Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2

We are still in dreamland. The emphatic win over the north London rivals after the incredible comeback should deserve at least a three-day celebration, especially when it was watched somewhere special. This game was selected as the centrepiece of this year's Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club Benidorm trip. Needless to say, the trip was worthwhile. The same weekend last year, we were there to witness Arsenal winning their first trophy in 6 years, but it wasn't to be. What a difference the results made to our trips! The victory certainly made our weekend. We even gave Tottenham the two-goal lead to make our win even sweeter. This game will be remembered by all the Arsenal fans for years to come, with the vivid memory of where they were at the time.

We went into this game as an underdog after the back-to-back defeats, which led to our exits from the two major competition (although there is still a very slim chance left in the Champions League). Even optimistic Arsenal fans, like me, wouldn't have expected such an emphatic scoreline. When I saw Chelsea beating Bolton 3-0 on the previous day and overtaking us temporarily, I thought we might be able to grab a win against Tottenham, but not by a goal margin that can match Chelsea's goal difference. I was just hoping the north London derby would be a good game of football and I wasn't disappointed.

The team's performance on the day responded to many criticisms; some of them are relating to their lacklustre display for the last couple of weeks, some arising from more persistent problems over the recent seasons.

(1) Mental strength: Arsenal could have capitulated after conceding the two unfortunate goals so early in the game, but instead they continued their attack. With Rosicky's header saved by Freidle and RVP's effort deflected unfavourably for us (in contrast to Tottenham's first goal), the team could have succumbed to the thoughts that it was just not their day. I thought earlier this season this crop of the players had more mental strength than last season, which was proved by the number of comebacks they have made this season. In the same fixture last season, we surrendered the 2-0 lead at half time to lose 3-2.

(2) Determination to win: Arsenal Wenger highly praised his side's determination not to lose. Especially, our midfield was always first to the 50-50 ball, showing their strong will to win the game.

(3) Urgency: when the two sides met earlier this season at White Hart Lane, Arsenal could have won the game, if they could sustain the pressure after they equalised through Ramsey's goal. Urgency was also something that lacked in our two latest defeats. Pulling two goals back within 3 minutes spoke the volumes for the urgency and intensity. It was absolutely imperative to make it level at half time.

(4) Quality of the players: this was a big doubt over the last couple of weeks (or this season after we lost key players). Our players showed that they have enough quality to outplay and beat comprehensively the good side who are currently third in the League and thought to be playing the best football in England at the moment.

(5) Slow attacking: Arsenal's attacking has come under criticism, particularly lately, for the lack of speed and its distinctive style of passing around. Our fifth goal reminded us of the good old days when Arsenal were feared for their quick counter-attack from deep on the pitch.

(6) Cohesion: Some have claimed that Arsenal were playing three different teams against Sunderland in the FA Cup, with no cohesion among the three departments. In this game, they defended as a unit, while their attacking was seamless, with the both full-backs overlapping with the wingers and the midfielders running from the box to box.

One of the criticisms Arsenal still have to answer is how they can break through the opponents' stubborn defence. Tottenham are an open team and so were Chelsea on the day when we beat them 5-3. We seem to play better against the bigger clubs who try to play their football, whereas the mid-table clubs tend to sit back and try to attack on the break with their sights for a draw or a lucky win. The next opponents, Liverpool, are expected to come out to play, especially in front of the home crowd. Hopefully, Arsenal will take their game to Anfield in the similar style to this weekend.

Arsene Wenger pointed out after this match that the condition of the pitch played a big role in the previous two defeats (Thank God, we have already played Wigan away this season), but the lack of a plan B is another problem. Even when we cannot play our style of football, we have to get results we want in order to finish in the top four.

One win does not mean that all the problems have been solved. However, after the weekend's result, finishing above Tottenham and securing a top-four spot have started looking more achievable.

Player ratings

Szczezny: 8
Tottenham's first goal was unlucky as he would probably have had it covered, had it not been for that wicked deflection. We don't blame him for conceding a penalty, which should have never been a penalty. Made some good saves.

