Bolton Wanderers parked the proverbial bus in front of their goal for the bulk of the match and when it looked like the Trotters may hang on, Nicklas Bendtner arrived at the far post on 84 minutes to give Arsenal the win.
Arsene Wenger handed the armband to Kolo Toure but the big news before the game had kicked off was that Bolton had only named four substitutes on the bench due to injury and suspension. Even without their influential men Bolton remained true to their game plan, looking to frustrate and deny space and attack through the long ball. However the Trotters were non existent as an attacking threat and the five minutes after half time and before the final whistle, their only spell of attacking pressure.
For Arsenal they were finding no way through. A decent start to the game petered out to tedium as both teams tired physically and mentally.
The lack of natural wide men and the ability to take on the full backs meant Arsenal had one way to play and that was to pass the ball. They were given no real space and playing such a passing game suited Bolton. With the back line so deep it lessened even more the opportunity to run at the full backs and implement the movement that would have overwhelmed the opposition.
Robin Van Persie continued on his rich vein of form and was Arsenal’s most dangerous player. He continuously looked to find a way through the defence whether by his movement, creativity and shooting. He had the best chance of the first half; a quick control and shot went narrowly over.
Emmanuel Adebayor was sent through in the second half only to be denied by O’Brien as the Togolese man dallied in front of goal. The frontman was having a frustrating day with nothing really paying off for him and Arsenal. His delightful flick did find Van Persie however, the Dutchman squeezing the ball out of his feet and agonisingly shooting at the post. Kolo Toure tested Jaaskelelainen with a 40 yard drive but Wenger sensing things couldn’t continue the way it was going brought on Vela and eventually goalscorer Bendtner.
The Mexican’s introduction reaffirming the lack of creativity at the moment and width. His presence stretched the game slightly and the goal finally came as Bendtner slid in at the back post from Van Persie’s low cross across goal. Arsenal triumphant and will also be relieved as such a game was not unexpected from Bolton.
A few notes on the Arsenal players on the game: Kolo Toure and Johan Djourou had good games, their mobility looked ever priceless as Arsenal had to play a high line and alert on the counter. Diaby’s passing was below par and was rightly subbed while Denilson is lookng more astute in his role but needs to be more assertive and wanting of the ball. Gael Clichy looked composed on the ball when attacking almost like a midfielder at times while Bendtner made some positive running without real conviction also with his passes.
Arsenal: Almunia (7), Sagna (7), Toure (7), Djourou (7), Clichy (7), Eboue (6) [74 Bendtner (7)], Diaby (5) [(64 Vela (6)], Denilson (6), Nasri (6), Adebayor (5) [88 Ramsey (6)], Van Persie (8)*
Subs: Fabianski, Wilshere, Bischoff, Gibbs.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Basham, Shittu, Andrew O’Brien, Samuel, Taylor, Muamba, McCann , Gardner, Elmander [39 Riga > off for Obadeyi], Davies.
Subs: Bogdan, Fojut
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
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