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Thugs 'n' Misses

I know, I know, I know exactly what you're going to think when you see the title of the article. Sour grapes, Arsenal have to learn to be more physical etc, etc. So allow me to diffuse any ire I might face. I have no issue with the result or the way in which Bolton played football. Bolton are a positive side that try to win every game, contrary to popular belief they can play aesthetically pleasing football, two of their goals were very nicely crafted. I have no problems with the long ball tactics, they are extremely good at what they do and in Kevin Nolan and Gary Speed they have two of the best midfielders in the Premiership at the moment. My issues arise elsewhere.

Yesterday's performance was a very schizophrenic one. The back four, both as a unit and individually, had poor games. Toure looked as though he was outmuscled and vulnerable in the air, Clichy looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights at times, Eboue was too composed and Senderos failed to be the big commanding centre half I know he can be. Senderos is much better aerially than Kolo Toure, but Swiss Tony did not take command. Instead it was Gilberto who did so, essentially trying to cover all four defensive positions on set pieces. The first goal was a dreadful one to concede, Faye allowed free reign to head home unmarked. Wenger would have been drilling into the team all week the importance of defending set pieces and to be forced to chase a game, yet again, to such a straightforward goal is unforgivable. I think the absence of Gallas was felt very sorely, I do not think Billy would have stood for the kamakaze nature of our defending.

The Gunners were simply not at the races for half an hour after the goal, Bolton were allowed to put balls into the box by a midfield that did not give enough. Fabregas and Flamini did not press the ball or attempt to put tackles in, I simply do not think Flamini has the requisite quality to play for Arsenal, for all his effort he is too lean. Cesc was a passenger for most of the match, being closed down in possession and failing to force the issue. I do not know how Cesc thought he could get through a game against Bolton with such a static approach. Freddie Ljungberg looks a shadow of himself and just cannot affect games anymore. Without Bergkamp's vision, his runs look haphazard and hawkish. A serious hip injury has robbed him of a yard of pace and as a result I don't think he contributes anything anymore. Had it not been for the departures of Campbell, Pires and Bergkamp in the summer, I am certain Freddie would have been sold.

Young Walcott embodied Arsenal's performance. Threatening going forward, he panicked the Bolton defence with his cavalier approach, committing defenders who could do nothing but cynically scythe him down. But Walcott did little to no defensive work and did not support Eboue. Having seen him for ninety minutes, I think Wenger will be quick to make this point to him and knowing the mature level headed person Theo is, he will take it on board with equal gusto. Adebayor was left to largely feed on scraps in the first half and his isolation was the key to nullifying Arsenal. After Anelka was given ample time to cut inside and crack an unbelievable shot in off the underside of the bar, my immediate thought was for us to avoid a drubbing. But the captain gave us a lifeline, Gilberto heading home a Fabregas cross. It was indicative of the way Gilberto cajouled his troops, trying to simultaneously marshall the defence and be the springboard for attack. It would have been nice if Cesc and Flamini would have helped him out.

The away side were transformed in the second half, using Walcott to much better effect we dominated proceedings, by pressing the ball and pinning Bolton back. Why we were not doing this in the first half, I've no idea. We were left to rue our luck, as the reebok crossbar was rattled by Ljungberg, Adebayor and Fabregas respectively. The all too familiar pace of Anelka sucker punched us in a rare Bolton advance, with Senderos, Toure and Lehmann all culpable with their poor positioning.

