Ah, wasn’t yesterday just beautiful? It’s been a long time since we’ve scored 3 goals in a match (Blackburn doesn’t count, even though we scored 4, because uh, 2 were in the wrong net! ;)), and actually managed to win! Pause for a second and remember how you felt at full-time… … Amazing feeling, right?
Anyways, on to what actually happened. The line-up for the match was almost as Dev predicted, with Gibbs coming in for Santos:
Sagna – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Gibbs
Ramsey – Song
Walcott – Arteta – Gervinho
With Bolton struggling in the league, even worse than us, the 3 points were very important for both teams. Before the match, I was feeling umm, inspired, and thought I’d watch a player throughout, since I was at the game. I’m not the most tactically aware person ever, and I’ve always wondered whether I watch matches “properly”, if you know what I mean. When I’m watching on tv or at the Ems, I just tend to follow the ball. But I’ve always wondered that maybe, just maybe, it might be worth looking else sometimes.? So just before kick-off, I decided to focus on Mertesacker, but it turned out to be a Mertesacker/Koscielny watch. But more about that later on.
So with a relatively strong team on, it was imperative to win, especially against a Bolton side who’d lost 4 games in a row. But unsurprisingly, we started a bit nervy, with Bolton having the first effort on target, drawing a smart safe from from Szczesny from a free-kick routine. The next chance was ours, Gervinho sent clear by Arteta, but he took too heavy a touch, and the Bolton ‘keeper was able to smother it.
There were a few chances in the first half for us, Robin van Persie seeming to be on a mission to get his 99th and 100th Arsenal goals. His first chance was from a free-kick, and instead of the usual blast-it-into-the-wall we’ve seen of late, Arteta touched it to Robin, who curled a sumptuous effort just wide! Jaaskelainen was nowhere near it! Theo set him up for another, but a Bolton player was there to block. But we weren’t able to take any, Bolton defending resolutely. I wouldn’t say the match was on a knife-edge at this point, because Bolton hadn’t really threatened, but we were all acutely aware of the fact that all it’d take would be one little mistake, and Bolton could easily score and take the lead, a la Yakubu’s goal last week and we’d be up against it, so no one was breathing easy.
But any nerves were certainly put to bed as soon as the second half started, Captain Robin doing the business! 35 seconds in! Gervinho had been fouled in the build-up, but the ref played a brilliant advantage! Ramsey picked up the ball, found Robin on the edge of the box, who found his way into it (right side), and although he didn’t have much of an angle to work with, he was able to squeeze the ball past the ‘keeper at his near post. 1-0 Arsenal, 99 goals Robin, relief in the air! Great finish!
With Robin gunning for no. 100 (see what I did there?), the chances came, mostly for him. Quick first-time passes from Ramsey to Walcott, to Robin, almost to the back of the net, but Jaaskelainen was there. He was certainly a busy man! A chance did come for Walcott, after the excellent Ramsey sent him through, but David Wheater (who seemed to be everywhere!) was there to bring him down! On first watch, it seemed Theo had simply slipped, but he had actually been brought down by Wheater, and as he was the last man denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity, the ref had to show him a red card. I’ve never heard a louder cheer for a red than yesterday! It wasn’t hostile, though, but I guess from where I was sitting (which was at the opposite end), we definitely weren’t expecting it.
Bolton down to 10, and if there were any nerves remaining, pretty sure they evaporated at that point. Bolton really weren’t a threat with 11 men, and they definitely weren’t going to be a bigger threat. They only had one real chance the whole of the first half! But 1-0, as they say, is never a safe score. Especially with us!
Arteta could have made it 2-0 shortly after the red card, but his well-taken was just wide. He’d been set up by an under-pressure Robin, went for placement, but placed it wide. I mentioned that Bolton only had one chance in the first half. Again, only one chance in the second half, and it was a good one! We were caught on the counter, and Chris Eagles was clear, with Gibbs trying to catch up and make the tackle. He really should have with only Szczesny to beat, but he wasn’t the greatest of efforts, thank God, and Szczesny saved. Straight away, we then had the chance to score, Gervinho finding Robin, this time on the left, but his curling effort was just wide. More chances, Song this time finding Theo on the right, who lofted a nice ball over for Robin to head, but Jaaskelainen was there to deny him. Relentless, but still only 1-0.
