Saturday, October 20, 2007

Arsenal vs. Bolton: Match Review

Match Preview

Archie Knox lost his first match as Bolton's caretaker as his side fell 2-0 to Arsene Wenger's first-placed team. The result keeps Arsenal at least two points clear of Manchester United (who play Aston Villa later today) with a game in hand. Bolton are not faring nearly as well, as the loss puts them rock-bottom in the Premiership, after Derby held Fulham to a goalless draw today.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, William Gallas, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor, Eduardo da Silva

Bolton: Jussi Jaakskelainen; Abdoulaye Meite, Andrew O'Brien, Ivan Campo, Ricardo Gardner; Danny Guthrie, Gavin McCann, Kevin Nolan, Joey O'Brien; Kevin Davies, El Hadji Diouf

Arsenal started brightly despite the battling spirit of the opposition, and it wasn't long before Alex Hleb cut back a ball for Emmanuel Adebayor only for the Togo striker to fail to make good contact, the ball eventually being cleared away.

The move was a sign of the two players fortunes to come. For a large part of the first half, Alex Hleb was the only player willing to take on defenders. Hleb's dribbling was one of the bright spots in a frustrating first half for Arsenal. On the other hand, Adebayor played poorly and missed many chances.

Bacary Sagna came up the flank to provide a cross to the tall striker, only to see the ball headed well wide.

At the twenty minute mark, Sagna was on the receiving end of a harsh tackle from Gavin McCann, which resulted in a yellow card for the Bolton player. Tempers flared, and Cesc Fabregas and El Hadji Diouf were both shown yellow cards.

Arsenal had a penalty shout soon after, when McCann took Emmanuel Adebayor down in the box, but he got the ball first and the referee waved play on.

Diouf got involved in the game again, as he took down Sagna on the touchline, and was very fortunate not to have been shown a second yellow for his tough tackle.

Adebayor got the last chance in a tough half as a cross from Eduardo found him in the box. The Togo player once again did badly though, heading softly behind before the half-time whistle blew.

Bolton had kept Arsenal in check for the first half, taming the usually dynamic Cesc Fabregas. Arsenal warned that they were still fighting though, as they once again raced out of the gates in the second half.

Gavin McCann mistakenly played the ball into the path of Emmanuel Eboue, who hacked his shot into the stands when he should easily have scored.

Fabregas then tried from far out, but his shot was powered into the safe hands of Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Arsene Wenger noted that Eboue and Sagna weren't providing much attacking flair up the right flank, and decided to make a double substitution to inject some pace into the game. Eboue and Eduardo (who had both been fairly quiet all game) were taken out for Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott in what turned out to be yet another brilliant move from the Frenchman.

William Gallas nearly scored on his return from injury, as he headed goalwards from a corner. However, Jaaskelainen made a fine reaction save to stop the Arsenal captain from point blank range.

The Finnish keeper could do nothing to keep Kolo Toure out in the 68th minute though. Cesc Fabregas stood over a dead ball after being taken down by Ivan Campo. The Spaniard tapped the ball to Toure who drilled his shot into the bottom left corner of Jaaskelainen's goal.

Bolton, who didn't force Almunia (who was chosen over Jens Lehmann) into a single save all game, looked sure to be defeated, but Arsenal wanted more.

Adebayor nearly grabbed a second after rounding Jaaskelainen, but he inexplicably fell to the ground instead of stroking the ball into the goal.

The second couldn't be held off for too long though, as Tomas Rosicky met Theo Walcott's low cross with his foot, ensuring Arsenal the full three points.

This match will be a good confidence booster going into Tuesday's game against Sparta Prague, and I believe that we could make it 12 straight wins before facing Liverpool next weekend.