Archive for January 10th, 2009


Arsenal 1-0 Bolton; Vela Sparks Win

Match Reports/Stats

ESPNSoccernet: Bendtner at the Death

Sky Sports: Bendtner Blow Breaks Bolton

Match Video


The Good

Toure was handed the captain’s armband for the kickoff and I guess you could say that it paid dividends. Despite the fact that Toure looked very rusty, despite the fact that he and Almunia lacked any semblance of communication, and despite the fact that Diaby was a joke as the “holding” midfielder, the defense under Toure kept a clean sheet.

In all honesty though, a lot of credit for the clean sheet must go to Djourou who won a metric ton of headers — all of them brave winners as well, what with Kevin Davies’ elbows threatening to rupture everyone’s skull.

On the other end of the pitch Arsenal looked predictable, passing the ball sideways and across the midfield as Bolton sat back and comfortably dispossessed Diaby as soon as the ball came to him. This continued even after the break when Wenger moved Diaby wide and put Nasri in the middle.

It wasn’t until Wenger brought on Vela that the team looked like they were ready to score a goal. Vela shimmered and gave us glimpses of the type of player he will be in a few years (if not THIS year!). His energy, width and most importantly ability to get to the end line was crucial in stretching the Bolton defense just enough for van Persie to get a shot off that hit the post and eventually, for RvP to put in the cross that Bendtner poked home. All the match reports will headline Bendtner’s goal but really it was Vela who opened the game up. He was outstanding.

The Bad

Diaby had a nightmare game — it was the textbook definition of how not to play in central midfield. Maybe he is confused, maybe Arsene’s system (where pretty much everyone plays everywhere) is difficult for him to understand, I don’t know, but he certainly didn’t look like he knew what he was doing. Now, typically I’ll forgive a player for making mental errors and I’m the first to defend a player for making physical errors but Diaby made the cardinal and unforgivable sin of seeming not to give two fucks.

His performance was shocking and incredible. I can’t believe that this Arsenal team, famous for our heart and fight has a player in midfield who can’t seem to be arsed to win the ball back when he makes a mistake. I can forgive the ponderous dribbling, the poor passes, and the fact that he didn’t seem to know where he was supposed to be on the pitch but I can’t forgive him receiving the ball, and casually dribbling the ball across the pitch while McCann bears down on him. He didn’t just do this once, it was constant.

Let’s hope that Wenger moving him to the wing and eventually taking him off lights a fire under his ass because Arsenal really need all of our midfielders to play at or above their level now with Cesc injured.

The Ugly

I'm a coont, I'm a cooont, suck my diiiiiick, I'm a cooont!

Honestly, I can’t blame Kevin Davies. The referee lets him get away with his dirty play, so it’s not really cheating is it?

Davies had a typical performance, which is to say that he had more fouls than touches. He sent the message early on when he slapped Clichy in the face while “going for the ball.” Everyone in the world knew that Davies wasn’t going for the ball but instead was trying to soften up his marker, you know a few slaps to the face and maybe Clichy won’t go for the ball as strong the next time. The ref though, felt like a nice chat and a cup of tea would set Davies straight.

It didn’t. A few minutes later he came in late on a “challenge” against Denilson and just stepped on Denilson’s foot. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was a professional foul pure and simple and was almost certainly a yellow card. But again, it was the referee who let him go about doing this stuff.

Chris Foy “warned” Davies no less than three times and gave him the “final warning” at least twice. Yet Davies received no yellow card, even after he made a “clumsy” tackle on Vela after his second “final warning.” Incredible stuff, especially in light of the two harsh yellow cards that Arsenal players received.

This was the kind of game that makes supporters wish there was a way for a club to appeal for retroactive yellow cards. I’m sure if any ref saw what Davies was doing on video tape they would award at least one yellow.

Final Thoughts

Yes, Arsenal won. 1-0 in fact, which I have been asking for. But this Arsenal team is suffering from a couple of problems: lack of creativity and width and lacking the ability to play more than one style.

The first can be and may be solved in the transfer market. Andrei Arshavin would almost certainly provide both width and creativity and his ability to get to the end line alone would be a boon to this club.

But the other problem is actually more vexing and I’m not sure can be overcome by dipping in to the market. For years now we’ve heard that Arsenal play “the beautiful game” and we’ve heard people drool over their ball movement and intricate play. The problem is that intricate play isn’t beautiful unless something comes of it; goals. In fact, intricate play is boring and frustrating if it doesn’t lead to goals.

So, I’ll be the first to say it: this Arsenal team was boring and predictable for 65 minutes. In fact, almost all of their matches are boring and predictable now: teams come in, sit back, invite the attack and counter when we cough it up.  Arsenal move the ball left and right and maybe get a shot or two that don’t really bother the keeper.

The league table reflects this predictability, and worse, the stands reflect it as well. Arsenal announced 60,000 fans in attendance but there were a lot of empty seats (attendance numbers are actually sales numbers, not the number of times the turnstyle is turned).

Wenger needs to adress this problem by introducing some variation to the Arsenal playing style or risk losing both trophies and fan support. The odds are much better that Arsene will buy Arshavin for £20m than change his playing style so I think we’re in for a season of matches like the one today.

Anyway, big match tomorrow as Man U take on Chelsea. Liverpool dropped points today away to giant killers Stoke City so the match tomorrow is huge for United. A win by either United or Chelsea makes the battle at the top of the table more interesting but I can’t root for that. What I’m hoping for is a draw to keep Arsenal as close to the top four as possible. If an outbreak of dysentery struck both teams and the game was called at half time with a 1-1 draw, that would be a bonus.

See you tomorrow!

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