Bolton Wanderers (0) 1 - 0 (0) Arsenal|
Reebok Stadium, Saturday 28th January 2006
FA Cup 4th round
Gilbert Campbell Djourou Senderos
Ljungberg Flamini Diaby Hleb
van Persie Reyes
Another disappointing cup exit, going out to another
soft (though well-taken) goal from an attack that the
defence really should have dealt with better. What annoys
me a bit is still the last one... if we'd let more of the
youngsters try to continue their run in the League Cup,
Wigan last Tuesday, not only might we have had just as good a chance
of winning that one, but we also wouldn't have lost the likes of
Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, and Gilberto for this one.
As for this one: we played well. Bolton is always a tricky trip
under big Sam and we'd rightly have been happy to take the draw
which it looked like we'd earned.
Wenger found another solution to the left-back problem, fielding
Philippe Senderos there with Johan Djourou coming in to
partner Sol Campbell. Campbell had a decent game too, right up
till the error which let Giannakopoulos sneak in for the late
winner. We played an attacking 4-5-1, trying to counter Bolton's
midfield harrying but with Jose Reyes and Freddie Ljungberg
able to join the lone striker Robin van Persie.
Arsenal made a good start, forcing a few corners. But the only
chance fell to Abou Diaby who got right under the shot and
sent it way over the bar. Bolton soon got into their stride though,
a lot of the danger coming from crosses, in particular from
Ivan Campo. His free kick from their right wing curled into the
danger area where it hit Djourou in the 6 yard box and deflected
goalwards only to be blocked by Almunia - the keeper not really
knowing anything about it. Soon after he had to make another stop, deliberate
this time, from Borgetti's header.
Bolton threw in a lot of crosses but our defence dealt with them well,
and the only proper chance they had for the rest of the first half was
a Gardner shot from the edge of the box that Almunia chased towards
his right hand post only to see it travel a yard wide.
With mush of the action going on where both sides had packed the field
in the centre, there were few chances up the other end too. Diaby had
a shot deflected wide, and then near the end of the half Reyes hacked
a shot over the bar from just inside the box after a neat move down the right.
He had plenty of space and really should have done better: if there
was a "bobble" it wasn't really evident on the replays.
In the second half Campo had to go off injured and striker Vaz Te
came on. He collected Gardner's excellent cross-field ball and got past Senderos,
only to scuff his shot across the 6 yard box and narrowly wide of
the far post.
On 63 minutes van Persie got a head to Freddie's cross and Jaaskelainen misjudged
it, thinking it was safe, only to see the dipping header bounce off the top of
the bar. Straight after that Robin had a shot into the side-netting
with the keeper almost certainly beat.
Arsenal were dominating more and more as the second half went on.
Van Persie held the ball for Ljungberg to join him, and Freddie's
25 yard shot was dipping under the bar when Jaaskelainen got up
to save well, tipping it over. From the corner the ball fell to Senderos
whose shot was blocked, then fell to Campbell whose shot clipped
the top of the bar.
Bolton sub Matt Jansen had a shot blocked in the 6 yard box but
it looked like only Arsenal could win the game. Except to anyone
who's seen us lose just this sort of game so many times before.
With 6 minutes to go, Kevin Davies found Gardner whose low cross
found Campbell out of position and Stelios coming in for a diving
header at the far post, which gave Almunia no chance.
Diaby, Djourou, and Gilbert are all still looking very promising.
I can't wait to see how Diaby and Cesc Fabregas works as a partnership.
But it might be a while before we get to see that: there aren't any
more games left in this season, where Wenger can afford to field
anything but the best XI he's got available. A strong showing
against West Ham on Wednesday is vital.
The good news, if we can call it that, is that the team will
now have a full week off between the visit to Liverpool on
14th Feb and the Champs League re-start in Madrid on the 21st.
Two massive games. With only one away game before that, at
Birmingham, we can only trust that we'll be going into
that week on a high. Wenger's team selections are going to be
very interesting. Diaby seems to have found a place already,
even if he'll be benched once Gilberto and Cesc are available.
What of Walcott and Adebayor? We're all looking forward to
seeing them play of course, but are they ready? And will they
be played even if they are? After Henry, van Persie has surely been
our biggest goal threat this season, and he's been under-used.
If Bergkamp and Pires aren't going to be with us next season,
could now be the time to stop using them? It's not like they're
scoring lots of goals at the moment.
Wenger has said that we were unlucky, and there's some truth in that because the performance was much better than in many of
the dreadful away games we've played this season. But at the
end of the day, it's the team's responsibility to capitalise on
periods of dominance, to score the goals that take such luck out of the equation. It's fair enough to speak of bad luck in such a way as to encourage the team to keep at it, but not in such a
way as to make them unclear about their responsibilities.
We're not shipping goals wholesale, it's just been the occasional soft goal that's let us down in recent weeks. And with the attacking players we've got, the odd soft goal shouldn't be
causing us to lose to the likes of (no offence) Bolton, Everton, and Wigan.