3-2 The Arsenal v. Bolton – Bring on the Comebacks!

The psychological side of the match

You can’t feel sorry for a team which regularly frustrates your own – with the team in all-white the top suspects to fit into this category. You can recall these results here and here.

I know that Bolton Wanderers are fighting for their very survival right now – since Fat Sam Allardyce has left the team to manage another deceptive ‘big club’ in the form of Newcastle United (note that Allardyce has since been given the sack after some very unconvincing results which is arguably a far cry from the sort of work he actually achieved at Bolton) and the minute Sammy Lee tried hard to emulate his predecessor complete with all that fancy comm equipment/gadgets which Lee was clearly trying hard to understand its efficiency under the Allardyce era.

Gary Megson has since taken over the helm of the sinking club but have suffered indifferent results which put the Trotters deep into relegation mire.

So there’s a very real danger that we won’t see the men in white strut their usual stuff at the Reebok stadium next season. I’d say danger as I’m extremely pleased that they have beaten the Man Ure here and handed Red-Nosed Arsehole his arse here in a haggis.

You see, so when Bolton Wanderers are in this sort of form, coupled with their backs against the wall – you can be sure that they’d make visiting team’s life just that bit harder.

The Arsenal, on the other hand, hasn’t enjoyed the Premiership much towards the end of February. They have won convincingly at AC Milan’s home but their own dismal domestic efforts doesn’t mirror their own title bid and it was already fed to the dogs.

Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with keeping pace on the league leaders and make life tougher for them. Just as the team hadn’t expected any quarters, so too would the team give none. There’s still the Man Ure meeting at Old Trafford and Chelscunts meeting them later on. So, the Man Ure can still be pipped to the title although it’s very likely that it’s their own title to lose now.

The fight for the Arsenal this time isn’t so much on the title, I think – but more towards maintaining that integrity of winning games rather than tamely losing them and adding another chapter of poor form in the annals of sporting history. For, you could well remember, the Arsenal did self-destruct and landed themselves in this situation but there’s nothing else to do but to scrap the bottom of the cider barrel and see how the season ends up to. Maybe the Arsenal would beat the Chelscunts to 2nd place and eliminate the need to play the qualification games for the Champions League next season. I’m pretty sure that the pre-season predictions of the Arsenal playing for fifth spot and so on are long recessed in the bed for now.


The technical side of the match

The Arsenal were daydreaming in the 1st half. Actually both sides were still in a lull. The weather was bad, the pitch was soggy but not as bad as Wigan’s JJB stadium. It was no surprise that the Arsenal rarely stepped out of 2nd gear to the 3rd one; maintaining a very cautious approach to the game.

Bolton looked comfortable at home, of course despite the rain tiring the players down. I was always left to wonder as to how Bolton could easily penetrate the Arsenal defence and shape themselves up for chances to score. You could see the old, uninspired Arsenal tactics of old coming back to haunt them – the passing round the box looking for that elusive pass to beat the defending fortress. Van Persie did have a 1-on-1 with Ali Al-Habsi who saved well.

And Bolton struck first – Gretar Steinsson (ex-AZ of Alkmaar) crossed from the right for ex-Portsmouth man Matthew Taylor to nod home from close range in the 14th minute; Almunia was well-beaten and the Arsenal was stunned. Again, it was worth reflecting how easy it was for opposition teams to pounce on the Arsenal when every aspect of the defence was close to being asleep.

To compound matters – Abou Diaby (whom I still don’t really think can make the cut into a really useful player for the Arsenal, red card notwithstanding) lunged into a full tackle on Gretar Steinsson of which everyone related to the Arsenal would have staunchly protest after what happened to Eduardo da Silva. At the back of my mind, it was nothing less than a red card. You could make noises if it was happening to your own players and take the sting out of it, if it was the other side at the receiving end of it; but really, we don’t need these sort of tackles happening at all in today’s game. Diaby hasn’t impressed me much despite some early season promise but I think that he needed to play in his favoured centre midfield position. He may thrive there, who knows.

