Well, it’s Tuesday afternoon here in Brisbane and I just saw the highlights from Arsenal’s weekend win over Bolton for the first time. Yes, yes, I know; for a person who blogs about Arsenal on a daily basis that’s a pretty poor effort but as I said yesterday, I’ve been rather busy over the past few days so I’d appreciate it if you could cut me some slack. Cheers in advance.
Anyway, I was absolutely blown away by the match. With prior knowledge of the final result of the game it was somewhat amusing watching the Arsenal boys go a goal down, then a man down, then another goal down before clawing their way back to the most unlikely of wins. Full credit has to go to William Gallas for calmly sidefooting home a chance that was far more difficult than it looked in the pouring rain as well as Robin van Persie for having the balls to take control of the penalty situation and get the desired result. It wasn’t the best penalty you’ll ever see but it hit the back of the net and in a game of such importance that is all that matters.
Alexandr Hleb’s involvement in the final two goals should also be noted. So often Hleb’s reluctance to shoot elicits frustration from the Arsenal supporters but it was that same reluctance that paved the way not only for van Persie’s penalty but also his buddy Cesc Fabregas’ deflected winner. Criticise his shooting phobia all you like but there’s no denying that when he’s on form Hleb remains one of the few true game-breakers in the Arsenal side.
Despite the poor start, I thought Arsene Wenger’s decision to rest Emmanuel Adebayor and start Nicklas Bendtner was the right one, as was the move to push Kolo Toure to right-back in Bacary Sagna’s absence and restore Philippe Senderos to the centre of defence. When he came on with a half-hour to go Adebayor looked far sharper than he has looked over the past four games, a good sign that the big man will be raring to go when Arsenal play Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.
As for the defence, there really wasn’t much that could be done about the first goal whilst the second was more down to Mathieu Flamini’s mistake than anything else. There is little doubt in my mind that the back five that started against Bolton is the best combination that Wenger has at his disposal given the injury to Sagna, so taking that into account I will be hoping the manager sticks with the same line-up for Wednesday night’s Champions League clash.
Silly Diaby, Liverpool trilogy beckoning
Just a quick word on Abou Diaby and his tackle; I felt a red card was the right punishment. Given the injury that Diaby sustained from being on the receiving end of a similar tackle against Sunderland a few seasons back you’d think he would be one of the last people to challenge someone like that. As such, I’m a little disappointed with the Frenchman. Indeed, there was little difference between Diaby’s challenge and the one made by Birmingham City’s Martin Taylor that broke Eduardo da Silva’s leg and the Frenchman can count himself lucky that Gretar Steinsson was not seriously injured as a result of his lunge.
Individual performances and selections aside, this game and the final result was more about the character that the team showed than anything else. In the ten or so years that I’ve supported this side I cannot remember a time when Arsenal have come back from two goals and a man down and that speaks volumes about this side. Forget the little kinks in the armour, forget the problems with the size of the squad and forget the recent disappointments; this was a performance that sent out a clear message that Arsenal have not yet given up on the title yet. As a supporter of the club, that’s all one can really ask for.
Even if Arsenal don’t win the Premiership they are still remain a decent chance to win the Champions League and as I said earlier, the first leg of their quarter-final showdown with Liverpool kicks off on Wednesday night. It should be an absolutely cracking tie and one which I feel confident of Arsenal winning. Liverpool are in pretty good form at the moment and have an excellent recent history in the competition but I think Arsenal’s win over Bolton will give Wenger’s side the confidence boost they need to play the quality of football required to break down Rafa Benitez’s side.
Wednesday night’s game is a home leg so a win should be the aim, but it is worth remembering the Milan example that not conceding can be just as important. Interestingly, the manager has agreed. I’ll have team news and a full preview tomorrow so until then, have a good one.
What do you think?
Have your say on Arsenal’s win over Bolton or the Champions League tie against Liverpool by leaving a comment.