Private Hell

Bolton Wanderers 3 – 1 Arsenal

1 – 0 Faye (8)
2 – 0 Anelka (45)
2 – 1 Gilberto (45)
3 – 1 Anelka (76)

Should I bemoan the result and put it down to bad luck? Poor finishing? There are so many aspects where one could deflect blame away from the team and look for excuses for another defeat on the road; one incidentally that has to put stop to the talk of a title challenge. However, the optimism imbued by Old Trafford and the subsequent run has dissappated on the back of another defeat on the teams travels. Fingers will no doubt be pointed at Kevin Davies remaining on the pitch; even Mike Dean’s lenient application of the directive regarding a shove in the chest cannot be blamed for this defeat.

It was a frustrating match. For long periods of the second half, Arsenal dominated but the absence of Henry and van Persie was a bridge too far; the difference between the two teams was a goalscorer. The immutable law of the ex proved just that. Anelka’s cracking strike from the edge of the area and a goal reminiscent of so many that he scored in the red of Arsenal undid his former paymasters. And yet it could have been so different had the woodwork not denied Ljungberg early in the second half with the score still 2 – 1 in the hosts favour. Had that gone in, there would have been but one winner and it was not the hosts. A case of ifs, buts and maybes.

Yet it could have been so different had the defence not fallen asleep in the first ten minutes. Similar to Gallas’ goal against Liverpool, in that Faye was allowed to run a fair distance without being properly picked up, his powerful header put Arsenal on the back foot, sending Arsene’s game plan out of the window. It must be driving him to the brink of despair that the lessons learnt on the training ground are not being transferred to the pitch. For a defender brought up in the Arsenal way, Pat Rice must believe he is in one of Dante’s Seven Circles of Hell. There is someting fundamentally wrong with the defensive setup that the team concede the first goal in an alarmingly high percentage of their matches. This immediately puts them on the back foot, chasing a game when they should be building the win.

To have pulled one back so soon after conceding the second, Gilberto’s goal gave the team hope, his free header proving that defensive lapses are not the sole preserve of The Gunners. Ljungberg nearly sent the team into the interval on level terms. A frantic end to what had been a first half controlled by the hosts; Bolton dominated the opening exchanges, Arsenal fought back towards the end but by then there was a one goal deficit. Creating chances is good but if you do not take them then you will find problems. If the first forty five minutes were against them, Arsenal came out of the blocks for the second. Within ten minutes of the restart, Jaaskeleinen’s goalframe was reverberating to the sound of Ljungbergs header thudding against it.

It is not as if the team capitulated in the manner of previous visits to the North West; they worked hard. I surprised at Hleb’s ommission before the game but Walcott provided good service from the flanks, a bright spot on an otherwise average afternoon. Defensively, we were just not at the races for the majority of the game. Had it not been for another good goalkeeping display by Lehmann then the Bolton could have been two or three more. Even the usually reliable Kolo Toure suffered although that I suspect was more a symptom of the general performance than anything else. Freddie Ljungberg was the only other player to come out of the game with credit, his workrate was high and he gave glimpses of the form of yesteryear. You may feel it harsh but the misses by Adebayour suggest he is more likely to follow the path trodden by Kanu than become the legend his talent deserves. He was unlucky when he hit the post but his finishing needs to be more decisive; one suggestion would be to work on developing his left foot to stop being forced to shoot with the outside of his boot, irrespective of how good he may be able to control his shots. The midfield was generally limp, lacking a driving force to keep the pressure on their opposite numbers in the first half. Flamini worked hard with little end product whilst Gilberto played his normal game, marshalling troops but not giving sufficient protection to the back four on this occasion.

Fulham on Wednesday has proved a previously happy hunting ground but given their recent form, they are another team who will raise their game to face Arsenal and the way the past season or so has gone what once was a near racing certainty for three points, seems no longer so clear cut.

22 thoughts on “Private Hell

  1. man, i must have read over one hundred people’s comments on the game and nobody i rpeat nobody gave ljunberg any credit infact everone without exception until your good self said he was crap with ven more colorful adjectives then that,otherwise good article.

  2. While most of your blog today was accurate, as is usually the case, i don’t see how you thought Ljungberg played well. He was crap! ok so he did a fair bit of running, but is that something to be applauded for these days when ur payed in excess of 50K per week.
    He lost the ball continuously, he could never beat his man, though he could be forgiven as he was going against the defensive collusus that is nicky hunt in the first half and a converted right back in the second. He did not put his foot in, after insinuating that it was the youngsters who let us down last year. Crap Freddie, Pure crap.