Sagna: 9
Outstanding both defensively and offensively. He was energetic going forward, while he kept Bale quiet most of the afternoon. Scored his first goal of the season with a bullet header, setting up a goal for Rosicky after a quick one-two with him.

Koscielny: 7
Saha shouldn't have been allowed that much time and space when he netted Tottenham's first goal via deflection. After that, he did fine.

Vermaelen: 7
The two centre-backs may be blamed for Arsenal's shaky start, but after we had taken control of the game through relentless attacking, they looked solid.

Gibbs: 7
Went forward well. Did OK.

Rosicky: 9
His best performance since his return from injury a couple of years ago. Scored his first goal in two years deservedly. He showed that he still have a lot to offer for the team. The Man of the Match for me.

Arteta: 8
Worked hard as usual. Set up a goal for Sagna with a perfect cross.

Song: 8
Battled hard as usual. Made another killer pass to set up a goal for Walcott.

Walcott: 8
Used his pace very well and kept his cool in the finishing. Scored two great goals. Glad he was not subbed at half time. He can offer a defferent dimension in our attacking, directness, which his team-mates cannot. Also, he can be very effective, when RVP is tightly marked and surrounded by defenders. He showed what he could do. What he needs now is consistency.

Benayoun: 8
His inclusion in the starting XI came as a bit of surprise. In the mid-week reserve game, he pulled the strings for Arsenal's attacking and also scored a goal for himself. Probably his solidness in defence compared with Gervinho earned his place in the starting XI. He didn't disappoint the boss. A great, gutsy performance from him.

van Persie: 9
He led the team to the victory as captain with great determination. He knew what this game meant to the fans and was totally committed to making us proud. His goal was the work of art.

Jenkinson: 7
75th-minute substitution for Gibbs. The north London derby was his first game with the first-team in more than three months. As a life-long Arsenal supporter, he must have enjoyed the occasion. Good defending.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6
Came off the bench in the 81st minute to replace Walcott. Little time to make an impact.

Gervinho: 6
Came on to replace Benayoun in the 88th minute. 


Mike Dean: 4
Most of the media seem to agree with us on the view that the penalty decision was wrongly given. A yellow card shown to Koscielny was harsh as he had no option. It was as accidental as Scott Parker's handball in the area, which he got away with. I wasn't surprised when I heard the stat that Arsenal had never won the last 10 games Mike Dean was referee prior to this match. Incidentally, the ref's alleged celebration of Tottenham's first goal is going viral at the moment. We won this game, but not thanks to Mr Dean. We beat Tottenham with five superb goals.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunderland 2 Arsenal 0 (FA Cup 5th Round)

First of all, we didn't post our view on Arsenal's 4-0 defeat to AC Milan, simply because I missed the game. After what I have heard and read, I couldn't bring myself to watch the repeat on TV or the match video on Arsenal Player. However, our aim is to post as many match reviews as possible, no matter how badly we have played. Especially when the world looks grim and cruel for the Gooners, we would like to present more positive points of view for them as an official Arsenal Supporters Club.

The starting XI were just as we predicted. This game had a much more significance than just a FA Cup tie. It was to show how Arsenal would respond to their poor display and the massive disappointment of Wednesday night and to forebode how the rest of their season would pan out. Arsene Wenger fielded his strong side against Sunderland, who proved a week ago that they were a difficult side to beat. RVP led the line, with Gervinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the flanks. Ramsey, Arteta and Song consisted of the midfield. Vermaelen and Djourou formed the central defensive partnership. Personally, I don't rate Djourou, but we had no choice after Mertesacker and Koscielny sustained injuries. Fit-again Sagna took his familiar right-back position. The question was whether Gibbs, who played his first game since October, would play again, but he wasn't even on the bench (I haven't found out the reason yet). Instead, Coquelin started as the left-back.

