The way I see it – Arsenal v Bolton Wanderers

Last updated : 26 January 2007 By Jason Hogan
I do remember the second leg particularly well and I certainly do remember when the announcer at White Hart Lane came over the PA system advising the fans on how too book their tickets for the final. It caused an almighty ruckus amongst the Arsenal fans I know that much.

So, when Viv Anderson and Niall Quinn scored in the second half to wipe out the 2-0 aggregate lead the Scum had, there was absolute bedlam at the Park Lane end. The whole stand seemed to be rocking and, whilst I was on the terrace, I will never ever forget the racket that the Gooners made in the seats directly above.

On the way home, with some of my mates at the time it almost felt as though we had won even in spite of the fact that we had lost the toss to have the replay played at Highbury as opposed to Shite Hart Lane. I'm sure that a fair few Gooners felt the same sense of satisfaction I felt 20 years ago after Wednesday night.

Although I was generally more relaxed about this game than usual, the one thing that I wasn't sure of as far as the kids were concerned was how quickly they would adapt to the tempo of the game.

I always knew that the atmosphere would be pretty hot. Our poorer relations, bless ‘em, fuelled by a mixture of hate, angst and desperation to get a rare victory over us, were naturally up for the game from the start and it seems as though the urgings of the home crowd definitely got through to their players as they came flying out of the blocks.

I was a tad disappointed with the way we conceded the goals though all the same. Kolo made a rare mistake for the first goal and the second, which was of course an own goal by The Beast, came about as a result of a free kick that never, ever should have been awarded.

I must admit the premature departure of Berbatov was a factor in how the game changed. He was linking up a little nicely at times with Defoe for my liking and to be fair to him, the Bulgarian does tend to gain inspiration from playing at the Lane.

But for me, the game followed a mildly similar general pattern to the United game in that we got better as the game went on. The Scum were definitely the better side make no mistake and could easily have gone into the break three maybe four goals up in the first half.

But Fabregas could have altered the mood entirely in the early going when he went round Robinson only to force himself a little too wide and Baptista miskicked in front of goal from point blank range on the stroke of half time.

The second half was a different story though, wasn't it? The fact that the fervour generated amongst the home crowd gave way first of all to anxious murmurs and then passages of total silence told its own story as the Arsenal prompted and probed relentlessly for a way back into the game.

Alex Hleb and Manu Eboue had arrived to pep up the Arsenal ranks replacing the tiring Diaby, who made a solid return to the Arsenal starting line up, and Aliadiere (who didn't have a great night) respectively. Both of them played their part in driving the Arsenal on though sadly Hleb had to go off 25 minutes after coming on having pulled his hamstring.

Ultimately though, the night eventually belonged to The Beast. To be fair I thought he was having one of those nights where nothing would go right. He looked like the proverbial bull in the china shop stumbling and fumbling his way through the game but suddenly, with the help of young Theo he managed to barge his way through to score our first and he was then on hand 12 or so minutes later to gleefully tap in a second after a defence splitting pass from Fabregas put Hoyte away down the right.

It certainly was the perfect answer to the mocking Spurs fans who had the cheek and the ignorance to chant "2-0 to the England" at us, notwithstanding the fact that both their goals were scored by foreigners or that we did in fact have two Englishmen of our own out on the pitch.

And so, we go into the return game at The Grove with the advantage. I hope that Arsene is as good as his word and goes with the kids again. I do like the look of the lad Denilson. He is definitely a competitor and he showed that he can pass and that he also has a decent shot on him as well.

I was pleased with the way that young Traore also stuck at it. He didn't have the easiest of times of it against Lennon but in all fairness to him, he is not the first full back to be given grief by that boy and he won't be the last. I think that he is very comfortable on the ball and has the athleticism and scope to really grow into a fair old player.

And, as long as there is no obvious reaction to his first run out in nine months, I'm sure young Diaby will figure once again in the return leg at The Grove, though t would be nice to see him return to his more natural central midfield role.

You know, just for a while I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the boozers around Edmonton. I mean, it's the Spuds who have spent the last year talking about a shift in power in North London and shouting the loudest of all our detractors who claim that we are a club in decline.

How then do you come to terms with the fact that you have just seen your team, a virtually full strength one at that, squander a 2-0 lead at home to an Arsenal side made up largely of teenagers and reserves particularly when you're already the sort of fan brought up on a regular diet of delusion as Spurs fans are? The mind boggles.

Anyway, it's time to look forward to Sunday's FA cup tie at The Grove where we will entertain Bolton.

I can just imagine Gooners everywhere hearing the news that we had been paired with Fat Sam's crew and groaning loudly. I know I did. Not because I'm fazed about them being a bogey team or because I have an inferiority complex where they are concerned – I'm just bloody sick to the bloody back teeth of them and what they stand for.

I'm sick of seeing Arsenal having to share the pitch with wankers like El Hadji Diouf even though he is suspended for Sunday's game. I'm sick of seeing us having to share the same pitch as cheap shot merchants like Kevin Davies and Kevin Nolan, the sort of blokes who would kick or even elbow their grandmothers in order to win a football match.

And of course, I'm sick to the back teeth of Fat Sam Allardyce, who tries to blacken the name of Arsenal at every opportunity in order to gain favour with the press and cheap publicity for what he loves to call "Little Bolton".

I will shamelessly admit that this is fast becoming a fixture that evokes some of the same feelings in my mind that a United fixture does. Of course, there is an absolute chasm in terms of prestige when it comes to playing Bolton and playing United. But for me, the hatred and the loathing I have for Bolton and in particular Allardyce means that I will once again be baying for blood this Sunday as I was last Sunday.

I think that we are playing them at the right time. They have only had one win their last four and in their last Premiership game, they were given a right thumping by Boro at the Riverside.

What's more, having shown in recent times we can overcome physical sides, partisan atmospheres and that we can come from behind to beat arguably the best side in the country right now, I don't think we could be going into this game, mentally at least, in better shape.

When we played this lot at The Reebok back in November, the final result may have told the actual story but it never told the REAL story of the game. It was a defeat that left a really nasty taste in my mouth. I just hope that taste finally disappears on Sunday.