    As for his chance from theo’s cross, he completly missed that header. Watch it again, he closed his eyes or took them off the ball because that was a complete miscue and not a well directed but unfortunate header. had that been baptista i think we would have been level.

    Thats not to say he was the only culprit, almost everybody played well below the level we expect from them, bar a few like big phil, gilberto, and theo, the rest were a long way off.

  3. He got credit for working hard, making runs into good positions. The downside was not many if any passes reached him. In any case, getting credit from yesterday means he was average. Too many of the others were below par.

  4. I agree with most of what you have written but I thought Freddie was awful in both his performance and mental approach to Bolton’s challenges.

    This game was the acid test of the nerve of this team. I expected them to be up for it & I think they were but 1st half syndrome struck again. We were like a deer in the headlights for the 1st goal. Bolton played their normal game but they wern’t over physical but we were looking for it, which is a sign of weakness.

    Why don’t we stick someone in front of their goalkeeper?

    I still believe in this side & we were v good in the 2nd half without a lot of luck.

    Disappointed in Flamini, who has not developed enough physical strength to be really be effective either as a defender or attacker.

  5. Flint, I’m beginning to think that I’m in a minority of one. I was yesterday defending Ljungberg during the game. I may have to punish myself and rewatch if I am that wrong.

    I have not lost faith in the team nor in AW but am incredibly frustrated by the underachievement this season. I said at the start that I didn’t think that they would win the league, but a top three finish with a tangible improvement on last season yet so the “Horrible November” is starting rear its ugly head again and the weaknesses from last term more cruelly exposed this time because of the relatively poor home form. If just two of the drawn games had been turned to wins then the picture would be considerably brighter. But they weren’t and it has not got any clearer rather like the thunderstorm outside…

  6. The defeat is not unexpected. The problem is many teams have found out how the gunners play based on pace and with Tit i drifting to the left.
    Arsenal must somehow re discover their form. A team that can beat MU cannot suddenly become poor overnight.

  7. We need a big bastard in midfield with a bit of ball skill and a half decent striker…….and ohh wingers too.

  8. In any kind of team sports, consistent performance is based on a balanced blend of experienced/senior members and inexperienced/new members. For the time being in Arsenal, no matter how you define, few players belong to the former and many of them belong to the latter. In other words, the current Arsenal is bound to be quite erratic. Since it is Wenger’s policy of nurturing the youth rather than buying established players, Arsenal supporters have to be even more patient than before.
    Of course, the recent performance of certain players can drive us crazy sometimes.

  9. Whenever Flamini plays I expect to be beaten. He would look out of his depth at Bristol Rovers……thats how bad he is. I wonder whether he has compromising photos of Arsene – as I cant imagine any other reason he is in this team. Until Wenger starts losing some of his faith in these small wimpy midfielders we will keep losing ground on Manure and Chumpsea. Every year he says he has faith in the squad before a Bolton game and every time we get smacked by them. I doubt we have even had a win against them since Patrick left……….he used to beat these punks up. My how a sorry looking Vieira in his final season with us looks like glory days compared to this. And Adebayor…….hes about 7 feet tall yet gets comprehensively beaten to every contested header by players 12 inches shorter than he. We must spend – faith is not enough anymore – there is no doubt now. If Wenger cant see that soon, I think there is no more he can do for us……..I would like to see someone like Roy Keane instill some GUTS into this bunch of pushovers we call a side. Someone who they will fear and respect enough to stop playing like a bunch of girls, and someone who knows what it takes to be the best.

  10. They had some guts in the 2nd half. We didn’t fare much better there when Paddy was playing.

    I would expect Ralph & Diaby to add a bit more steel in the New Year.

    It is a young team & V4 you are one of those expecting too much too soon. In any case who would you buy?

    It takes time to replace greats like PV4, DB & Bob etc.

  11. Considerring the fact that we were already without Gallas, Rosicky, Van Persie and Henry to not start with Hleb only further depleted us and meant that the side bared more resemblance to the one that played Everton in the Carling Cup recently…Hleb and fabregas have been our most consistently creative players this season and seemed to have forged a wonderful understanding together..if we wanted to start with Walcott we could have played Hleb in the position Rosicky has been playing in this season as a central attacker next to Fabregas and would surely have outclassed them in the middle as we did at Old Trafford…we also never seem to get the decisions and good fortune that often determine the outcome of games as Chelsea so often do…

  12. I thought the performance was much better than last year. After starting the first half really badly and conceding a goal from a corner (which was almost unforgiveable) I thought we dominated the game. Bolton had one or two purple patches but really Nicolas Anleka’s two strikes made the difference. The first was excellent and the second would normally have been given offside. Sam Allardyce had it right, they were saved by the woodwork (3 times), and frankly a bad miss by Adebayor in the first. Not many sides could go to Bolton after losing players of the quality of Henry, Van Persie, Rosicky and Gallas, and play so well. We are having some bloody rotten luck at the moment.

