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.

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