Arsenal 1-0 Bolton; Vela Sparks Win

Match Reports/Stats

ESPNSoccernet: Bendtner at the Death

Sky Sports: Bendtner Blow Breaks Bolton

Match Video

Arsenalist

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!

Arsene in for Arshavin plus one

arsene

In his usual pre-match press conference and Arsenal TV Online interview, Arsene presented us a four course meal with the starter being the match against Plymouth last week, moving to transfers in and out, then to injuries, and for “pudding” the Bolton match tomorrow. Let’s dig in, shall we?

The Importance of the FA Cup

Arsene basically reiterated and expounded upon his statement of last week that the FA Cup is one of the major targets of the first team. Thus, as far as team selection, for Wenger the FA Cup team will be the same team that might play in any Premier League match.

This is a huge boost to players like Ramsey and Fabianski who until now have not been seen as first team players and yet featured against Plymouth on the weekend. There has been a lot of talk in the team about Fabianski pushing Almunia for his starting spot and his featuring in the FA Cup is Wenger’s signal to Almunia that his starting spot in the Premier League is not guaranteed.

Wenger also sees the FA Cup run as a way of strengthening team morale and getting our defensive confidence up. When asked about the 5 match unbeaten run in the context of possibly winning the FA Cup Wenger rightly said

We want not to talk too much now and put performances in and then I believe people will change their minds about our team. They mean business, they are serious, they work hard, and I want this team to be rewarded for that.

Agreed, Arsene, all Arsenal fans want Arsenal to be rewarded for their hard work.

The next FA Cup match will be away to Cardiff and should provide a very tough challenge. Let’s hope the squad are up for it, Wenger seems to think they are.

Arshavin in, no one out… oh and MAYBE another midfielder

I really enjoy watching the actual interviews of Arsene instead of reading about them in the press. For example, when the interviewer said “the other story this month is the transfer window” Arsene got this sly grin on his face before he answered. That’s something you don’t read about in the papers and gives us some insight into the man. Frankly, I kind of think he likes taking the piss out of the speculators, at least that’s my impression with that little smile.

Anyway, when asked point blank where Arsenal are in the Arshavin deal he responded with his normal straight faced “Just like on Saturday, don’t talk too much and deliver on the pitch… At the moment I cannot announce any good news and in this job, as well, no news is good news.” Then he cracked a big old shit-eating grin and said “[I mean] Nothing has fallen through as well!”

When asked again, point blank if Arsenal are talking to Zenit over Arshavin, Arsene said “We are tal… uhh… We are on alert on the transfer market.” And cracked another sly grin.

It’s safe to say that Arsenal are in negotiations with Zenit over the transfer of Andrei Arshavin. This doesn’t mean that it’s a done deal, but that negotiations are ongoing.

Then came the crucial moment, the thing we’re all been talking about — he’s asked “Are you in the market for a defensive midfielder” and he responded with this gem

I believe we have to go first to the priority and then to go for a  second target. At the moment, I believe that with the players coming back, and the players moving within the team since the start of the season in the defensive area (Song, Denilson) I don’t think we are in a big need. We are in the moment short because I think we planned at the start of the season to have a player like Rosicky available to play in 80% of our games. He has not played at all and I feel we need someone more in this area.

So, Arshavin is coming in because Rosicky is injured and will be expected to fight for the right wing spot with Theo and company when they all get healthy. While this might be a bit harsh for some, the reality is that with Rosicky and Theo out Arsenal have struggled to find width, which in turn puts a lot of pressure on the central midfield, allows teams to box Arsenal in, and then leaves the defense vulnerable to counters at the back when the inevitable turnover happens. I couldn’t agree with him more, since it’s exactly what I said Arsenal needed a few blogs back (pats self on head).

As for the defensive midfield position, Wenger sees that as a secondary consideration. We all will have to take solace in the fact that at least he’s considering it because when asked if he’s in the market for a keeper he flat out said “No. No.” I suspect he has a target for that spot and is keeping his cards close to his chest. If you have the scratch, put money on Wenger signing someone like Sagna who will come in and give Song and/or Djourou a real challenge for his midfield/center half starting place. Yes, I really did just say that the player could play in all those positions: Wenger always buys utility players, right?

