Arsenal display graft as well as craft to defeat Bolton

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
4 Goals 2
1 1st Half Goals 2
13 Shots on Target 4
6 Shots off Target 5
2 Blocked Shots 3
9 Corners 3
22 Fouls 15
4 Offsides 1
1 Yellow Cards 2
0 Red Cards 0
82.9 Passing Success 57.2
11 Tackles 23
72.7 Tackles Success 87
63.6 Possession 36.4
53.6 Territorial Advantage 46.4


10 thoughts on “Arsenal display graft as well as craft to defeat Bolton

  1. Great win! Top of the table!
    I thought we played some sort of a 4-2-4 today with Rosicky as the half winger. Cesc was almost playing like a forward!

    1. I don’t think I really completed my analysis. But yes, Fabregas was pushed up as the second striker in the second half so it was almost like a 4-2-4. The movement was good from Eduardo and similarly Arshavin who looks better roaming inside from the left flank but showed what he learned also in the centre by playing off the shoulder a couple of times.

  2. Hey good article man. I love your blog.

    Arsenal’s defense comes under pressure because the two wide forwards do not support the fullbacks in defensive situations. The fullbacks are forced to close down higher up the pitch leaving gaps in behind.

    Denilson is a good player but I dont think he is a DM because he lacks aggression in his game. In the Everton and Bolton games he could not deal with the aggressive approach of the opposition midfielders.

    Arsenal’s plan B seems to be a 4231 with Fabregas playing just behind the striker. Maybe this should be the default against weak opposition?

    The main difference between Arsenal and Barcelona is that Barca has dribblers in the team who can break defenses down and drag players out of position. Arsenal rely heavily on their passing game but it wont work against compact defenses.

  3. Great Blog.

    What a come back. Arshavin’s last two games have been excellent he’s been alot more involved. He has certainly learned a few things playing centrally but the way he drifts from left to right is absolute world class.

    People keep talking about Cesc, who is the string puller, but without the quality of Arshavin and link up of Eduardo and Rosicky he wouldn’t look as good as he does.

    We are playing some great stuff and scoring 2.6 goals per game without a recognised striker. It truly is great stuff.

    The only downer is a potential lay off for Diaby coupled with Nasri and Ramsey being out. Denilson is not a DM we saw that all ast season until Song outshone him.

    I guess Eastmond will feature against Stoke and possibly Villa. I feel he can do a good job, but needs to adjust to the quick pace of the prem. He is tenacious in the tackle and will not shirk a tough shift or 2.

  4. We need some quality back in the midfield and sharpish.

    Eastmond amd denilson alongside cesc will get swamped by villa and united.

    These will be embarrassing defeats as we will get over run.

  5. Good result, but I’m seriously concerned about the absence of Song, Diaby, and Bendtner for what will likely be the next couple of weeks.

    I think Eduardo showed some nice touches throughout the game – a perfect example being the link-up between the Croatian and Arshavin for the latter’s goal; however, he still seems to exhibit a reluctance to drop off the shoulder of the centre back to effectively assume the ‘False 9’ role.

    Our system ultimately succeeded due to the vast amount of space Bolton left in between defence and midfield. Unlike the Bolton of old (adopting the ‘park the bus’ mentality), Coyle’s side opted to experiment with a high-pressure game that has been the bane of this Arsenal side in recent times.
    However – and this is perhaps due to Eduardo’s tendency to hang on the shoulder of the last man – despite the midfield harrying Arsenal high up the pitch, their defence maintained a deep possession, allowing ample space for Arshavin and Rosicky to roam into, and in doing so – providing our deeper-lying players with a more direct outlet with which to relieve pressure.
    When we got into the final third though, we found it very difficult to penetrate their last line of defence, with the absence of a Van Persie, manipulating their defence, making it very hard to make the final breakthrough.

    I think another reason for our struggles to break down the Bolton back 4 was due to a lack of width. Whilst two ‘in-between the line’ players down the flanks (at least on paper) helped us quickly move play into the final third of the pitch, once there, the area of the field quickly became congested. Fortunately, the exceptional close control and quick-thinking of the likes of Fabregas, Arshavin and Rosicky helped to offset this is a bit, but I just get the impression that had a roaming wideman been supplemented with a more pragmatic, direct winger/wing-forward – Vela or Walcott perhaps – we could have put Bolton to the sword.

    When Walcott regains full-fitness, and we have an effective attacking fulcrum around whom the aforementioned Walcott (and another wing-forward) can feed off, then I feel the balance will be restored; but for the next few weeks, we may have to be prepared to ride the storm.

    With news that Diaby is likely to miss the next couple of games, our side loses yet more physicality. As you have mentioned previously, Diaby has been very effective as an aerial force for our side; at our goal-kicks, he challenges for the ball in the final third; at theirs, he drops back to help protect the defence.
    To be fair, I think Eastmond looks reasonably strong in the air, but he simply doesn’t have the power of Diaby yet. When he came off, we looked even more vulnerable to the direct ball, and I don’t think Stoke or Villa are going to be too unfamiliar with such a gameplan.

    Anyway, a good article and another 3 points for the Gunners, so for now at least, we should be pleased.

    1. Good points there. As we know, Wenger wants a half winger on one side and another more direct outlet on the other but much hinges on the movement of the man in the middle.

      I actually thought Arsenal was a bit more direct than maybe previously but tactically, Muamba and the ilk are not the greatest. This concede more space than they intended.

      It is also a concern, yes, with those physical players and let not forget, passers of the ball missing. Denilson and Eastmond play the simply but that may not be enough. Could Rosicky move to the centre but that would also mean sacrificing defensive strength. Aston Villa for one like to play through the wings but as displayed last season, if Arsenal are not good down the middle, it allows Petrov and co, more opportunities to get the ball wide. It’ll certainly be a tough test.

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