Bolton came to ‘park the bus’. Not sure if Owen Coyle reads CBP but his formation had two solid central defenders and two solid central midfielders – see my previous post about AW’s success with this base formation. What Bolton lacked was the much needed complementary flair in other areas. Chris Eagles, who looked tricky when playing for Burnley, was disappointing in the extreme. Ngog kept on getting his head to the player rather than the ball and after the second or third clash was replaced by Davies whose only real impact was a stray arm that caught Kieran Gibbs. Kevin’s main contribution was to back into the defender when challenging for high balls. He’s now too slow to get close enough to engage in dubious challenges on the ground.
Having said the above, it was Bolton who nearly took the lead early on. The ball was played back into the box, Gibbs dithered and didn’t attack the ball. A Bolton player got there first and Szczesny pulled off a good save to defend the goal.
The overall tempo from Arsenal was, all too typically, slow in the first half. Sir John, who sits next to me, said Sagna was our best player with some good runs down the right – he was correct though Theo, swapping to the left flank, did have one good run inside which resulted in a powerful shot just over the bar. In the first half, he looked more dangerous on the left. Cutting in, like he did, he can use his pace to create space for the shot without actually having to go past his man. On the right, he needs to get down the outside and he doesn’t have the skill to dribble past the opponent. Contrast this with the second half, when as the game opened up, the Arsenal midfield were able to slot balls between the full-back and central defender for Theo to run onto.
Arsenal started the 2nd half well and the early goal meant, as mentioned above, that the game opened up, the more so after Wheater’s dismissal for hauling back Theo. Arsenal played at a higher tempo and exploited Theo’s pace by providing through balls for him to run onto. He looks a different player when his talent is exploited though there is still, perhaps, a lack of confidence as shown when he had time but failed to convert a 1-on-1 with Jaaskelainen.
‘I’m Juskerlineman for the county’ made some good saves as Arsenal increasingly attacked. Two further goals were the reward for a better 2nd half performance – great cut-back from Theo to RvP and a superb curling effort from Song who showed great composure. A comfortable win in the end against a somewhat disappointing Bolton side who offered very little. I thought Coyle was supposed to be a footballing man – in the past, someone even he suggested to me that he was a FAM (Future Arsenal Manager).
Finally, I’m in a cause and effect conundrum. Was the better 2nd performance due to Arsenal imposing themselves on the game with a higher tempo or did they get fortunate with the early goal and Wheater’s dismissal? Time will tell.