As is usually the case with Bolton there were several distasteful incidents, which soured my match experience. I can well accept the score line and the vivacity with which Bolton fed on our weaknesses, but isolated acts of thugishness which were calculated and unnecessary. This is the most illustrious period of Bolton's history, Allardyce has given them unprecedented levels of success- yet they still cannot even nearly fill a small stadium in a populated region of England. I think the indifference of their own support says it all. Firstly, a studs up 'challenge' by Alan Shearer incarnate Kevin Daivies left Eboue understandably fuming. I was positioned right behind the tackle and it was lamentable that Davies felt the need to raise his studs. The push in the chest that followed was greatly exaggerated by Eboue. But by my calculations Davies committed two yellow card offences concurrently, but with Mike Dean doing his best invertabrae impression, he declared open season for Bolton. Dean's performances was quite dispicable, condoning acts of random violence with his pathetic shrugging, yet booking Arsenal defenders for the most miserly of crimes. Quinton Fortune was next up in the museum of indiscretion, completely needlessly kneeing Theo Walcott in the side of the face with the ball long since dispatched into touch. Not content with his first half folly, Davies thought he would, quite literally, chance his arm again, swinging an elbow into the face of Freddie Ljungberg-nery a free kick was given. Of course when Lehmann and Ljungberg had the temerity to complain about their limbs being so ruthlessly targeted, Dean booked them. If I did my job in the manner that Mr. Dean did his yesterday, I would be left clutching my p-45. Something else that has always troubled me at the reebok is the way the mascot is allowed to man the touchline, stalking the linesman and screaming into his ear. With Eboue stricken yesterday, the mascot then incited the crowd by shouting abuse at Kolo Toure. Being the fernickerty individual I am, I have written to the F.A about this before, and they assured me that the **** dressed as a lion would be reprimanded. Not the first time the football association has blown smoke on the critical issues then. :-)

I always lend my vocal support in a vociferous and committed manner, but it's been a while since I have spontaneously started a chant. Back in my halcyeon teenage days, I would try all the time (with mixed results), but anybody who heard the chant, 'You're scum and you know you are' will be pleased to know it was composed and perormed by your esteemed writer. It's not often I use such strong vocabulary as 'scum' against any opponent, and with the combustible frustration of the moment now expended- I do not regret a bleeding word of it! Ultimately it was unfortunate, because Bolton played very well, they had some fortune defensively, but attacked us with impunity and elucidated our all too shabby defending. Anelka's goals were brilliantly crafted, but unnecessary incidents such as these really sour my opinion of them. How Davies elbowing, shoving and studding everyone in sight, or Fortune's sickening off the ball decapitation attempt aids their game I am not sure. They are a good side and do not need to sink to such gutter tactics. I suppose any side is a reflection of its manager and Allardyce is a great coach, but an appalling human being with no integrity whatsoever. (At this point, I could say something all the more libellous, but as a patron of this site, it would probably incite legal proceedings. Needless to say, the crumpled ten pound note in my pocket was used to illustrate certain points that were nothing to do with the purchasing outlets at the reebok). Ultimately though, we still cannot beat them, and do you know what? It kills me. Particularly when your day is compounded by a coach driver who decides to take a little detour around Buckinghamshire, causing you to miss your last train. Needless to say, the two and a half hour pit stop at Victoria Station did nothing to sweeten the grapes. LD.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday November 26 2006

Time: 2:08PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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And add to it all Wenger has conceded that you have no chance of the title!! BAD day at the office!
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26/11/2006 14:19:00

its amazink davies wasnt sent off. In any other country in the world that would be a red card. How can you give a feeble punishment when the message was - if you don't agree push him to the floor.
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26/11/2006 14:28:00

There is a fundamental problem with the rules when a sickening lunge is o.k- so long as you do it with one foot! Dan Smith on Diaby illustrates that point, a two footed challenge that misses the target by miles, a professional foul in the box and swearing at the official is a red card. But trying to take an opponent's knee off with one foot is apparently o.k.
Little Dutch
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26/11/2006 14:34:00

title challenge over then lads!
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26/11/2006 14:40:00

It's 2,40pm Merlin, you're cutting it a bit fine if you want to get to Manchester by 4!
Little Dutch
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26/11/2006 14:46:00

screw the guys.. u cld see they were playing with the arsenal players' minds.. davies was simply a pure send off anywhere in the world at any time except at that place, that time.. even so after all the physicality and all.. i am not happy with arsenal's performance.. conceding a lame goal.. then allowing anelka so much space knowing the kind of player he is.. and then the third.. though i thought that was offside.. i seriously believe 2 of those 3 wld have been averted if billy was in the team.. fabregas and flamini sucked.. srsly.. ljungberg tried to take on defenders when we had 3 players inside the box.. he simply isnt what he used to be.. fabregas was static.. he wasnt moving.. not putting tackles in.. nothing at all.. flamini shouldnt be in the team according to me.. toure had a rare day-off.. and adebayor had no support upfront.. the performance was simply not good enough..
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26/11/2006 14:52:00

and yeah.. i noticed speed went through a crunching tackle in the second half by gilberto.. he simply stood up and went on.. arsenal on the other hand were looking at the referee at the merest signs of physical contact.. the referee got quite a few decisions wrong.. i know arsenal should have been awarded some more free kicks.. but heck.. arsenal players should just get up and go on and not expect the referee to facilitate things for them..
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26/11/2006 14:56:00

