Reflections on Bolton (and Lazy Pundits)

Eboue finally scores... three years later.

Eboue scores... and it only took 3 years 9 months and 71 games.

It’s the end of a very good week for Arsenal Football Club.  Faced with three historically-challenging away trips in 8 days, Arsenal have come through with two wins and a draw.  The last of the three came Saturday in a 3-1 win at Bolton.

Arsenal went behind early on another horribly defended set-piece, but their response showed much character.  Kicking into hyper-mode, Arsenal laid seige to Bolton’s penalty area for a good fifteen minutes during which they scored 2 goals in under two minutes.  The first came from a lovely ball by Bendtner which freed a slightly off-side Emmanuel Eboue to score his first Premier League goal for the club after 71 games.  The second saw Denilson pull back for Bendtner who had made an incisive run to the near post.  Arsenal, though pressed a bit by Bolton in the second half, held their nerve and in the closing minutes, Theo Walcott picked the ball up in his own half and started running.  Six defenders surround him before he laid it off to Adebayor on the right who crossed to a rampaging Denilson.

Denilson has shown he could be the answer to the midfield question.  It seems it takes about 15-20 minutes to settle into each match but when everything gets flowing, he fits in seamlessly.  I’d like to see him be a bit quicker out of the box and also develop a bit more defensive tenacity, but 2 goals and 3 assists in 8 starts this season isn’t much to argue with.

As for the tackle on Clichy, I think a yellow card was fair.  It didn’t seem to me to be as malicious as Martin Taylor’s tackle on Edaurdo.  Yet pundits jumped to defend Davies calling the tackle “clean”.  Davies had his studs up and the bruise halfway up Clichy’s shin shows the tackle wasn’t clean at all.  They’re only allowed to get away with saying this kind of stuff because Davies was lucky enough to get a piece of the ball.  If that had been Eboue making that tackle on Kevin Davies (or god forbid, an English international) it would be far different story.  Clichy was sent to the hospital but x-rays revealed only a bruise and he traveled home with the rest of the team after the match.

Nicklas Bendtner showed that he is much improved from last season as well.  His link-up play from the midfield to the box was superb.  His ability to come out high meant that we lost nothing in playmaking skill by having him give van Persie a breather on Saturday.  Walcott came on to great effect as well and was able to take advantage of Bolton’s tired thugs immediately.  A nice save from Jaaskelainen denied him getting on the scoresheet as well.  Alexandre Song deserves special notice as well as he worked hard in midfield, was denied by a nice save as well as hitting the post, and completed 91% of his passes.

It’s the obvious and significant improvement by players like Walcott, Denilson, Song, and Bendtner over last season that is our biggest cause for optimism this season.  Considering that we secured a fairly comfortable victory at Bolton despite having Eduardo, Rosicky, Diaby, and Nasri injured along with van Persie on the bench shows that our depth is much more considerable than last season.

Pundits constantly talk about the trouble Arsenal have when going up North but that just shows the pundits’ lack of knowledge and preparation.  This current Arsenal side have won their last three trips to Bolton (including last year when they were 2-nil down in the second half and down a man in the driving rain), have only lost once in their last five trips to Ewood Park, and haven’t lost at Wigan in over two years.  Combine that with their point in Kyiv earned in the dying minutes and it shows that this Arsenal team can go anywhere and get results.  If pundits want to be lazy and keep promoting the “Arsenal have trouble in tough away games” line, let them.  People who actually know anything about Arsenal know better.

Bolton vs Arsenal Player Ratings


Denilson says: "Flamoney-WHO?"

Arsenal traveled up north again this weekend and came home to London with another three points.  A physical match meant that Arsenal would have to show resolve and resilience if they hoped to climb tp the top of the league table this weekend and the Gunners did just that as they managed to put three in the back of the net.

Almunia: 7.5 Almunia had a fine game.  He made some important saves and he seems have increasing control of his area as exhibited by his willingness to come off his line and claim crosses.  His one mistake though did lead to the corner that led to the goal.  Other than that another solid display from the Spaniard.

Sagna: 7 As solid as ever.  He was even switched over to left back as Clichy came off at halftime after being the victim of a typical Bolton kick.  Sagna was great in defense and solid going forward.  Week after week he proves why he is Mr. Reliable.

