Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Thursday February 15 2007
2007 has been very good to us Gooners thus far, a last minute winner against Man USA, our reserves knocking the Spuds out of the Carling Cup and now knocking the orks, and more importantly, that despicable lying **** Allardyce out of the F.A Cup. Last night's game was one that defied any rational analysis, other than the fact this was a bizarre game that will live long in the memory. Three goals, two penalty misses, a last minute equaliser and a red card meant this game had it all. In honesty I was not expecting much from this encounter given the fact that the spine of our team was largely absent and out mental block against Bolton.
Before I proceed, I must apologise if this report rambles or isn't of great quality, but I am currently running a temperature higher than Snoop Dogg and hallucinations seem imminent. I did take some pictures, but I'll have to post them on a separate thread later because the software at my work will not allow it. Digital age? MY ARSE! Upon viewing the team prior to kick off, my confodence grew, Diaby and Denilson are not subject to this mental block against Bolton that is so prevalent amongst the first team and the physical presence that ran throughout the side was a masterstroke from Wenger. For instance, moving the stronger, more agile Djourou to right back. Bolton began quickly, as is their custom, bombarding us early, a trick that has worked for them with embarassing regularity over the years. But the Gunners held firm as Bolton's aerial threat bereft of 'elbows' Davies was virtually non existent. With Diaby and particularly Denilson winning the physical battle in midfield against Nolan and Speed, Hleb and Rosicky were able to feed the front two with their awesome ball control. If there is a player in the Premiership with better dribbling skills and better balance thatn Alex Hleb, I just have not seen him. Both the wingers combined their tasty interplay with a tenacity in the tackle. Young Diaby continued to do his Vieira impression, usually I am loathe to draw comparisons, but at times it is like Wenger has built a time machine, gone back to 1997, cloned Vieira and with a great strike of lightning declared....I WILL CALL HIM...DIABY!
The Gunners decided to change their regular routine by scoring first, Adebayor collecting Denilson's deft pass on the edge of the box and 'doing a Lampard' by firing it in off the underside of Meite's studs. From there on, the away side assumed full control, Adebayor finding Rosicky on the left, but his low cross was scuffed by the Beast at the back post. Around me, Baptista drew some criticism, but I thought he had a superb game. His finishing was woeful, but his ability to hold the ball up with his back to goal and bring others into play was faultless. But minutes before half time, Nolan's low shot was unwittingly blocked by Stelios on the six yard line and he turned his effort onto the bar, Gilberto protected the virginity of the Arsenal goal by throwing himself at Nolan's rebound. Any Trotters bemoaning their luck at that point will do well to remember that Arsenal have hit the woodwork eight times on their last three visits to the Reebok. At half time the Gunners looked comfortable, ironically just as they had in the F.A Cup Fourth Round fixture versus Bolton last year.
The Gunners had a plethora of chances to extend their advantage, Baptista running through on Jaaskelained, but got caught between squaring to Adebayor or going for goal, his final ball was laboured and indecisive as a result. The game looked to be won half way through the second half, Baptista jinking past Ben Haim in the box only to be brought down. But Gilberto blazed the penalty high, wide and not at all handsome and Bolton looked rejuvenated. The Gunners defended manfully, repelling all of Bolton's set pieces, soaking up the pressure and hitting on the break through Hleb and Rosicky. Denilson winning the ball back with the applomb of a seasoned pro. In the dying embers, Arsenal had the greatest chance to wrap up the tie, Adebayor running clean through on goal, rounding Jaaskelainin right down in front of me, only for the ball to rebound off the post when I had looked away already beginning to celebrate. Adebayor's incredulous open palmed gesture to the travelling ranks said it all.