The other thing that I forgot to mention was that once again, the Arsenal players did not acknowledge the away support- Walcott and Gilberto apart- considering the fact that they have criticised the fans through the captain, this is extraordinary. A selfish act by a selfish bunch of human beings. Take, take, take. Lehmann, Eboue, Toure, Senderos, Clichy, Hleb, Cesc, Adebayor, ***** you. I paid a hell of a lot of money and spent 22 hours travelling to and from that game, selfish ****s.
Little Dutch
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26/11/2006 15:25:00

Bolton are the new Winbledon,let's hope they end up exactly like the Dons!
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26/11/2006 15:39:00

what a dpressing performance, i know we were missing rosicky, persie and henry but i was never confident of getting a good result here. Ljungberg needs to go and ribery needs to come in, he doesnt offer anything any more, he doesnt even get his stinky little roll around in the mud goals anymore. I feel cesc ia getting a tad over rated by some, and i feel he has major ability but will never become the best midfeilder in the world simply becuase his lack of goals and lets be frank, poor work rate. Adebayor looked okay, missed a decent chance in the first couple of minutes and if we ha a real poacher of a striker we would of bee 1-0 up and had a foundation to build on. And why did baptista not start, this game was designed for him, playing flamini was a mistake and he does not have the ability to play in midfeild for us. IM depressed, i dont know what our realistic ambition are now for this season, spurs and chelsea coming up soon, 2 big games which im not confident about. And if our defence was really that strong then WHY OH WHY do we keep conceding cheap easy to defend goals, the players need to look at themselves.
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26/11/2006 15:54:00

Having one bad game doesn't make Cesc over rated. I think the fact that he's 19 and people expect so much reveals his quality and his work rate is usually faultless. I find it unbelievable how quickly players are written off. Baptista is still adjusting to the English game, pace and aggression wise, Bolton away is hardly the game to integrate him. I know he's built like a brick ***** house, but that does not mean he is physically adjusted yet. I've never been thinking in terms of the title, so I guess I don't share that depression, I've been looking for an improvement from last season, and I see clear signs of a progression. At the moment we are missing too many chances, this time last year we weren't even creating them. We are a work in progress, so don't expect miracles this season, next year will be a much more realistic time to assess this side. Games like yesterday will see us learn some lessons.
Little Dutch
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26/11/2006 17:05:00

Yeah,there's some tough games in the Championship! ;)
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26/11/2006 17:17:00

As much as I dislike the Arse I have to say you are wrong in slating Fabregas! He is another find from whinger and probably as good as Veira. Arsenals Problem is you have no Ian Wright (poacher) I still think Owen would have been ideal for you. Ok he is injured but who`s to say he would of been injured if he did not play for Newcastle. How I bet Arse Whinger wish he went for Berbatov. The statistics are Arse are as near to the relegation zone as they are of the top. A must win game coming up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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26/11/2006 17:17:00

Ok when i said some people are over rtaing cesc, lets get this straight i didnt mean he was over rated, but a midfeildr who doenst score nay goals, and people were saying hell be the best central midfeilder in the world soon i think is a bit premature. We have to beat fulham and the spuds, we MUST!!
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26/11/2006 18:06:00

Fulham are dire I do not think you will have any probs there.
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26/11/2006 18:44:00

you knoq i keep saying this, but bolton prove a point in my arguement. its all well playing the most exciting footbal, the pleasure in watching, but you need UGLY goals to win you games sometimes and thats what Bolton do, they play ugly and grind the results, its no fluke they are 3rd tonight, they have been at the top all season and the style of play gets results. arsenal play one way and will not change, where my point is we need plan B and for me its the scrap and win senario, chelsea do, so do spurs and man u, so what makes us different ?
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26/11/2006 19:43:00

what makes us different is that plan b is impossible to play with the players we have, ask hleb and fabregas and rosicky to launch long balls up andtell henry to head them in and it will not work. But what were doing at the moment isnt working against defensive teams thats for sure!!
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26/11/2006 20:30:00