We were unlucky to concede two goals, one with a deflection and an own goal, and to lose as many as three players to injury in the same game. Coquelin's injury so early affected Arsenal's game as he started the game brightly. Also, his withdrawal meant the introduction of dreaded Squillaci. However, we cannot blame the luck alone. Our performance was far from the best. Last week at the same venue against the same side, we came from behind to win 2-1. It wasn't our best game, but we showed real urgency in the last 20 minutes, which eventually earned the victory. In contrast to that, the second half of this game was flat. Arsenal played with no urgency as if they had been winning 4-0. The last kick of the game, a back pass to our keeper, epitomised the lack of urgency and the desire to win, as well as the team's cluelessness. In the post-match interview, Wenger attributed the poor performance in the second half to the tough schedule and its resultant heavy legs, but surely the players could have done better than that if they were desperate to win silverware.

Obviously, we were all disappointed and disgusted with another poor display from our players. One of the members argued that we needed changes in system and style. The argument has been cropping up from time to time for some time. We need quicker and more direct attacking. Also, the current 4-3-3 system was introduced in an attempt to make most of Fabregas' ability. The system allowed Fabregas to initiate attacking movements deep on the pitch and finish them in the box. I don't see the reason why we should stick to this system now Fabregas has gone.

Interestingly, Arsene Wenger seemed to have deployed the 4-4-2 formation in this game with the introduction of Walcott, who took up a forward position with RVP dropping behind him. It might have worked if Henry had played in place of Walcott. Another repeated criticism against Wenger has been the lack of a plan B. He has never changed his side's game according to the condition of the pitch or the opposition's style.

Martin O'Neill said two defeats do not make a crisis. How many time this season have we seen a headline, "Crisis, what crisis?", after Arsenal had suffered blows. I still believe that Arsene Wenger will turn the things around as he has done several times this season, most notably at the beginning of the season. Having the hope of winning any silverware dashed within a week is heartbreaking, but our top-priority of this season has always been to finish top four. Remember where we are now after the last week's results. We are still in the driving seat in the race for a Champions League spot. We cannot deny that there are many problems to be addressed to, but most of them are long-term issues and cannot be rectified until the close season.

The good thing about this game was at least we have avoided a replay, which could have been a disaster as it was scheduled to be played only five days before Tottenham match. The exits from the FA Cup and Champions League competitions mean there will be no fixture congestion for the rest of the season. This should protect our key players from injuries. Koscielny is supposed to be back this weekend. Carl Jenkinson will start full training today. Jack Wilshere could be back in a month, while Andre Santos is expected to be back in March (he's already back in London, reunited with the rest of the squad).

Good news this weekend came from outside Arsenal. Ryo scored his first goal for Bolton in the FA Cup tie against Millwall. Owen Coyle assured earlier this month that his January loan-signing would be ready for the top-flight football next season to get straight into Arsenal first-team. This looks extremely likely.

Player ratings (Once again, we don't do 1s and 2s.)

Fabianski: 5
As Sunderland registered only 1 shot on target, he didn't have much to do. Could he have done better for Sunderland's second goal?

Sagna: 4
Poor game by a usually consistent player.

Djourou: 3
He was lucky to stay on the pitch for that two-footed tackle. He was booked for his crude challenge, needless to point out that AC Milan's fourth goal was the result of his clumsy challenge. Although he was our best defender last season until he sustained a dislocated shoulder in the FA Cup tie against Manchester United, since his comeback, his defending was calamitous. We think he is not up to Arsenal standards. A week or so ago, Sky Sports reported that he was set to sign a long-term contract with Arsenal. Hope Arsenal will give it second thoughts.

Vermaelen: 6
Started as the centre-back and moved to the left-back following the injury to Coquelin. Although his header went straight into Mignolet's hands, at least he showed some willingness to get a goal.

Coquelin: N/A
He only played 10 minutes before he seemed to have pulled a hamstring, which is a shame as his emergence as a versatile first-teamer has been one of a few bright spots in this disappointing season.

Ramsey: 4
Struggled after he suffered a knock early in the game and was replaced by Rosicky in the 58th minute. His progress in this season has been agonizingly slow.

