Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday October 21 2007
Our sensational start to the season continues unabated. We now go in to two mouth watering league games which will examine our title credentials. Bolton arrived in North London rudderless following the midweek sacking of Sammy Lee, and shorn of Nicolas Anelka due to injury, it was difficult to see them getting anything at the Grove. But if any side in recent history is capable of throwing a spanner in our works, it's Bolton Wanderers. With the Trotters cut adrift in the relegation zone, their gameplan was only ever going to be one of containment. We also saw a return of some of Bolton's strong arm tactics made legendary by that odious cretin Allardyce. Having not seen any highlughts yet, it is difficult to take too accusatory a tone, but for my money McCann might have seen red for a studs up lunge on Sagna. Joey O'Brien appeared to go in two footed on Matty Flamini, whilst Ivan Campo earned his title as the fat Robbie Savage with his play acting and general buffoonery. This culminated in him reigniting an old feud with Abou Diaby (whose challenge on Campo in the 2006 Fourth Round cup tie left the afro coiffured idiot with a broken foot).
As is increasingly the case in the Premier League, the lunacy of an incompetent official vindicated Bolton's misplaced aggression. Riley's constant refusal to exert any authority on the match was as frustrating as it was laughable. For my money, this clown should have been put out to pasture instead of Graham Poll. Poll was often the centre of controversy, which he often courted himself, but he had the ability to be a decent ref at times. Riley simply does not understand the rules of football and carries himself with all the conviction of a Gordon Brown election promise. Predictably, Bolton got numbers back behind the ball and made life difficult for Arsenal in the first half, they were organised and committed, leaving chances at a premium in a drab first half. Midway through the first period, the brilliant Alex Hleb danced his way past Joey O'Brien on the byline and dragged the ball back for Adebayor, but his goalbound effort was blocked by Abdoulaye Meite. Arsenal's only other opportunity of note was forged on the left again, this time Eduardo dinked a delightful cross towards Adebayor, but with little power on the cross, the Togolese forward could not generate sufficient power or direction and his header limped wide. Eduardo had a quiet game, which in understandable, his movement looks very good and he is obviously a lively player. However, there seemed to be a lack of understanding with Ade, whose ability to take the ball down and redistribute is economically had the crowd gasping all day.
Despite the quiet nature of the first forty five minutes, I never doubted an Arsenal victory. Kevin Davies looked isolated upfront, with Diouf spending more time being an argumentative little sh*t than supporting his striker. Consequently, Gallas and Toure had an easy day at the office, Willy looked a little cumbersome on his return from injury, which is to be expected. But I've the feeling that Anelka's pace might have left him floundering. As it was Davies impotent flick ons did not cause any hearts to flutter. Wenger changed things around at the interval, moving Eduardo out to the wing, leaving Hleb to weave his magic in a more central position. A glorious chance went begging almost instantly, as Hleb once again caused havoc for the weary Bolton defenders, Fabregas played in Eboue on the right, but the Ivorian smashed the ball into orbit when a more composed finish would have seen us assume the lead. The Gunners' stepped it up a gear, and when Rosicky and Walcott arrived from the bench to replace the ineffective duo of Eboue and Eduardo, Arsenal, aided by Hleb's mesmeric ability on the ball, looked more dangerous. The goal duly arrived just after the hour mark. A foul by Campo on the edge of the area gave Arsenal a free kick. Kolo Toure wound up his right peg and delivered a daisy cutter which travelled through a ball sized gap amongst the plethora of bodies in the box and beat Jaaskelainen low in the corner. Seldom has Ashburton seen a more popular or well received goal. Not only have Toure's performances been stellar as ever, but after the heartbreak of seeing his thirty yard exorset against Sunderland crash the post, you felt that mother karma had restored balance to the universe. The words, 'I've been saying for ages that one day one of those would go in,' were heard to reverberate from every set of lips in the stadium.
The result was never in doubt from that point, as Walcott terrorised Bolton with his pace. Shortky after the goal, he took the ball with vigour and confidence on the halfway line, and showed Gardner a clean pair of heels, but his cutback came to nothing. There was a notable change in the way he ran with the ball, gone were the nerves that have so often seemed to permeate him with the ball at his feet. It's been a frustrating education at times, because Theo is lightning wuick and ou het the impression that, in a similar fashion to Marc Overmars, he does not require a great deal of technique because he has the requisite pace to simply push the ball and bound after it. His assist for van Persie against Sunderland seems to have been the filip he needed. It was his direct approach that led to Arsenal's second. Hleb knocked a searching pass to Walcott on the right, he bamboozled Gardner on the touchline and delivered a low cross which Tomas Rosicky delightfully dinked past the keeper. The acclaim was all Walcott's from fans and players alike. The goal was also testament to the fact that Arsenal are spreading the goals around nicely, with the mdifield contributing richly as well as the defenders now getting in on the act. It was damage limitation then for Wanderers, with Davies dropping ever deeper, only to find the buffer of Mathieu Flamini who convincingly won his aerial battles with old elbows.
The Gunners' could have had a third, when Fabregas flighted ball set Adebayor through on goal. He attempted to round Jaaskelainen but over ran the ball, with Walcott screaming for it in the centre, Adebayor lost his footing and the chance had gone begging. It was good to see Walcott scream for the ball with some aggresssion, all too often he has looked a little timid in the presence of his team mates, happily his shyness does not appear to be inhibiting him any longer. Gael Clichy found time to dance through a bevy of Bolton players, only to be bundled over in the box by Meite for an absolute stonewall penalty, which Riley predictably waved away with that nauseatingly dismissive smirk. Funny how Rooney's brush with thin air three years ago was so marvellously detected by that utter clown Riley. Never had the chant 'you don't know what you're doing' been more apt. The final whistle sounded to a chrous of 'we are top of the league' as the crowd dispersed themselves into avrious drinking establishments to watch the rugby. (I have to say, England were robbed by a very bad decision. I guess it shows that even video evidence cannot always remove the sh*t from people's eyes). With a trip to Anfield and a visit from ManUre on the horizon, our season begins now.LD.
Date:Sunday October 21 2007
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