slump is stating to feel very much like the one that started in February last year and ended in September with us being bottom of the 26 game table. We've dropped points against Bolton, Swansea and Fulham which is simply not good enough. Wenger doesn't know how to stem a bad run of form anymore, he rarely has. If things aren't going exactly right, he doesn't know how to rejuvenate jangly nerves.
That squad needed an injection of players this January. How they managed to pull themselves out the mess they were in after the Man U game is a minor miracle in itself. It came at a cost though. We used too few players and now they're all mentally and physically drained. Look at the creativity yesterday. Alex Song was passing to his imaginary friend again, he was very poor considering the form he's previously shown, the defence were hoofing it forward like Wimbledon in their prime and the rest had no clue. They needed help this January, some new enthusiasm to carry the burden, but they didn't get it because the manager was too concerned about the recessionary impact the Euro is having on continental clubs.
Rome is burning... and the whole club is looking the other way. It's a shame, but the up-shot is that I think January will be the last transfer window Arsene cocks up. I don't think he's going to make it to the summer. I don't think the players believe in themselves and I don't they believe in the manager. We'll see though, I might be totally wrong... but I think this might be a profitable window too far for some. It certainly has been for the fans. Sitting in 7th position with everyone on the same points and watching other clubs over take us because the manager wants to do things on a show string budget rankles with people. The fans make all the sacrifice, while the board put up ticket prices and rake in massive bonuses off the back of our loyalty.
Most of this situation is the managers doing though. It's partly the board for not showing more back bone, but I appreciate the legacy issue. All we can pray for is a massive stroke of luck and hope Villas-Boas and Kenny Dalglish cock things up worse than us. Sad thing is, we barely look top 4 anymore, we're not even in the top 6 based on form...
Still, a point is a point eh?
Right, moan over, lets hear yours!
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P.S. We listened to your suggestions yesterday and Greg has been working through the night to rectify them. The grey is darker, the comment boxes are more contrasted, the spacing between the text is wider and the comment box has a more traditional shape. You should all be able to see the new site now... so apologies for the nonsense yesterday, that's teething problems for you! Thanks for bearing with us, I love you all like surrogate siblings.
P.P.S. This might be a good time to download the Le Grove podcast from iTunes, it's packed full of information that will help you make sense of the current situation.