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Bolton Wanderers 2 Arsenal 1

Bolton Wanderers 2 Arsenal 1

Ever since United recovered a two goal deficit at Upton Park, the title race has felt more like a forlorn jog for the last tube. Yesterday, that exhausted saunter was put out if its misery. An ill advised night on the tiles in Southwark meant it was a dreary journey to North London come Easter Sunday morning. The talk now was of securing second place with Chelsea three points ahead of us and even the spectre of Manchester City looming over our shoulders. We arrived in Lancashire in glorious sunshine around 90 minutes before kick off. Our search for a pre match beer proved forlorn though, the Reebok Stadium is positioned in the middle of nowhere. The one pub within strolling distance did not allow away fans. So we set off the nearby Tesco`s in search of a tinny to enjoy in the sunshine. But Tesco`s was of course shut. In the end, watered down football ground beer served in grotesque plastic was our only option. Honestly, what is the world coming to?

Arsenal began the game brightly even if the atmosphere inside the ground had a flat end of season feel to it. Arsenal were denied a stonewall penalty early on when Matty Taylor took Theo Walcott out in the area. Strangely, Walcott didn`t raise much of a complaint, as Djourou didn`t when Sturridge dived for Bolton`s second half award. The likes of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand would likely have mauled the referee`s head clean off in the same circumstances. Arsenal set about trying to carve Bolton`s obstinate defence open. Well, Fabregas did. He`s pretty much the sole bastion of the ideas and inspiration department nowadays. He collected a Nasri pass and smashed a low shot from outside the area, which Jaaskelainen tipped just past the post.

But the Gunners rearguard did not exactly enjoy one of its better days and found itself sliced open when Koscielny had pushed on too far and left a gap which Sturridge`s cultured pass probed and found Young Chong Lee bursting through on goal, but he attempted to flick the ball to Taylor instead of taking on the shot and Song got back to cover. For once, an opponent had over elaborated against us. But the same combination of a Sturridge pass to an onrushing Lee unpicked the Arsenal defence again, but Szczesny was equal to Lee`s effort with a fine save. However, not for the first time in the match, Szczesny`s fine work was rather undone instantaneously. Lee`s corner saw Cahill rise above Koscielny to head goalwards, Nasri cleared off the line but Danny Sturridge was on hand to stoop and head Bolton into the lead. Another set piece another goal conceded.

Arsenal did look for the immediate response. Sorry, Fabregas looked for the immediate response. Again collecting a Nasri pass before unleashing a low shot from 25 yards, this time hitting the base of the upright. I do wonder if he and van Persie ever get tired of carrying the team once they get beyond the halfway line. Half time and some sober reflection amongst the travelling faithful, cosseted as we were in bright sunshine. What`s the opposite of pathetic fallacy? Come the early exchanges of the second half, the outlook became gloomier when Daniel Sturridge motored past Johan Djourou and, realising the ball was heading out of play, flung himself to the ground. The referee inexplicably bought it. I`d advise him to bring company next time he visits a second hand car lot. Kevin Davies, who maintained his impressive record of eleven career bookings against Arsenal, stretching his proud record for cautions against one club, tried to power his kick down the middle of the goal, but Szczesny was not foxed and beat the effort away with his feet. You felt it was a match altering lifeline.

That feeling was multiplied when the away side reconciled terms just two minutes later. Song found van Persie on the edge of the area, he tormented Muamba before playing the ball into Fabregas in the area, Cesc touched the ball back to van Persie who fired in his seventh successive goal away from home and his 17th goal in 17 games. Arsenal drove on and looked heavy favourites to win the game, but over elaboration and poor finishing would prove costly. Wilshere found Chamakh in the area with a probing pass, but Chamakh opted for a heavy flick when he had the time and space to turn and shoot. Cesc too probed into the area with a mazy dribble and played a one two with Nasri, but again opted for an easily cleared pass when the shot was on.

The Gunners should have taken the lead when van Persie`s lofted ball put Nasri clear on goal, but he blasted his first effort straight at Jaaskelainen. The rebound did not fall kindly for Nasri and his follow up attempt from a tight angle was well blocked by Gary Cahill. Arsenal were threatening to carve Bolton open and press for a winner, Arshavin again found joy by lofting the ball over the top of the Arsenal defence for Nasri, who did not realise the time and space he had in the right hand channel and hooked the ball meekly into Jaaskelainen`s arms. But with the clock ticking, you always get the impression that, no matter how dominant Arsenal are in a game at the moment, they`re always liable to gift a goal. Elmander beat Djourou in the air and scampered clear onto the loose ball, but Szczesny beat away the Swede`s effort.

Sure enough, another set piece tossed an entire season into the skip. Taylor`s wicked delivery was met by substitute Tamir Cohen on the front post who headed a last gasp winner past Szczesny on the front post. Arsenal have now conceded from 3 of the last 25 corners they have faced. They have not scored from a corner themselves in their last 47 attempts and counting. Something is not right there. In response to an earlier chant of "Bolton`s a sh*thole, I wanna go home" the Bolton support taunted us with, "Bolton`s a sh*thole, you should`ve stayed home." Being British and all, even in a dark moment I could raise a smile at that. I headed for the exit the second the final whistle sounded; I heard a lot of individual calls for the manager`s head over my shoulder on the way out. Nothing orchestrated though.

