The way I see it - Arsenal v Slavia Prague

Last updated : 23 October 2007 By Jason Hogan

For an hour or so, Bolton put on a display that was nothing short of "vintage" alright. In that time they niggled, they kicked and used every cynical spoiling tactic in the book to both disrupt and wind the Arsenal players up and knock them out of their stride.

Right from the start I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before the blue touch paper was lit and sure enough, Gavin McCann obliged making one of his trademark scything tackles to fell Bacary Sagna 20 minutes into the match. With McCann predictably pleading his innocence, a melee broke out which resulted in Fabregas being booked as well as McCann and surprise, surprise, El Hadji Diouf.

Sitting with my buddy Angus and some of the more regular Arsenal punters in the Lower East opposite the tunnel, I threw my hands up in the air in exasperation and said to them all that we were in danger of giving Bolton exactly what they wanted by dragging ourselves down to their level. Proof of that soon came moments later when Cesc, in his frustration, took out Campo.

Campo, as is his want, made a real meal of it but I have to admit that the young Spaniard would have gone on another day and only the chronic ineptitude of referee Mike Riley inadvertently saved him.

The half time whistle actually came as a relief to me. Angus confirmed that it was the worst 45 minutes he had seen so far this season and I knew that we needed to change things. Too many times we tried to play eye of the needle stuff through the middle and even when we did get the ball wide we barely made in roads.

Eboue had an absolute mare down the right hand side and if I had my way he would have been subbed after 20 minutes. And on the other side, Hleb was slowing the momentum of our attacks by often choosing to check back rather than go at defenders down the line.

The Arsenal were crying out for some extra pace and directness out wide and I found myself telling that to anyone who would listen around me in the stand. I eventually got what I wished for around the hour mark when Rosicky and young Theo came on.

With Hleb already looking like a different player having been shifted further forward to play behind Adebayor, Rosicky in one of his more elusive moods and Theo running directly at the heart of Bolton's defence, we were a team transformed. Suddenly Bolton were being pulled about and THEY were the ones that were having their game plan disrupted.

Still when the opening goal came it was from an unlikely source, wasn't it? Rosicky initially won a free kick from after being clipped by a tiring Campo. It was a good 25 yards out and in the absence of van Persie, it was set up for Kolo to have a crack.

Kolo had been desperately unlucky not to score with a fizzing strike against Sunderland two weeks ago but this time he made no mistake with a daisy cutter that flew right into the bottom corner and out of the reach of the Bolton goalie.

Despite the fact that Kevin Davies won more than his fair share of headers all afternoon, Bolton had been toothless in attack. So, it was question now of whether Arsenal could finish them off once and for all.

The answer came ten minutes from the end. Hleb found Walcott with an astute pass. The young man turned Gardner inside out, fizzed over a low cross and Rosicky stole in ahead of the ball watching Joey O'Brien to deftly divert the ball past a helpless Jaskeleinen in the Bolton goal.

It was game over and I could see the life draining out of the Bolton players there and then. The fatal blow had been delivered to the Premier League's equivalent of the grotesque beast and despite the fact that the sky over The Grove were somewhat overcast at the time, I still felt that as though the sun was finally shining down on me.

Once again I have to give our lads a lot of credit. Yes, they did allow Bolton to get under their skins to an extent once again but in the past they would have ended up dropping two points if not all three because of it.

In the summer, I didn't think we needed to bolster our squad with star names at a cost of £20 million a pop but I did felt that we could do with one or two players that could give us a slightly different variation to our theme. Walcott in particular could prove to be the man that gives us that variation that we are looking for in the final third over the coming season.

After his match winning cameos against Sunderland and now Bolton, the reaction of fellow Arsenal fans I talked to in the pub after the game told me that the clamour is growing amongst them for him to start games more regularly.

Personally, I'm not so sure about that myself. I don't dispute the fact that the boy has made a couple of strides forward or the fact that he has proven his ability to change games for us. And I have also seen at first hand for myself how this boy gets Arsenal fans off the feet buzzing with anticipation every time he gets the ball.

But I for one am not going to look past the fact that Theo is still a very young man and that he still needs time to develop and grow both physically and mentally as a player. I'm not saying that he should be wrapped up completely in cotton wool but he does need protecting.

I am still quite happy for him to be played in relatively short bursts at this stage, with the odd start thrown in come the New Year because the rough spots need to be ironed out gradually particularly if he going to become fully integrated with the technical side of our game.

In other words, the natural excitement Theo potentially creates still has to be tempered with the fact that he is still very much one for the future and Arsenal fans need to ignore the crap spouted by idiots with no affinity towards our club and think longer term where he is concerned.

Now, it's time to look forward to our next Champions League assignment at home to the Czech Republic's Slavia Prague.

Slavia have made a fairly decent start to this year's campaign. They saw off Steaua at Prague's old Olympic Stadium and although they were beaten by Sevilla when they met in Spain, they were not disgraced.

They have received glowing reviews from none other than Arsene himself and I can understand why. This lot are very dangerous offensively. I saw highlights of their home win over Steaua and they impressed with their ability to hit teams on the break with slick, quick counter attacks.

Even though they have Champions League winner and Czech international stalwart Vladimir Smicer in their ranks the jewel in the Slavia crown is a chap called Stanislav Vicek. From what I've seen of this lad he is an exciting talent and he is definitely the kind of guy that will give us problems if Slavia give him the right kind of service.

Vicek strikes me as the sort of guy that might well end up in Serie A one day. He just looks tailor made for that league. Slavia also have a midfield that is very hard working and though there is no-one that obviously stands out, there is a fair bit of pace all over the place in that area. The one Achilles heel I have spotted from what I've seen of them is that they can be caught square at the back from time to time and they can be suspect at set pieces.

So all in all, even though Slavia may adopt a conservative approach to start with, I would seriously advise Arsenal fans everywhere not to think that this game is some sort of "gimme" for us. This lot have the potential to give us more problems than their city neighbours Sparta did.

I'm not looking for anything too fancy on Tuesday night. This is all about qualification at the end of the day and nothing else. So, as long as we manage to score one more goal than this lot by the end of the night, I will be more than happy.