Toure: 6 Kolo should have done much, much better on the goal.  Replays show that he barely made an effort to stop the header that led to the goal.  He did come close to an equalizer and got more solid defensively as the match went on.  Was solid as Bolton pushed for an equalizer in the second half.

Gallas: 7 A fairly solid defensive display from Gallas, finally.  He was good at marking and staying with his man and he made some great one on one challenges.  Though it is disconcerting that Davies got a free header in the box despite having Toure in front of him and Gallas behind him.  I sincerely hope Gallas will build off of this performance and try to play more like the world-class defender that some claim he is.

Clichy: 7.5 Up until his injury scare, Clichy was awesome.  He recovered well in defense down the left and was superb getting forward.  He showed his usual willingness to fight and continues to make a strong claim on Evra’s spot in the French National Team.

Eboue: 7.5 So, Eboue finally had something of his own to dance about other than an Adebayor goal.  After more than three years, the Ivorian ended his goal drought (if it can be called that considering he hadn’t scored before) and notched a fine, albeit offside, goal for the equalizer.  This was yet another fine performance from the team goofball after a season that had many doubting his place in the team.  Lets hope Eboue can continue this fine run of form.

Fabregas: 7 Much better than in Kiev.  Cesc played some fine, defense splitting balls and was hustling in defense to get back and help protect the lead.  He was fantastic on the ball and generally looked much more comfortable in the team then he did a few nights ago.  Hopefully the week’s rest will see him fresh and re-energized when Arsenal takes on Hull next week.

Song: 7 Song had one of his better games on Saturday.  He connected successfully on 91% of his passes and even had a 2 quality attempts on goal; the first a header that hit the post and the second from just outside the box which forced Jaaskelainen to make an outstretched save.  He was a solid as ever at protecting the back line and I think we are a much better team defensively with Song in the line up but if there is one place he can improve his game to become a better all round midfielder it would be his distribution in the attack.

Denilson: 9 What a game from the young Brazilian.  His final ball was superb and his distribution was fantastic.  His tackling and interceptions were much better then at the start of the season and he has shown that he has the engine it takes to be a key member of this Arsenal squad.  Add to that a fantastic cross to Bendtner to make it 2-1 Arsenal, as well as the calm finish on his own goal and this has to be without question Denilson’s finest performance in an Arsenal kit to date.  Still wish it didn’t take him 10-15 minutes to get into the game though.

Bendtner: 8 Nick had a very good game.  His incisive run to the near post proved to be the match-winning goal.  He also recorded an assist on a beautifully weighted ball which led to Eboue’s equalizer.  Nick showed that he is the legitimate third option at striker as he provided the linkup play that van Persie usually does and yet still provided an aerial threat.

Adebayor: 7 Really ought to have hit that shot but was unlucky to hit the woodwork.  Other than that, Ade had a fine game.  He ran at defenders all day long, stayed for the most part onside and put in the quality cross for Denilson to kill the game.


Djourou: 6.5 Filled in well enough on the right side but doesn’t offer the attacking dimension that Sagna or Clichy do.  He obviously is better in the middle but did about as well as could have been asked of him in filling in for the injured Clichy.

Walcott: 8 Instant impact.  The kid is playing out of his mind right now.  His darting run through midfield is quick becoming a trademark move.  From now on, when someone else does it people will say “he did a Theo”. That run inspired one of the finest goals I can remember seeing in a while.  He caused all sorts of trouble for the Bolton defense and nearly notched a goal himself all while only playing for the last few minutes.  Theo is proving with every minute on the pitch why he deserves to be Arsenal’s starting right winger.

Ramsey: 7 Didn’t play much but in the minutes he got Aaron looked very comfortable on the ball.  He showed some nice skill on the ball as well as a fine touch in his passing.  Ramsey is certainly an exciting young prospect and I look forward to see more of him on Tuesday in the Carling Cup.

Man Of The Match: Out of the ashes of Flamini has risen the young Brazilian, Denilson.  Many questioned whether he would be able to fill the void, and, after a few sub-par games earlier in the season, the young man has really turned it on.  He has been given his chance and, so far, has taken it it well.  He has looked much better defensively and has added an offensive element that Flamini only ever showed brief glimpses of.  His game this week was absolutely fantastic.  Suffice it to say it is going to be very hard for Diaby to work his way back into the starting XI.