Arteta: 6
His free-kick missed the target narrowly. Although he had some wild shots as well, his free-kicks were better than before.

Song: 6
He made a superb pass to unleash van Persie, which resulted in Arsenal's unsuccessful penalty claim. After Squillaci was replaced, he took a central defensive role and did relatively well compared with other players.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 5
It was unfortunate to put the ball in his own net inadvertently, but it started from him being robbed of the ball. Again, he was not very effective against stubborn Sunderland defence. Hope his confidence didn't suffer from this game as he is a bright future for us. I was surprised to see him come second with 16% of total votes for the Man of the Match on site, despite his own goal. Incidentally, Alex Song was selected as the Man of the Match with 19%, including my vote.

Gervinho: 6
Made a couple of good runs in the first half and had a shot, which forced a good save from Mignolet. Faded badly in the second half.

van Persie: 6
Had a relatively quiet game.


Squillaci: 3
Why is he still with us? Came on in the 10th minute to replace injured Coquelin. His defending didn't look convincing at all. Sunderland's first goal took a deflection on him. Got injured and replaced by Walcott.

Rosicky: 4
58th minute-substitute for injured Ramsey. Did not make an impact.

Walcott: 3
Came off the bench to replace Squillaci in the 58th minute. Had a good chance, which was ruled out as an off-side before he tried to make a shot.


Howard Webb: 4
For the decision not to give a penalty in favour of Arsenal, there seem to be mixed views. says "Replays suggested John O'Shea had got his toe to the ball before he brought down the Dutch striker", while Sky Sports reports "the striker certainly had a case with the Irishman getting no more than the faintest of touches on the ball." We would not go further on this issue, but the referee should have done more to protect Arsenal players in the early stage. A yellow card or two should have stopped Sunderland players blocking their opponents blatantly.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunderland 1 Arsenal 2

We all knew this was going to be a very tough game. Sunderland were on a run of good results since Martin O'Neill turned things round for them. Shortly after the emphatic win over Blackburn last weekend, Arsene Wenger said that he would be delighted if his side beat Sunderland 1-0. Scorelines may be irrelevant (although the 7 goals proved to be very useful as we have slotted into the 4th spot after this match ahead of Chelsea only on goals scored), while points are all important.

If you watched Match of the Day, you'd have thought Arsenal were the second best side in the first half with a goal-scoring opportunity limited to only one shot by Walcott, which went past the far post. I must agree with a number of the members who felt the first half was pretty much an uneventful affair. However, we weren't any worse than Sunderland, although they may have had a better chance or two. In fact, we controlled the most of the game. Statistics proved that with Arsenal's overall possession of 69.5%: 66.2% in the first half and 74.5% in the second half.

Sunderland's only goal was unfortunate. Per Mertesacker collapsed to the floor and they made most of it. According to the post-match interview, Wenger reckons that Mertesacker may have damaged his ankle ligament. But Arsenal did not capitulate after this misfortune. They came from behind and went on to win the game.

If we can chose a coach for the Man of the Match, Arsene Wenger deserves it. His substitutions were spot on in this game. He took off Oxlade-Chamberlain, who worked hard but did not pose a big threat to very organised Sunderland defence, and brought Thierry Henry on in the 66th minute. When we had conceded a goal and lost a defender to a serious-looking injury, he replaced Mertesacker with Ramsey, moving Song to the central defence, instead of opting for a like-for-like substitution, such as bringing in Gibbs and moving Vermaelen to the central defence. And this more aggressive option paid off. Ramsey netted the equaliser 3 minutes after he came on. In injury time, one of the other substitutes, Arshavin, set up the winner for the other.

The victory was the result of team effort. Especially, we were really happy to see the urgency coming from the team in the last 20 minutes.

When Henry decided to join Arsenal for the second time, RVP praised his bravery, which could have cost him his legendary status. The Dutchman must be eager to do everything to make sure that Henry's loan spell would only consolidate his iconic image, not tarnish it. Our captain looked so happy to see Henry score the mighty winner.

