The Gunners climbed to the top of the league after a comeback against a Bolton side who did well to take advantage of a shortcoming in Arsenal’s defensive phase.
Let’s not for a moment forget Bolton’s part in this encounter. Indeed, by the end of the night the visitors were completely blown out of the water as the chasm between the two clubs looked even greater than it looked half an hour in to the match. But the Trotters gave Arsenal more than a fight after taking a two goal lead well worth the endeavor they displayed on the night.
They say champions are made of steel but after this comeback Arsenal are surely made of more flexible material – the stuff made of the finest aircrafts even – as they not only not fought back, the fought back in style. Tomas Rosicky’s goal just before the break was key as Gary Cahill, then Matthew Taylor gave Bolton a two goal advantage, and it was all always going to be about Arsenal’s mental strength after suffering the setback.
The Gunners simply resumed playing at a high tempo and were rewarded with the equaliser as Cesc Fabregas bundled through a couple of tame challenges, not to dissimilar to the build up to his strike against Owen Coyle’s former club, Burnley, before firing underneath Jussi Jaaskelainen’s legs. If the ‘keeper was at fault for the first, failing to guard his near post for Rosicky’s powerful shot, he was more than guilty of letting the ball squirm beneath him. Maybe he was distracted by the “challenge” which led to the goal; William Gallas’ follow through stamp on Mark Davies after a 50-50 challenge which he lost, but Arsenal continued playing. The accusations after the game were wild but it was a typical of a period where footballers have lost a mutual trust in each other and as Richie Benaud, the former cricket commentator says, sport is a reflection of society, with the morals and trust thinning. Thomas Vermaelen sliced in the third when expertly judging the flight of the ball before half volleying and Andrey Arshavin wrapping things up by slamming the ball in after a quick one-two with Eduardo.
Bolton produced a spirited showing before then and Owen Coyle predictably set out his side to ruffle some feathers while aiming long balls at Kevin Davies. The real crime of the night may have been the analysis of Tony Gale who inadvertently may have produced a generation of Kevin Davies’ after claiming the forward was a master of heading the straight ball without jumping – i.e. leaning back on the defender and using your elbow. The tactic worked as Bolton took advantage of the space afforded to them from the knock downs, as Arsenal’s principle of stretching play when attacking meant the midfielders could run on to the second ball without being tracked back as aggressively. “You cannot find a team better than Bolton in doing what they did tonight,” said Arsène Wenger. “Because they marked us man to man, they didn’t give us an inch of space. When they had the ball they kicked it to Kevin Davies who went for every challenge, then they went well for the second ball. They did that very well, so physically you are never more tested than against a Bolton team.”
It’s a consequence of Arsenal’s philosophy a bit says Wenger although he’ll know the side have to be much tighter than this if they are to succeed in the difficult run up facing them. But the confidence and belief gained from the amazing sequence since the 3-0 defeat to Chelsea puts them in a greater position than the league table simply indicates.
Arsenal 4-2 Bolton Wanderers: Cahill, Taylor, Rosicky, Fabregas, Vermaelen, Arshavin.
Arsenal: Almunia 6, Sagna 7, Gallas 7, Vermaelen 7, Clichy 6, Fabregas 8, Denilson 6, Diaby 6 (Eastmond), Rosicky 7 (Vela), Arshavin 8*, Eduardo 7 (Walcott).
Subs not used: Fabianski, Silvestre, Traore, , Emmanuel-Thomas.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Lee, Mark Davies, Muamba, Cohen, Taylor, Kevin Davies.
Subs: Al Habsi, Samuel, Elmander, Klasnic, Ricketts, McCann, Andrew O’Brien.
Referee: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)
|Arsenal||Team Statistics||Bolton Wanderers|
|1||1st Half Goals||2|
|13||Shots on Target||4|
|6||Shots off Target||5|