Faye and Meite High and Mighty
Another midweek away game and another trip to the Reebok were hardly what I wanted from this tie (understatement), but with around twenty minutes remaining I would have settled on it quite nicely. I was really expecting the Arsenal to fly out of the traps and put the odious slob Allardyce well into his place, alas, it was not to be. It seems we cannot beat them, and do you want to know the truth? It kills me.
The afternoon had started brightly enough, whilst I slayed my hangover with the dark creamy hair of the dog that positively chewed my leg off, I was accosted by vital member hatespur. Always pleasant to discuss your hatred of all things Chelsea over a jar! Unfortunately Arsenal's condition early on reflected my own, cumbersome, bloated and a little slow. There appeared to be an almost visible psychological barrier inhibiting the team as a consequence of their opponents. The 'oh **** it's Bolton!' factor was amplified and a depleted crowd looked on in pensive quiet. Fortunately for us it seemed, Bolton had absolutely no intentions of trying to win the game, choosing instead to time waste from minute one and content to try their luck at set pieces. Davies managed to get himself a free header in the box early on. Had Bolton have been more enterprising, Arsenal were positively ripe for the taking. The Gunners betrayed their style and the midfleld was by passed, as Henry and Adebayor were left to scrap it out aerially with the imposing Abdoulaye Faye and his namesake Meite.
A stroke of Henry genius sparked Arsenal into life in the dying embers of the first half. Latching onto Ricardo Gardner's understrength headed back pass, rounding Jaaskelainen and with his body positioned awkwardly, he conceived to backheel it goalwards, only for Meite to betray aesthetic beauty by toe ending it away from danger. Arsenal had a claim for a penalty as Adebayor raged into the box and was felled, but from my angle, he was always looking to go down and it was a bit of a naughty dive. Bafflingly, the home side contrived to begin the second half slowly as well, waiting statically for something to shock them into action. Bolton weren't to disappoint them. Flamini and Senderos meekly challenged Anelka on the edge of the box and he was able to find Davies in acres of space, old elbows kept remarkably calm as he slipped the ball to Nolan, who dug the ball out of his feet to ruffle the unguarded net.
Going a goal behind has become an all too regular feature this season and one we have to correct. It is incredibly noticeable the difference between our first and second half displays this campaign and a remedy has to be found. This is the third consecutive game we have conceded the advantage in, while it is pleasing to see us exude ample charisma to come back, we simply must go about our business with a keener eye. The goal was to prove our catalyst, suddenly the pace of our game increased tenfold, Clichy bombed on with abandon, Fabregas got a foothold on the game, Rosicky carried the ball forward with some swashbuckling runs. I feel Alex Hleb was missed, he adds a fluidity to our game and his ball retention is beyond reproach, I hope we can compensate for his absence. The Beast was released and he joined play up brilliantly, spraying the ball wide to add another dimension to our attacks. Unfortunately, Faye and Meite repelled just about every cross sent their way, arriving first to clear low crosses. Last weekend Bolton showed a real succeptibility to high balls into their penalty area from out wide, Stewart Downing fed his strikers with sumtuous crossing and Bolton shipped five.
It was an area we really should have done our homework on, and in hindsight (that fickle old mistress) perhaps Baptista should have started and Walcott's corners/crosses really should not have troubled the lush surface. Ironically, while Bolton scored a beautifully crafted goal, Arsenal got all ugly and equalised from a set piece. Fabregas swerved a free kick towards the back post where Kolo Toure stooped to head home from close range. With Jaaskelainen already on his way down, Toure's tame header dribbled just over the line. The Gunners pushed for an equaliser, Baptista's header goalwards sprayed wide off of Faye's shoulder.
The winner would not arrive and it's another fixture we have made for ourselves. The Man City game will be moved, hopefully, come Wednesday night we will have cause to move the Villa game because we will have a trip to Cardiff. The replay will be played one week before our tie against PSV and with injuries starting to reappear, I think this is a fixture too far and we should write it off. Most of our first team squad were involved in the World Cup and began training early for our European qualifier, legs will tire towards the end of the season. I think we should go all out for the Carling Cup but play the kids in this particular replay. Besides which, the youngsters have shown a fearless demeanour which the first team did not undertake against Bolton today. Bolton away on Valentine's Day? Perhaps that is what they mean by the romance of the Cup? LD.