As posted before, our initial view on Henry's loan deal was wait and see, although we were sure that his off-the-pitch influence would be tremendous. Our verdict now is that it was a success. Henry helped us with an important winner once again following the FA cup tie against Leeds. Three goals in 6 games are not too bad for a 34 year-old striker (considering that Torres hasn't scored for 18 games). Let's hope he can do it again for the very last time in this loan spell against AC Milan on Wednesday.

Player ratings

Made some match-deciding saves, including a superb save from Gardner.

Sagna: 7

Mertesacker: 5
He seemed to have struggled with the condition of the pitch more than any other players did. In the first half, he slipped in the area and the ball hit his arm. Fortunately for us, the referee didn't regard it as a deliberate handball. Then, he looked to have caught his studs in the turf, which may be the cause of the ankle injury. The pitch did not seem to have affected Arsenal's passing game, though, as their passing success rate was an impressive 88.8% according to Sky Sports.

Koscielny: 6
Some unconvincing moments.

Vermaelen: 7

Rosicky: 6
I thought I had seen him dispossessed too often in the first half.

Arteta: 7
Did his job well.

Song: 8
Worked hard to keep Sessegnon quiet. He took the central defensive role after Mertesacker was stretchered off.

Walcott: 5
He had a poor game. His effort in the first half was good, but other than that, he was asleep.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6
Worked hard but not too much impact.

van Persie: 7
He had a quiet game by his standard as Sunderland defence did not give him much space.


Henry: 8
Came on in the 66th minute to replace Oxlade-Chamberlain. He humbles himself to say that he was only in the right place, but the goal took some brilliance as the ball came in at awkward height.

Ramsey: 7
72nd-minute substitute for Mertesacker. Made an impact 3 minutes after he came on the pitch. Good to see him have a shot from the edge of the box.

Arshavin: 7
Came off the bench in the 87th minute to replace Walcott. Made two good crosses to create chances and put pressure on Sunderland, one of which found Henry and resulted in the winner.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Arsenal 7 Blackburn 1

It was reported prior to the match that a section of Arsenal fans were planning to put black bin bags over empty seats at the Emirates on the match day as a protest against the Club's lack of transfer activities in the January window and ambition. The suggested action could have seriously undermined the players' morale before the match. The fans should get behind their players when they are not playing well and their confidence is low. In spite of the report, there were no black bin bags seen in the stadium. There were more empty seats than usual (the official attendance was 59,643), but in light of the London underground disruption and the expected bad weather later on, this was not totally attributed to the recent disappointing results. In fact, there were a large number of empty seats seen across the Premier League clubs, including the Etihad Stadium, the home ground of the current league leaders, due to the winter storm that hit the Britain on this day. Talking about attendance, our attendance at Las Mimosas bar was relatively low this afternoon, perhaps, due to the early kick-off.

If any fan had missed the game for the cause of the protest, he or she would have deeply regretted it. This game could be one of those games to be talked about in the years to come. There were certainly some memorable moments: RVP's hat-trick, Oxlade-Chamberlain's first (and second) Premier-League goal(s), and Thierry Henry's last minute goal in his last game at the Emirates (Arsene Wenger stated he might extend his loan deal, but he would definitely not stay for the home game against Tottenham).

This game was a must-win game not only because we hadn't won for the last four league games, but because we had a score to settle. Blackburn beat us 4-3 at Ewood Park which was a game we shouldn't have lost. With two own goals and an off-side goal, Blackburn didn't deserve to win that game.

We have been quite happy with the team's response to the midweek's disappointment. When Blackburn equalised through Pederson's brilliant free-kick, it was easy to succumb to the ominous feeling of collapse when confidence is low. We saw it happen time and time again last season. Instead, Arsenal carried on attacking and put themselves in front through RVP's second goal in 6 minutes after conceding the equaliser. Within 2 minutes, the Ox scored our third goal to put the game to bed. Arsenal never took the foot off the gas throughout the game. The scoreline boosted our goal difference, while RVP continues on his course for the Premier-League top scorer of the season. It was good to see such an emphatic win again.

