Arsenal 1-0 Bolton; Vela Sparks Win

Match Reports/Stats

ESPNSoccernet: Bendtner at the Death

Sky Sports: Bendtner Blow Breaks Bolton

Match Video


The Good

Toure was handed the captain’s armband for the kickoff and I guess you could say that it paid dividends. Despite the fact that Toure looked very rusty, despite the fact that he and Almunia lacked any semblance of communication, and despite the fact that Diaby was a joke as the “holding” midfielder, the defense under Toure kept a clean sheet.

In all honesty though, a lot of credit for the clean sheet must go to Djourou who won a metric ton of headers — all of them brave winners as well, what with Kevin Davies’ elbows threatening to rupture everyone’s skull.

On the other end of the pitch Arsenal looked predictable, passing the ball sideways and across the midfield as Bolton sat back and comfortably dispossessed Diaby as soon as the ball came to him. This continued even after the break when Wenger moved Diaby wide and put Nasri in the middle.

It wasn’t until Wenger brought on Vela that the team looked like they were ready to score a goal. Vela shimmered and gave us glimpses of the type of player he will be in a few years (if not THIS year!). His energy, width and most importantly ability to get to the end line was crucial in stretching the Bolton defense just enough for van Persie to get a shot off that hit the post and eventually, for RvP to put in the cross that Bendtner poked home. All the match reports will headline Bendtner’s goal but really it was Vela who opened the game up. He was outstanding.

The Bad

Diaby had a nightmare game — it was the textbook definition of how not to play in central midfield. Maybe he is confused, maybe Arsene’s system (where pretty much everyone plays everywhere) is difficult for him to understand, I don’t know, but he certainly didn’t look like he knew what he was doing. Now, typically I’ll forgive a player for making mental errors and I’m the first to defend a player for making physical errors but Diaby made the cardinal and unforgivable sin of seeming not to give two fucks.

His performance was shocking and incredible. I can’t believe that this Arsenal team, famous for our heart and fight has a player in midfield who can’t seem to be arsed to win the ball back when he makes a mistake. I can forgive the ponderous dribbling, the poor passes, and the fact that he didn’t seem to know where he was supposed to be on the pitch but I can’t forgive him receiving the ball, and casually dribbling the ball across the pitch while McCann bears down on him. He didn’t just do this once, it was constant.

Let’s hope that Wenger moving him to the wing and eventually taking him off lights a fire under his ass because Arsenal really need all of our midfielders to play at or above their level now with Cesc injured.

The Ugly

I'm a coont, I'm a cooont, suck my diiiiiick, I'm a cooont!

Honestly, I can’t blame Kevin Davies. The referee lets him get away with his dirty play, so it’s not really cheating is it?

Davies had a typical performance, which is to say that he had more fouls than touches. He sent the message early on when he slapped Clichy in the face while “going for the ball.” Everyone in the world knew that Davies wasn’t going for the ball but instead was trying to soften up his marker, you know a few slaps to the face and maybe Clichy won’t go for the ball as strong the next time. The ref though, felt like a nice chat and a cup of tea would set Davies straight.

It didn’t. A few minutes later he came in late on a “challenge” against Denilson and just stepped on Denilson’s foot. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was a professional foul pure and simple and was almost certainly a yellow card. But again, it was the referee who let him go about doing this stuff.

Chris Foy “warned” Davies no less than three times and gave him the “final warning” at least twice. Yet Davies received no yellow card, even after he made a “clumsy” tackle on Vela after his second “final warning.” Incredible stuff, especially in light of the two harsh yellow cards that Arsenal players received.

This was the kind of game that makes supporters wish there was a way for a club to appeal for retroactive yellow cards. I’m sure if any ref saw what Davies was doing on video tape they would award at least one yellow.

Final Thoughts

Yes, Arsenal won. 1-0 in fact, which I have been asking for. But this Arsenal team is suffering from a couple of problems: lack of creativity and width and lacking the ability to play more than one style.

The first can be and may be solved in the transfer market. Andrei Arshavin would almost certainly provide both width and creativity and his ability to get to the end line alone would be a boon to this club.