When asked about Kolo he sighed a bit and his shoulders slumped and he responded “No, that’s finished. We will not sell any player at the moment.” So, no one is leaving which, given all the injuries in defense and everywhere else, just makes plain sense. Now, this summer will be a different story.

Injuries

Kolo and Denilson are available for tomorrow’s match but, as CaribKid pointed out in the forums yesterday, Gallas pulled a hammy in the Plymouth game and along with the thigh injury to Silvestre, both players will be out for 3 weeks. Meanwhile, Fabregas and Rosicky are not expected back until March but Walcott is expected back at the end of February. With Wenger saying that “Walcott is the quickest one to recover because he’s started to run already.”

Wenger hinted at Dudu playing against Cardiff but his recovery is going slow owing to the fact that the reserves team match was canceled this week and so he’s not getting any match competition. Wenger is going to take Eduardo slow and warns everyone off thinking we’re going to just throw him back onto the field. No less than anyone should expect.

Arsenal v. Bolton, Saturday 7am (PST)

On Bolton tomorrow, Wenger is cautious saying that the differences between teams in the league are very minimal and that as soon as you drop confidence or focus, you lose points. Of course, he doesn’t want Arsenal to suffer another setback and told us to expect this Arsenal team to come out strong and not let Bolton get any confidence.

This means scoring an early goal.

Wenger also warned about Davies, that he’s strong in the tackle, strong in the air, strong in the challenge and that we’ll need to contain him. Also with Nolan out Muamba will be left to patrol the midfield and seeing him clash with Song should be rather insightful. I always thought Muamba might make the Arsenal first team but having watched him play for Bolton I can see why he didn’t. Watch that matchup tomorrow and see how Song plays.

Wenger is also wary of Bolton new boy Johan Elmander, saying it looks like he has adapted well to the Premier League and is almost ready to settle in.

There’s a funny slip there at the end, where he’s asked about the Chelsea v. Man U match on Sunday and he talked about Arsenal needing to pick up the three points first and then this would be an opportunity for us to catch up to the “three teams” in front of us. The interviewer reminds him that there are four clubs and Arsene smiles and says “I mean four, four.”

I’m worried that it seems like he’s dismissing the Aston Villa threat outright. They are at least as much a threat to Arsenal as Tottenham was in the 2005/2006 season, so it’s dangerous to rule them out of the top four. Let’s hope that was just a one off slip.

And finally, Gary Megson had a moan in the press about how Arsene supposedly whines about Bolton’s playing style. In the interview I saw, Wenger simply stated that Bolton know how to disrupt Arsenal’s playing style and that it’s important for us to dictate the style of play or else Bolton will basically smash and grab and get away with some points. This isn’t moaning, this is a factual statement.

Nor is it moaning to point out that Bolton have the third worst disciplinary record as a squad and individually they have the top most disciplined footballer in the Premier League (Nolan, who is suspended for this match) and two other players who are in the top of the bad boys club (McCann and Steinsson). That’s not moaning, that’s making factual statements about a team that is a pack of dirty players. It would be like Arsenal saying that Bolton is moaning whenever they mention that RvP is a threat to score goals.

But my favorite moment of every Arsenal pre-match is when Bolton trot out the old “Kevin Davies is the most fouled player in the league” canard. Of course he is! He’s the most fouled player because he’s been the top fouling player in the league since, what, 1903? This is a player who commits, on average, 90 fouls a season, complaining that he receives fouls. It’s incredible to mean to hear them piss and moan about the number of fouls that Davies receives.  To give you some perspective, Arsenal’s “Bad Boys” are Denilson (45 FC) and  Song (35 FC), both of these players average less than 2 fouls per match while Davies is closer to 3 fouls per match.

All of which is beside the point. The point is that Kevin Cyrill Davies is a cunt and Bolton are objectively a dirty team. It’s not whinging to point that out, nor is it whinging to ask the refs to call the game fairly and to pay attention to the fact that Bolton are a dirty team.

ZOMG this is a long post, Tim.

Meh, it was a cool interview so I wanted to give you the meat of it. You’ll live.