Maybe the scoreline does not mean very much. As Arsene Wenger said regarding our 8-2 defeat to Man United and their 6-1 defeat to the City, sending-offs can often produce such exaggerated results. However, Arsenal were already 3-1 up and looked to score more when Givet was sent off. The scoreline just showed how ruthless Arsenal were and we are glad they have done that. Although Blackburn were a sorry side especially without Samba or Yakubu, the comprehensive win should have boosted all our players' morale and confidence.

Also, the attacking problems we held up in our last post seemed to have been addressed. Our attack was quicker and more players chose to shoot rather than pass, while we scored 7 goals out of 16 goal attempts, half of which were goalbound. Let's hope Arsenal have solved their attacking problems once for all.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 6
As Blackburn registered only 2 shots on target, he didn't have much to do. He got his hand to Pederson's free kick, which suggested he might have been able to stop it.

Coquelin: 8
Linked well with Walcott and set up a goal for RVP. He is another bright future for Arsenal.
Mertesacker: 7
No trouble.

Koscielny: 6
Gave away a foul in the dangerous position, which led to Blackburn's equaliser. Wenger revealed in his post-match interview that Koscielny had a problem, hence Sagna's introduction in his place and Vermaelen moving to the central defence. Hope the problem is not too serious.

Vermaelen: 7
Played throughout the game despite the early knock.

Rosicky: 6
As widely expected, he started in place of Ramsey, who has looked tired recently and overused so far this season, which is his first full season in the top-flight football. Is it only me who feel that Arsenal attacks more quickly with him than with Ramsey?

Arteta: 7
Played well throughout and scored his fourth goal of the season.

Song: 7
His through ball to Walcott started the sequence to the first goal.

Walcott: 8
Provided assists to 3 goals. Used his pace very well. Even his critics at our supporters Club were happy with him today.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 9
He was a threat to Blackburns' defence every time he went forward. He has pace, strength, trickery and composure. A perfect winger. He is a massive positive from the so far disappointing season.

van Persie: 9
Scored a hat-trick and made 2 assists. His movements without the ball were excellent as well. After completing his hat-trick, he gave Henry a chance to score, which was a very nice team play to see. It also shows how much RVP appreciates Henry's presence.

Henry: 7
67th-minute substitute for the Ox. Made a great run alongside RVP and scored another fairy-tale goal.

Sagna: 7
Started from the bench after his first 90-minute game in 4 months on Wednesday and came on the pitch in the 67th minute for Koscielny. Took a left-back position.

Benayoun: 7
Came on in the 72nd minute for Song. Lively.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bolton 0 Arsenal 0

Before the match, one of our members said one time he expected Arsenal to win every game, which reminded me of what another member said at the trail end of the last season. He said he used to think we would win before every game, but not any more. When I heard him last season, I thought it was the arrogance of a big club to take every win for granted, but now I understand what they meant. They meant that they used to have belief in quality in the squad. We still have enough quality to beat mid- to lower-table clubs, but these days we never know what kind of performance our team would turn up with on the day.

Although we had some scary moments, our defence looked all right as a clean sheet indicates. Bacary Sagna's return helped to prop up the defence without doubt. However, this game exposed the problems in our attacking. There is nothing new about the lack of clinical finishing. The main culprits on the night were Walcott and Ramsey as usual. RVP was unlucky, with his efforts denied by the woodwork twice and another cleared off the line, but in the recent games, even he has missed an absolute sitter or two, which is a bit of worry. What was more frustrating in this game was the slow pace of our attacking overall. No such urgency they showed in the second half of the FA Cup tie against Villa was there to be seen. Slow attacking allowed Bolton to organise their defence well before we reached the final third. We have to up the tempo and try a more direct approach.