So, it was 10 men against a team 1-0 up. It appeared to be getting worse.

Mathieu Flamini lost the ball in his own half at the cusp of the 43rd minute – some Bolton guy squared it to Matthew Taylor again who registered a shot which hit William Gallas and deflected away from Manuel Almunia into the goal. 2-0 to Bolton and I was seriously wondering if watching the match was the best thing to do on a drab Saturday night. But I stayed to watch – I’d love a scrap anytime and I’m game for one where the Arsenal are fighting back from the dead.

Before the half ended, Mathieu Flamini tried to make amends after some good work from Kolo Toure found the Frenchman who blasted just over the net. The ESPN commentators were conveniently saying that he should have scored and all that blah, but these guys are just being convenient as I’ve said – you could see Flamini being closed down in a flash by Bolton defenders and I though that the shot was a pretty good one, seeing that it whistled past the crossbar.

Seeing the first half was painful not only because the same, beaten to death strategy of old became their only strategy – I don’t understand the fact that the right side of the Arsenal was dominated by Kolo Toure (as right defender) who had to mop up the amazing range of the entire right side, with Aliaksandr Hleb supposed to do that with the attacking role. Hleb was quite invisible during the first half. Diaby being sent off also meant that Gael Clichy had lots to do on the left flank.

The one-man sent off proved rather telling in the opening phases of the 2nd half. There was no one to boss the midfield for the Arsenal as Bolton attempted long ranged passes into the Arsenal half. Bolton started the half brightly, eager to cement their lead and consign the Arsenal to one of their longest 2nd halves ever – which the whites did by winning an obscene amount of cornerkicks. Only once did Bolton come close, but Almunia was on hand to deflect it. The Reebok Stadium was ready to celebrate and I was pretty sure that it was almost a goal but can’t see from the mass of players at the goalmouth.

Had Bolton scored then – it’d have been 3-0 and worse than game over. It’s the Arsenal’s turn.

If Wenger had made some substitution errors down his career, this time, he was quite spot on with his choice of changes. First, the hardworking but not so good Phillipe Senderos made way for Theo Walcott and the luckless Nicklas Bendtner (for Adebayor) who made some effort in the first half but could not connect with the ball.

Now, the team looked alive.

William Gallas stroked home the first goal after an Arsenal corner. You’d have expected him to miss after all his near post gaffes on occasion, but he was right on target this time. The captain leads the way.

You’d have thought that a goal was the perfect balm for the team and it was – a neat series of passes in the Bolton box; a saved Flamini attempt which dropped onto an onrushing Aliaksandr Hleb still in the penalty area who was tripped by Gary Cahill. Robin van Persie converted the ensuing penalty and it was 2-2.

I’d have been happy with 2-2 at this point. 10-men on the pitch and 2-0 down – who could ask for more. Apparently, the Arsenal were in the mood for more.

The team held Bolton at bay, who seemed to lost all ideas. Ivan Campo on the Bolton side shaped up to shoot from afar but he’d better take midfield shooting lessons from Valencia CF’s Rubén Baraja instead.

Just as I’ve had mixed thoughts about winning or just settling for a draw – Cesc Fabregas hit a low shot, deflecting off two players with the last one being JLloyd Samuel and into the back of the net with Ali Al-Habsi missing the catch. 3-2 to the Arsenal and it was a fine comeback!

I’ve just noticed that all the goals in the game seemed to emanate from the one end of the goal, since all 5 goals in the match were scored in that one. The other goalpost seemed to magically deflect all the leather away from it. Bolton scored 2 at this half, and the Arsenal scored all 3 in that one goalmouth. Talk about magic.


Of course it was a great comeback, with Wenger terming it the greatest ever comeback. 2-0 down with one man off – that was the proper response we need. Man, if it was against Man Ure and in the same situation, that would put the Scottish Arsehole flinging another boot at Cristiano Ronaldo or Wayne Rooney or Rio Ferdinand.

Well, maybe the Arsenal fans have forgotten how a comeback looks like but I sure as hell enjoyed this one.

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