Tomorrow’s match is live on Setanta, which always means a trip down to Doyle’s, so I expect to see a full house tomorrow — if not then I will disown you all.  As for the blog, unless there is something special to report I will be skipping the 7am blog and instead give you a Good, Bad, and Ugly right after the match. So, look for a post around 11am PST tomorrow — or whenever it pops into your RSS feed.

One last thing, I’ve gotten a Twitter account for 7amkickoff stuff only (updates on Arsenal football club, etc. I’ll try not to tell you about my toilet breaks) and you should subscribe to my feed, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’m trying to add the widget to this WordPress page but failing miserably so if you know how to add the widget please send me a PM (tooth.timmy.1each at that Google based email account) and help a brother out.

Right, see you tomorrow.

We gotta get out of this place

eboue2

As T-Town Alex pointed out yesterday, L’Equipe reported that Inter are interested in Eboue and the story is now trickling down to the English press. It’s like life, how much veracity you put in a report when it includes a blurb about Barcelona making a £45m “double swoop” for Cesc and RvP is how much veracity you will get out of… it. Or something.

Basically, the whole report seems like balderdash to me. Balderdash I say! I know that L’Equipe is usually reliable but why on earth would Inter want Eboue? Are they short a class clown? Anyway, it looks like someone is taking this seriously as Eboue is quoted as saying

I am happy at Arsenal. Inter are a great club as well but I don’t know what will happen. Let’s wait and see.

“Let’s wait and see?” First of all, that’s MY line, Manu, and second you’re damn right you’ll wait and see! Wait and see Inter laugh these reports off.

In the mean-time, our friends over at the Guardian have put together a little gallery of Eboue mash-ups, some are funny, some are dumb, some are pretty mean, and there’s at least one that’s as meaningful and makes about as much sense as a surrealist painting. I’ll have to wait and see what your reaction is to them.

With the Arshavin saga dragging into its second week there really isn’t any other news which is a perfect time for one of the Arsenal first team players to say something controversial to the press. This week’s lucky speaker is… Adebayor. When asked about the Gallas outburst he said

There is some truth in what he said. Someone had to say these things, to make each person face up to their responsibilities. If he had said nothing, where would we be today?

Gallas has always been like that – he has experience, he has won titles, played in a World Cup final. He doesn’t throw these thoughts around lightly. He said something because it was necessary to do it. He is indispensable to the team. He is Arsenal’s rock – his behaviour since the armband was taken off him proves that.

I don’t really want to go over the whole thing again, but on the off chance that Adebayor reads this blog: dude, what Gallas said would be perfectly fine, perfectly acceptable, and even expected from a captain but you don’t go to L’Equipe and say it! You go talk to Arsene, decide a strategy, and then have a CLOSED DOOR BITCH FEST. Got it?

He also said something about being ready for a little Totti with Roma and being excited about winning the African Balon D’Or or something. But who cares about that? He’s backing Gallas! ZOMG Controversy!

There is so very little transfer news this morning it’s not even funny, but if you are a die hard transfer junkie and just absolutely need to know what’s going on with Rangers and how some dude named Pepe swears that Christiano Ronaldo is going to come to Real Madrid and you need to know in real time, then Setanta has a web page for you! I would never have thought about liveblogging the whole transfer window that’s… that’s… that’s just crazy but hey, who am I to judge them? I’m going to get a twitter account and tweet the Andrei Arshavin updates:

7:06 am — Nothing going on, my ass hurts from sitting here

8:09 am — Arshavin agent claims Zenit want Arsenal to “Show them the Money”

9:15 am — I just ate a sandwich.

11:01 am — I made a doody, Arshavin agent claims Zenit want Arsenal to “money them the show.”

11:45 am …

Well, that’s it for today. Arsenal play notloB on Saturday and Doyle’s is carrying it live on Setanta. It’s at the Emirates and it’s the traditional 7am kickoff, so come on down, Arsenal v. notloB is always a blast. And by blast I mean “holy crap, these shiat kickers are beating us again?” and “GOD DAMNIT SOMEONE PLEASE KILL KEVIN DAVIES.”

Anyway, got to go, my daughter needs to use the computer for her blog and I need to get to work. See you tomorrow!