I always want to end my post on a positive note, although the result of the match was so disappointing it is difficult to find bright spots. The most notable positive from this game is a clean sheet. It seems to us that the result is more like two points dropped rather than a point earned due to the circumstances, in which we were under pressure after both Liverpool and Newcastle had won and leapfrogged us in the league table. However, Bolton are a difficult side to beat at the moment as the fact shows that Liverpool suffered a 3-1 loss to them 10 days ago. One point from an away game against a team who are currently enjoying a resurgence may be some consolation.

Our Man of the Match is Bacary Sagna. He was one of our best players on the night in our opinion (the other two are Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arteta) and deserves a Man of the Match recognition after the long lay-off. He displayed the difference a specialist right-back could make.

After the match, which took place on the day after the January transfer window had just closed, we also discussed our January signing.'s report on the injury record of the 19 year-old Germany youth international is not very encouraging: "The teenager's development has been hindered by knee problems - he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 2009". We hope he is not going to be another Amoury Bischoff. However, the article went on to say "Arsenal have taken advantage of the youngster’s availability – he is out of contract in the summer – to prise the highly-rated young playmaker from Germany". Considering the fact that he has never featured in Dortmund first-team games, he looks like a long-term project. Hopefully, he will turn out to be another example of Arsene Wenger's astute buys.

We have enough promising youngsters to form a good squad in three years' time. However, in order to challenge the title next season, we need to add next summer a few more established players who can provide the squad with required quality immediately. A top-four finish is essential for attracting such world-class players. In the meantime, let's hope we can get back in winning ways, starting this Saturday and the other Champions League-spot contenders will drop more points in the remaining 15 games of the season.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 6
Mixed performance. He made a crucial late save, for which Bolton claimed a penalty, but our verdict was "not guilty" as our keeper got to the ball first and swept it away. He tried to show that a goalkeeper could play football, with the result that it nearly gave us a heart attack. On another occasion, he came off the line only to miss the ball completely.

Sagna: 8
He made several successive blocks in his attempt to stop crosses in. He also often overlapped Walcott and put a brilliant cross in, which unfortunately ended up hitting the post after RVP had a touch on it. He had a good game, considering this was his first full 90-minute game in 4 months. His return was a real boost for us. He was our most consistent player before he got injured because he put 100 percent into every game. Hopefully, he will continue his tireless contribution to the team now he is fit.

Mertesacker: 6
Made some important clearances. We think he will become a good defender as he adapts to English football.

Koscielny: 5
He made a couple of dodgy moves, which allowed Ngog to breach our defence.

Vermaelen: 6
Worked hard both defensively and offensively.

Ramsey: 4
Missed some chances.

Arteta: 7
Had a tough night as some of decisions went against him. Good to have him back.

Song: 4
He had a poor game. On several occasions, he dwelled on the ball or even looked asleep. His passes often went astray.

Walcott: 4
He missed a number of chances, including a clear-cut one. At the end of his well-timed run, he had only Bogdan to beat, but shot straight at the keeper. Another example to prove that he is not good enough yet to take his desired position, a central striker. Did his fluky goal against Villa boost his confidence? The answer was no. It seems that he is a better goal-scorer when he doesn't know where the ball is.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7
He always looked dangerous on the left flank. Arsene Wenger seems determined not to let him play full 90 minutes. He was replaced by Henry in the 69th minutes. Chambo should have stayed on and been moved to the right wing, with Walcott giving way to Henry instead.

van Persie: 7
Unlucky not to score. Especially, his chipped effort that hit the woodwork for the second time on the night could have been an exquisite goal if it had hit the target. He couldn't convert chances, but still displayed his class.


Henry: 5
69th-minute substitute for Chambo. Could not make the difference.

Rosicky: 5
Came on in the 81st minute for Ramsey. Made little impact, but he was not given enough time to make an impact.


Chris Foy: 4
He didn't give us anything, allowing some rough challenges on us. The yellow card against Vermaelen was disgraceful as there was no contact whatsoever. Bolton fans may also loathe him for a different reason, but we support the ref's decision on their penalty shout against Szczeny.