But what did we do against Hamburg? We bought on Baptista, Adebayor and Walcott and changed the game. I agree a few more ugly goals would benefit us, there just needs to be a slight change, i.e we need to press the ball in midfield more. No sweeping change in our style is needed and in Baptista and Adebayor, we have different players who can get ugly goals. It just didn't happen yesterday. It's the defence that really needs to switch on. Our style of play has bought us unprecedented success and will continue to do so, we just have to give it time. In two years, I'll bet any money you like nobody will be talking about playing ugly or plan B.
Little Dutch
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26/11/2006 20:30:00

Long time reader but rarely post anything, because everytime i go to post my opinion it seems LD has already posted it, the fiend
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26/11/2006 20:38:00

that result yesterday was a real sickener. not only did we concede another early goal, we were just not at the races in the first half it seemed. Better after the break, but when it's not going for you, it'd not going for you. And that thug davies gets away with loutish play again. But i was struggling to see exactly how eboue injured himself, The only thing i could think of was that he hit his head on something that was lying on the pitch. Plus Jasskelainnen had a very good game, too. Once again we were a bit slack in defence. we've gotta be quicker closing attackers down... »»Arsene Knows««
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26/11/2006 23:54:00

how can u moan about the fouls etc, when u used to be the worst in the league at it ? thats whats missing from your game, no strenght or depth. Wenger has made the wrong decision in your transition which is moving away from the big phsyical players and concentrating on flair which leaves you where you are ! Guess which country u get them players from ?? ;-)
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27/11/2006 13:06:00

i think wenger just needs to tell his lads to go out there and deal with the physicality.. there's nothing for it.. if u see the way arsenal have been scoring the goals.. all have majorly been set pieces or headers or early crosses.. we only score flaboyant pass-the-ball-into-the-net goals when we are 1-0 or 2-0 up.. thats the problem.. we need to work on crosses and setpieces.. we have got decent headers.. adebayor, henry, baptista, gil, gallas, toure.. why not try for it.. if we are able to scrap the first goal.. then we can demolish any team.. we just need the FIRST GOAL.. ljungberg sucks.. he's not the same anymore.. he should be replaced and come the end of the season.. we might as wel see that..
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27/11/2006 19:00:00

Would this be the same side that have won the fair play league three years running boony? No strength or depth? Check the squad again. You're just one of those supporters who reads tabloids and thinks that team building is as easy as Championship Manager. Oh, and guess which country keeps bottling international tournaments?
Little Dutch
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27/11/2006 20:04:00

It's also worth pointing out Bolton had three Englishmen in their 16, Arsenal had two. So the nationality argument doesn't really hold up does it? But I guess the sun newspaper won't tell you that.
Little Dutch
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27/11/2006 20:06:00

2 good points Little Dutch, and to be honest, a players Nationality does not bother me, as long as he is good, and thats what Wenger tends to go for.
Super Cesc
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28/11/2006 00:29:00

I noticed that myself today when I was typing up the stats article LD, the difference between our two Englishmen and their three, is we have both in the England set up and they have one (Is Hunt still in the set up?)
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28/11/2006 01:02:00

Here we go again, when the team needs support lets kick em. Did they play well, no did they try you bet they did. The crosses always leaves me in dread because they never seem to be able to handle them, but to knock Toure come on, the bloke tries his heart out as does flam. Freddie may not be what he was but the little guys gives his all. Yes we missed Billy but our time will come. Not so long ago everyone was singing how good they were, a slip yeah but watch wait and see. everyone has written them off again I seem to remember people saying the same about man usa, and they came back and took the championship from us. Several things went against us and it will happen again and again but what will the team think when they are approaching almost three games a week, lay off give them a break. Two major strikers out and a part of the defence. Knock it off fellars whine about the other team but leave mine alone.
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28/11/2006 06:35:00

Bolton and their manager are scum. They'll be an embarrasment to England if they make it into the Champions League next season. Keep 'em out at all costs!
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02/01/2007 22:10:00


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