    On a different note the sooner the TV channels provide the option of watching the game without commentary (I know we can turn the sound off but then you can’t here the excellent Arsenal support ringing out above the Bolton supporters efforts) the better. Brian Marwood just whinged and whined his way through the entire match, when not trading utter fucking inanities with the other prat who obviously feels that we wish to be entertained by his drivel.

  13. I seem to agree with Viera4, on this occassion, I’ll have to say that Bolton won the game fair and square. for all our complaints about physicallity and all, even so, Walrus-face already said to the whole world that this was his agme plan and AW should have prepared for that, but he didn’t. Why must our strikers always aim for the post? Why must they fall over or retract from every challenge like sissies? This is football – a contact sport, not a ballerina display. The sooner AW starts to adjust to this fact and adapt his strategy to suit, the better. We’re starting to sound like a broken record with all our over-analysis and excuses regarding our losses. In the final analysis, football is about scoring more goals than your opponent, not out-passing them. I can only hope that this will serve as a wake up call to AW and his team of coaches.

  14. Absolutely right Frank.

    Hleb took a few whacks against Hamburg, which was probably why he didn’t start. We have all these opinions without knowing much of the circumstances.

    The big plus from the game was Theo, who was put in to use his pace, which he did on several occasions,to v good effect.

    I agree we do need some more physical strength in midfield. Kolo is really the only one who has that “up & at ’em” approach.

    However in virtually all the matches this season we have had the majority of possession, often by a hugh margin- so someone must be winning the ball.

    This team is so close – a vital element is missing & that is so frustrating.

  15. Flint,

    I think the missing ingredients are a little bit of confidence in front of their goal and a little bit of concentration in front our own goal. I think there is a winning habit as well, and we just need a run of two or three good wins. People say we lack the physical presence or the prowess to finish sides off, but the possession and number of attempts would indicate that neither is the case. People also say that we now cannot win the league…well maybe we can maybe we can’t but it has never been possible to predict league positions in November no matter how pessimistic the outlook.

    We need to get behind this team, they need our support.

  16. If We wanted 2 rest Hleb surely the gme against Fulham when Rosicky, Henry and Van Persie return would have been the gme 2 do it…what we really need is defensive continuity so we can atleast attempt to forge some kind understanding at the back but like last year this just hasn’t happened…never before has the balance between defeat or draw and victory been so minimal and thus the balance between underachievment and greatness

  17. Freddie played well on wednesday, maybe two games in a week was too many for him, I think Flamini is too limit6ed at this level, he was poor against Hamburg. No-one mentions Davies blatant block on Lehmann giving him no hope of claiming the cross before it got to Faye.

  18. Vivb, the tv replays show that it was Fabregas who actually got into Lehmann’s way – Davies merely stood his ground, the naivete of youth.
    I have to say that having rewatched the match, I was generous re Freddie. Perhaps to many Guiness when watching. OK so I was w…., wr…, wro… – hell I just can’t say it!

  19. After watching the Manure VS Chelsea game – you know what we miss – Some plain old British style guts. Did you see the way Scholes, Terry, Carrick, Rooney etc were throwing themselves around? Thats what we need. That is why Man Utd thrashed Bolton at the reebok 4-0, and thats why Chelsea will also teach them a lesson this coming wednesday. We have small guys with no weight to throw around. Frank you mention we missed a lot of players and that makes it hard for a team to go to Bolton and get a result. Wigan do not have those players anyway yet they went to the Reebok and kept a clean sheet and won 1-0 away from home. If they can do it, why can’t we? There really is something wrong with this team. I am seriously fearing defeat in Oporto next week now…..

  20. you don’t have 2 be British 2 have guts and I think if United went there without any first choice strikers, their first choice centre back and without playing either first choice wide players they wouldn’t have had a team 2 field let alone win…think 2days gme showed how poor both sides are and only heightened the frustration of us not being able 2 put a run together…Wigan may have won there but then again they also got thrashed by the spuds

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