Some thoughts on the Bolton game...

Last updated : 30 March 2008 By Brian Dawes
So was able to view without the red-mist or steam blowing out of my ears as it had been earlier in the day. Had we lost then no doubt Wenger would have been castigated post match for not starting with Adebayor, Eboue and Walcott, but I made it a good call on his part.

First off I have to say an analysis of the statistics makes interesting reading. Overall Bolton had the territorial advantage of 55-45%, which you would possibly expect with our ten-men having to retreat and yet Arsenal maintained a massive lead with possession: 36-73%. That would indicate that we were in control for large periods of the game, which in the main we were. Indeed we controlled the game from the off, but as usual didn't hammer their door down straight away. Whatever happened to our gung-ho, 90 miles-an-hour starts?

Two pieces of refereeing could have altered the match entirely. Had Bendtner been awarded a penalty when he was through on goal and being tugged back in an arm lock we could have controlled the game for 90 minutes, had we scored from the spot. Or had Foy given the obvious free kick to Clichy when he was been man-handled just micro-seconds before Diaby's red card then obviously it would have been an altogether different ball game. But Foy seemed to think that use of arms and hands for pushing, tugging or holding was quite ok in this game if you wore a white shirt. We have to live with such decisions but I see no reason to accept them. Just as we must accept that Diaby's lunge was very crude and downright dangerous, equally as bad as Cashleys at the Totts and well worthy of a red.

Bolton scored against the run of play, as they often do against us, and it was a peach of a goal, the right-wing cross in from Steinsson was perfect, as was the header by Taylor who got just in front of Toure to power home. 1-0. From here on in we were up against it and although we had some fine chances, most notably for Flamini and van Persie in the first half we didn't entirely convince in front of goal and maybe that was because we no longer had as many players available to support our lone striker.

More crap refereeing when Cesc got a yellow for a foul on the diving runt Diouf but McCann got away with it when he took out Senderos shortly after. Bolton's second goal was lucky in that the 42nd minute shot by Taylor took a huge deflection off Gallas. That said it followed some very dubious defending by Clichy and Flamini who were closed very quickly whilst trying to play football on the edge of our box. Not the place to take such risks, but then that's Arsenal for you isn't it. So Bolton were not exactly bossing the game but had a two-goal lead against ten-man Arsenal who usually screw up at the Reebok. Things looked almost as bleak as the torrential rain that had soaked our third-choice-strip almost instantly the game commenced.

Bolton started the second half with confidence and a succession of corners could have seen them extend their lead. This was to my mind the only time they looked to be in control of the game. One cross, from a wide free kick, was missed by all our defenders and Almunia was called upon to save with foot from a close range chance. But even so Foy failed to spot the obvious fact that when Cahill went close with a header he was using Toure more like a climbing frame than a step ladder. At this stage we were not tackling as we might, because we appeared to be afraid to dive into tackles, following you would suspect Diaby's dismissal. Or it could just be that no one at Arsenal now knows how to perfect the sliding tackle, even on what was a seriously slick surface.

You could tell things were serious because Wenger made his double substitution with 30 minutes to go instead of 20, the fact that most managers would have made them at half time is neither here nor there. Quite why we haven't gone three at the back in similar circumstances earlier in the season is beyond me. Senderos and, inevitably, Bendtner made way for Ade and Theo. Theo was immediately fouled and it was immediately ignored by Foy.

Ade and Theo altered the momentum of the match however and you quite forgot we were down to ten. They'd been on just a couple of minutes when Robin, who had the most chances for us but couldn't quite get them on target, won a corner which Cesc took. Compo got a glancing header at the near post and Gallas peeled off around the back, losing his man, it was an easy chance to slam home unmarked and right-footed at the far post. 2-1. There was not much in the way of celebrations, just the desire to get back and get on with it.

The odious Diouf hacked the ball away after a throw but there was no second yellow card from the otherwise pedantic Foy.

Theo has now become a very effective impact player and his runs down the right might have won him a penalty. But his desire to stay on his feet is not only commendable it shows incredible balance and dare I suggest a low centre of gravity akin to Maradona or Rooney. When Hleb charged in on a ball following good play and a partial clearance the penalty was so nailed on even Foy had to give it. Whoever decided Robin should take it got that 100% spot on. Never mind Adebayor's top scorer quest Robin's confidence building is far more important right now and he scored from the spot emphatically. 2-2. But that wasn't good enough for us.

For all their one-man advantage Bolton were the equivalent of a duck shoot now with just over twenty minutes remaining. They tried time-wasting, which always exasperates Wenger, but they were not allowed too much of the ball. Although with us pressing forward sometimes leaving only one at the back they had a few chances, as when Compo blasted into row Z of a stadium that was some 6,000 shy of its capacity despite a full contingent of noisy Gooners.

The officials continued to screw up, as when Adebayor was flagged offside when he clearly wasn't. Doubly annoying when you consider the numerous wrongful offside decisions made against us in recent weeks. Bolton tried a couple of substitutions to stabilise their rocking boat but we continued to press. I thought perhaps we might have played too many long balls at this stage but with a fresh Ade that was maybe understandable.

Clichy made a late mistake which fortunately went unpunished by the home side. Flamini cut back a great, if difficult chance for Robin that he hit wide.

When you score a goal to win a game in the dying minutes no one ever cares how it goes in. And as Fabregas' shot, come cross, come hit and hope deflected like a pin ball machine off two, or maybe even three Bolton players into the net you just had to feel sorry for all the Bolton fans who had seen their team blow a two-goal lead against ten men. Well no of course you didn't! Bolton fans are as rude and crude as the team they support and there were no thoughts at all about Bolton. This was all about Arsenal and a classic 2-3 comeback against the odds. So like all the all the travelling Gooners in the stadium you just went ape shit.

How I hope we never play at the Reebok again. Seeing Bolton go down with Derby would be an absolute joy, but not as much fun of course as our result there this season. Wasn't it great to see that beam on Arsène's face again?