But the other problem is actually more vexing and I’m not sure can be overcome by dipping in to the market. For years now we’ve heard that Arsenal play “the beautiful game” and we’ve heard people drool over their ball movement and intricate play. The problem is that intricate play isn’t beautiful unless something comes of it; goals. In fact, intricate play is boring and frustrating if it doesn’t lead to goals.

So, I’ll be the first to say it: this Arsenal team was boring and predictable for 65 minutes. In fact, almost all of their matches are boring and predictable now: teams come in, sit back, invite the attack and counter when we cough it up.  Arsenal move the ball left and right and maybe get a shot or two that don’t really bother the keeper.

The league table reflects this predictability, and worse, the stands reflect it as well. Arsenal announced 60,000 fans in attendance but there were a lot of empty seats (attendance numbers are actually sales numbers, not the number of times the turnstyle is turned).

Wenger needs to adress this problem by introducing some variation to the Arsenal playing style or risk losing both trophies and fan support. The odds are much better that Arsene will buy Arshavin for £20m than change his playing style so I think we’re in for a season of matches like the one today.

Anyway, big match tomorrow as Man U take on Chelsea. Liverpool dropped points today away to giant killers Stoke City so the match tomorrow is huge for United. A win by either United or Chelsea makes the battle at the top of the table more interesting but I can’t root for that. What I’m hoping for is a draw to keep Arsenal as close to the top four as possible. If an outbreak of dysentery struck both teams and the game was called at half time with a 1-1 draw, that would be a bonus.

See you tomorrow!


  1. Tim, it’s time for wenger to let vela set up shop on the left and put Nasri on the right, and replace diaby with (fill blank). I’m not sure what’s with diaby, the talent and ability is there but what of the desire to use it. It’s a shame because the boy can play when motivated and right now he’s just playing himself off the first team. I think he needs to go back to basic track back and tackle school and just pass one class please. i thought we looked quite dull as well but in the end three points.

  2. Several things about this game were odd. Knowing that Vela made a big difference in upping the tempo and creativity against Portsmouth, Wenger still didn’t let him start. Knowing that Ramsey is a more creative midfielder than Diaby or Denilson, Wenger didn’t let him start. So instead of a fast paced, creative midfield we get Diaby and Eboue neither of whom really add much width. The fact is that so-called kids are way more talented and hungry than some of the (relatively) experienced players. If Wenger isn’t going to buy then he had better start playing the real talent in his team rather than the makeweight squad players.

  3. anthony, wenger knew today’s game would be physical hence vela and ramsey didnt start. i think they should bcoz i was bored for most of the game.
    afraid 1-0 to the arsenal days are back, hopefully just for now tho

  4. anthony u r quite rigth in the aarea of the younger ones having more hunger but we actually need the experience of theses guys. for me diaby is a joke and it baffles me becos he,s GOOD but i dnt just undstnd if he ever looks back at his perfomaaaaaance an dlearns from it.for me N asri is beter in the middle and with vela on the left and maybe now diaby or whoever on the rigth it will give us some width.RVP has been xtraordinary i can only pray it never stops and then pls whats up with bischoff i have a feeling that guy is awesome when he plays pls monsiuer we want to see him. as per the transfer market agreed arsene knows but let him act on what he knows matuidid will be great for us. till nxt time keep gunninng. love from Nigeria.

  5. Although Vela sparked the game, and God knows I believe Vela should be starting on the left wing, it was also Nasri in the middle. On both occasions when he has played centrally his creativity has sparked the team and we look transformed. It’s worthy to note that AM is Nasri’s main position and he is just now playing on the wing and learning that position.

    Consistently playing experienced players out of position is bad enough unless it’s absolutely necessary, but playing youngsters out of position while they are still learning their craft is suicide.

    That’s the main reason Arsenal looks like a Championship team at the moment without any flair or creativity.

  6. Caribkid, it is as you say, but with our injuries if nasri does not go on the right we have absolutely nothing there, most of our ‘attacks’ are shunted to the middle and break down, we’ve no thrust. Nasri is effective in the middle, but without wide play we’re just too one dimensional and it will catch up with us, but there’s no easy answer here, we’ve got a few too many weaknesses. Service from players who can reach the corner flag to provide is normally an effective way to beat stubborn defensive minded opponents, short of nasri we lack such players particularly on the right. One solution is to bring in.

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