There have been plenty of easy answers and quick fixes proffered in the last 20 hours or so. From sack the manager, to overhaul the playing squad. I don`t really even think it`s a cosmetic personnel issue.. I`ve challenged talk of an overhaul a few times as to who precisely people want to sell. Always the same names, "Denilson, Almunia, Eboue." But these guys have started less than a quarter of our games this season, so they cannot be the overriding problem. I think we need to reconnect with some basics. Maybe it`s just down to confidence at the moment, but we know we can pass the ball well, it`s not deserted us. But shooting, setting up for corners, crossing; these things have let us down in recent weeks. We`re missing chances and giving soft goals away, even though in the last two games we`ve played quite well overall. But we give ourselves a better chance of winning if we keep doing the basics. It`s all a bit arse about face at the moment. Cesc and van Persie are the only two players that are looking dangerous in front of packed defences. Truth is, there are no easy answers as far as the supporters are concerned. Any issues present are more likely to be ironed out on the training ground, a place none of us ever frequent and therefore can`t really make qualified comment on. But for now, we`ve got 4 games left and we have to secure a top 3 spot. Any other diagnosis can wait until late May.LD.

53.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 20.DJOUROU, 6.KOSCIELNY, 22.CLICHY, 17.SONG (29.Chamakh `64), 19.WILSHERE (16.Ramsey `84), 4.FABREGAS(c), 14.WALCOTT (23.Arshavin `72), 8.NASRI, 10.v.PERSIE. Unused: 13.Lehmann, 18.Squillaci, 27.Eboue, 28.Gibbs.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Monday April 25 2011
Time: 2:43PM


Back to basics? Start with our defence. That's where team confidence ultimately stems from.
Wyn Mills
25/04/2011 15:20:00
I think the basics all around the team need to be reevaluated a touch. The team that played yesterday were destroying all comers in January and February, not conceding many and scoring lots. We just need to reconnect with why we were doing it then and not now.
Little Dutch
25/04/2011 15:22:00
well, when the boss says settling for second is no disaster this is exactly what u get.. but hey, yesterdays loss hurt much less than the 1-1 draw against liverpool.. and nowadays, i'm only surprised if we win.. so seeing arsenal lose or draw is becoming easier.. cheer up guys, we've only got 4 games to go to enjoy summer without football.. bcoz i guarantee you we've got deja-vu all again next season
25/04/2011 15:28:00
wasn't a dive the dopey swiss clown clearly nocked his right foot behind the other! p.s hahahaha
25/04/2011 15:32:00
Yes, hence the anguished girly scream and immediate look to the ref- everyone's natural reaction to being tripped. McGooner, he didn't say anything about "settling" for second. I suggest you read the quote again more objectively. Why are football fans so incapable of appreciating grey areas nowadays?
Little Dutch
25/04/2011 16:22:00
It was Song who lost Cahill for the first goal and Clichy, after Song allowed Cahill the run, who was outjumped not Koscielny. Djourou gets done for the second. He was slow attacking the ball for once but he'd played pretty well up until then.
25/04/2011 16:26:00
LD, the question i keep asking too is why are they conceding so much late in the game , which was not the case before CCup? If they were older/experienced guys like Gallas, Sol, would they have conceded those goals? Is Nasri worth getting paid more than RVP? Who needs to be dropped from that defence? Djourou, Kos, Clichy or Sagna? Or is it the DFM that is causing all these issues? Since Song got injured, we've not done anything exceptional in the DFM area.
25/04/2011 16:45:00
Is it possible for Spurs to catch us? They have 5games (15), we have 4 (12). I hope Mancity draws today. Then we will only need to 2 games
25/04/2011 16:47:00
I really think we need a big powerful striker who can get on the end of crosses. I was hoping Chamakh would be that player but he seems weak and lacking in confidence at the moment. Bendtner I don't think will ever be good enough. With the players we have in attack we are never going to win many balls in the air in the opposition half. Most teams defend deep and in numbers against us making it hard to get through with quick passing and through balls.
25/04/2011 17:04:00
Do we need wholesale changes? That really is hard to answer. This may seem like blasphemy (and for the record I support Wenger and do not want him to go) but do you believe Sir Rednose would have been looking up from 3rd place with this squad? I believe our squad is more talented than the United squad and I believe they are sufficient to win the title. The problem is Arsenal has possibly the greatest manager to have graced a football club, but Wenger is found wanting as a coach. I believe the philosophy of beautiful attacking football is correct. I also believe tactics are important. I believe respect and loyalty to your players is crucial. I also believe when a player isn't doing what's required a coach must act. Either they will respond and push on, or they'll show their weakness and ship out. Patting them on the back and talking about their youth has to stop. The only regular player who could use youth as an excuse this season is Jack and he has been one of the most consistent players all year. The attitude and expectation must change. Again yesterday they looked like a bunch of spoiled, highly talented punks who feel no pressure to give their all when they step on the field. I truly can't decide if Wenger is losing faith in the team or if the team is losing faith in him, but there is a serious mental problem inside the team. I truly hope he can identify it and solve it this summer.
25/04/2011 17:30:00
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