Another chance again, this time from a corner, and from the unlikeliest of sources, Koscielny trying his luck from outside the box, Jaaskelainen palming it away! I tried counting the number of saves Jaaskelainen had, when the highlights were being showed post-match at the Emirates, but I lost count at 8!
But finally finally, we scored the 2nd to but the game to bed, and it was a beaut! Robin’s 100th goal! Theo provided the assist, crossing a low ball towards Robin in the box, and with his standing leg, he somehow managed to flick it in. Genius! And what a way to get your 100th goal! An amazing landmark for an amazing servant of the club. Here’s hoping he gets another 100! (Stay fit Robin, please.)
Back to the match, and Theo really should have made it 3-0 when he found himself in acres of space, with only the ‘keeper to beat! but he took it took early, and Jaaskelainen saved. All together now: “Unlucky Theo”! Wanted him to get a goal badly, and that was the chance! Shame.
We finally made our first substitution, about 75 or so minutes in, Gervinho off, Arshavin on, and the second wasn’t far off, Arteta off, Rosicky on. Good to see him back playing. Theo got another chance to score, Robin setting him up, but his effort was well wide. Was hoping Robin would get his hat-trick, but he came off shortly after, to a well-deserved standing ovation, Chamakh coming on in his place. Only about 10 or so minutes left at the stage. Really wanted a third though, because we definitely did.
And it eventually came! From our part-time striker, Alex Song! Rosicky found Ramsey on the edge of the box, who in turn found Sagna on the right. Song was calling for the ball on the edge of the box, and Sagna duly found him. He took a touch, turned ever so slightly, and even though he was off-balance, he curled a sumptuous effort into the top right corner with his right foot! Sweet goal! Jaaskelainen wasn’t stopping that in a million years! 3 beautiful goals, and a very delighted Emirates faithful at full-time. A clean sheet to boot! What more could you ask for? Good display by the boys, and hopefully that’s the start of the turn-around.
Oh yes, I did say I did some Mertesacker/Koscielny watching, didn’t I? I made a few observations, things I’ve never noticed before, but for I know, you might already be aware of them. Just that I’d share, anyway. It’s actually a very good partnership, and I wonder who will have to drop to the bench when Vermaelen is back to full fitness.
I noticed that Mertesacker tends to spend more time on the ball. When Szczesny decides to pass the ball forward, he more often than not goes through Per, as opposed to Kos. Then Per takes the ball forward, mostly to the halfway line, then either finds a midfielder or Sagna, or sometimes even further. Kos did that maybe once or twice, but it seems it’s Per’s job to link up play with the midfield. He was sometimes caught out of position as a result, but someone tended to drop in to cover him.
Also, I noticed that Kos tends to stick to the left hand side/corner of the pitch. It’s almost like a defensive holding role, if that makes sense. Per moves about more often out of the two, with Kos more likely to stay back. He does take the initiative sometimes and goes forward, apart from the usual times when there’s a corner.
Another thing I noticed is that as Bolton were playing with just one upfront, it tended to be Kos marking the striker. Maybe that was just a Bolton thing, given how tall Per is, but Koscielny had a man on him all the time, with Per generally free, which is probably why he was able to move about in defence.
When it comes to actual defending, Kos is more likely to go for the tackle, He’s more comfortable tackling, Per heading. Not surprising!
I wish I had more observations for you, but that is all! It seems a good partnership, although Bolton hardly ever threatened. Maybe when next I get to watch both of them live, they have more work to do defensively, and we can see how good the partnership is!
Next up in the league, Spurs away. What are the odds we keep a clean sheet? Also, we’ve got Bolton again in the Carling Cup. I had a brief chat with Dev post game, and thinking about it now, I think I agree with him that our youngsters might just have enough to handle them. It’ll be tight, but we’ll be at the Emirates, so that might just be the edge we’ll need. Guess we’ll see.
Long way to go before that though, with Olympiacos up next on Wednesday. We’ve won two games in a row now, 2 different competitions, and hopefully we’ll make it 3 in 3 in 3 competitions! The signs are good. Come on Arsenal!