The way I see it - Arsenal v Bolton Wanderers

Last updated : 19 March 2004 By Jason Hogan

Last Friday I was running around town doing this and that when I tuned in on my radio to listen to the draw for the last eight in the Champions League though by the time it was all over I wished that I hadn't bothered because surprise, surprise we went and got Chelsea.

Now, even though I wasn't the least bit surprised by how the draw turned out, I have to admit that I was severely cheesed off at the same time to put it mildly and I know for a fact that I wasn't the only one who felt that way.

Still, let's not waste time dwelling on that. I will have plenty to say about Chelsea and the match itself next week. Time instead to reflect on our victory at Ewood Park last Saturday.

You know, when I tuned in to listen to the game on the radio I was pretty tense. All the memories of last year's game were floating around in my head and though my thirst for revenge was high I couldn't help thinking that because Rovers have proven to be such a bogey team by nature, they could turn us over even if we played well.

I honestly felt that if we were going to win the game we needed to score first and although we were shading things we went into the break all square. I was a little frustrated at the interval because it was as though Rovers were playing like the away side and I got the feeling that the longer the game went without us getting our noses in front the more chance Rovers had of pinching a goal.

Thankfully, the Arsenal got a helping hand (or should that be elbow?) from Craig Short when he clumsily bundled Henry over thus giving away a free kick. Short had more than few choice words with Henry and he has probably wiped his name off his Christmas card list but the Frenchman ended up having the last laugh- and how.

After that I thought that we generally controlled things pretty well and we didn't have too many hairy moments to deal with. Indeed when Pires settled things with a late strike I thought the final scoreline was a fair reflection of the game. It was certainly a game we won by attrition and maybe a touch of luck but do I care? No, not one bit. All I know is that we exorcised a demon on Saturday by seeing off a team that has always made like awkward for us.

Speaking of demons, the Arsenal have a chance exorcising another one this Saturday when Bolton come to town.

I don't need to remind any of you of the part this lot played in our downfall last season. I know that it will stay with me for a long time that's for sure. Aside from the result, there are two things that I remember vividly if not altogether fondly about that game.

The first thing was what Bolton boss Sam Allardyce said in the build up to the game when he claimed that the Arsenal were the worst in the business when it came to intimidating referees and that the referee needed to be strong on the day.

Now the interesting thing about it was not so much what he said but the timing of it. In the week leading up to the game, Allardyce took part in a charity event with an old friend of his.

Who was that old friend of his? None other than Old Purple Nose (Sir Alex Ferguson) himself.

Now I don't know about anyone else but when I found out about that charity event, the unqualified outburst from Allardyce started to make some sense because it had all of Ferguson's hallmarks stamped all over it.

The other thing that I remember from that game was that we lost THREE players to injury- in the space ten minutes. Ironically enough, one of them was Pascal Cygan. I say that because the normally hapless and hopeless Frenchman was actually having a storming game that day to give him his due and I think that his enforced departure from the fray proved to be the biggest turning point in the game on that oh so fateful day.

Needless to say there will be a lot of people outside of Highbury that would love lightning to strike twice and see Bolton put a dent in out title hopes. The players that most observers will be looking to pin their hopes on from their side in that respect are Jay Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff but if I was to pick out two to watch they would be Kevin Nolan and in particular, Kevin Davies.

Six years ago I honestly thought that Davies was going to be the long term replacement for Shearer as Michael Owen's strike partner at England level but after making a big money move from Southampton to Blackburn his career went into reverse gear. Eventually, after spells with Millwall and then back at Southampton he found his way to Bolton and he hasn't looked back since.

He was a right handful for our defenders when we played Bolton at the Reebok just before Christmas and he was also outstanding last week in their ill-deserved defeat at home to Chelsea. Rumours are rife that he could be called up into the England set up. All I can say is there are worse things that Sven could do.

I will freely admit this to you all; anyone who is a friend of Old Purple Nose is no damn friend of mine and on that basis I would love to see us give Big Sam's team a right good spanking.

Having said that we are at the stage of the season now where the Arsenal have to focus on one thing - staying in the results business. That is not just a golden rule it's the ONLY rule. Let's hope, above all else, that the lads take such a thought out on to the pitch on Saturday afternoon.