As Bolton threw on some subs (curiously subbing the players NEAREST to the bench when they're a goal down, how strange), and our bogey team were to grab the most undeserved of equalisers. Ridden with fatigue, Arsenal's defenders dropped right back onto their goal line, Campo flicked on a Diouf corner, for Abdoulaye Meite to slot home from close range. Despair bolted through me like thunder, so close to getting such a deserved win, only to see Bolton grab extra time with the impetus formly coarsing through their sails. The mood was of deflation amongst the Arsenal ranks as the players awaited half time. 'Come on Arsenal' we implored, struggling to push the volume above the annnoying noise of the droning Bolton drum away to our right. Bolton predictably took the initiative and Arsenal were camped in their own half. Hearts were a flutter as a Diouf cross was sliced agonisingly onto his own post by the luckless Gilberto. For him to have a penalty miss and an own goal aginst his name after such an inspired performance, would have been a tragedy of Oedipal proportions. 'I'd settle for penalties now' I remarked to Lord Lowe.
But the futility of terrace encouragement was elucidated in the most heavenly fashion. Ljungberg recieved a verbal battering from your writer, with the frustration ebbing through me, 'you're an embarassment' I uncharacteristically barked. Usually I keep my groans to a quiet murmur, but Freddie looked so embarassingly cumbersome and slow, we might as well have had a traffic cone on the left. Hleb and Rosicky were replaced in extra time, our two shining stars. But their replacements were to come up trumps. Aliadiere starting a mazy run inside his own half, jinking past Vaz Te on the touchline before roasting the creaking limbs of Ivan Campo, he slid a beautifully weighted slide rule pass into the path of Ljungberg,and we partied like it was 2002. Ljungberg whipping a gorgeous finish in from an impossible angle. Bolton looked down, but by no means out. To their credit, they simply refused to crumble, Nicolas Anelka teeing himself up for a close range volley which arrowed inches over the crossbar.
The mesmeric dribbling of Baptista earned us a further advantage, once again jinking by Ben Haim, only for the Israeli to shuffle out a tired leg and earn a second yellow. Ironically, Campo's awful dive apart, this was by far Bolton's least violent display against Arsenal yet they were to have a man sent off. It should have been two men, Jaaskelainen journied up for a corner, but Arsenal broke and Adebayor, poised to slot into an empty net, was hauled down by Nicolas Anelka. Fouls simply do not come more professional than that, yet Foy, who had an excellent game, showed Anelka an act of contrition by cautioning him. Baptista was to follow his compatriot by blazing the penalty over the bar. To be fair, my vociferous advice to him was to smash it down the middle as hard as you can, either scoring, or walloping the ball out of the stadium. I would have preferred the former option, but beggars cannot be choosers. Bolton mounted one last attack, but Arsenal caught them on the break, Baptista rounding Jaaskelainen for Adebayor to score his second.
Fans stood in breathless adulation at the final whistle, baffled by what they had seen. This victory was all the sweeter for Allardyce's pre match lying regarding Wenger's comments about Bolton's style of play. Wenger has been nothing but complimentary to this disgucting slob since his side poleaxed three of our players out of a gam in 2003. Allardyce is an odious little f***wit, Wenger even stood up for him amidst the 'bung' allegations, a sympathetic gesture which was classlessly thrown back in his face by the most despicable man in football. 'Fat Boy what's the score rang around the away end.' Before I wrap this up, I must once again commend the sterling performance of Gael Clichy, who looks every bit a world class left back, putting not a foot wrong all game, both in supporting his wingers, covering his centre backs, and nullifying the twin threats of Stelios and Diouf. Please vot him player of the month. Outside I was accosted by a young Trotter (not the one from Hookie Street) who shook my hand and wished a warm congratulations. A gesture that prevented me from dishing out some abuse from the coach window. It was a game where football was the winner, both sides contributed immensely to an enthralling encounter, Chris Foy had a marvellous game, it's a shame Chelsea fans do not get the chance to enjoy games like this. As I returned to my seat on the coach, the blood punded against my temples, my already throaty gruff had begun to sound like Bob Dylan in the middle of a vocal chrod scraping, and my guts chutned with nausea. It was that good. LD.
Date:Thursday February 15 2007
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