However sadly it’s pretty much irrelevant to us, as at this precise point in time we look a long way short of having what it takes to string together the sort of consistent run necessary to put ourselves in the title frame.
Having scraped into the Champions League last season, by the skin of our teeth, based on our inconsistent form to date we look far more likely to be dragged into the dogfight with the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and any of the other also-rans that aspire to chase the priceless Holy Grail of Champions League football.
Considering our “boring, boring” traditions, I would never have believed it, if you’d told me back in the dour days of George Graham that there would come a time when we’d have too much ability in the Arsenal squad. But when we are left counting on a teenage featherweight like Fabregas, with a size disadvantage that sees him bouncing off many of the bigger Bolton players, to come out for the second half at the Reebok and set an example to his team mates by putting himself about and demonstrating his boundless desire, then surely the deficiencies in this Arsenal squad are obvious for all to see.
Our annual outings to the Reebok are fast becoming an exercise in masochism and feeling utterly “cream crackered” after an exhausting week, I was sorely tempted to pull a “sickie” on Saturday. However not only would I have somehow felt personally culpable for the defeat if I wasn’t present, but after all our recent miserable results against Bolton, based on the law of averages, I couldn’t bear the possibility of missing out on a memorable victory over our bogey team.
I’m glad Le Prof plumped for Theo Walcott, as 90 minutes against Fat Sam’s side’s niggling, intimidating tactics should prove a vital part of Theo’s education.
Naturally we were all up in arms when Dean booked Davies. I didn’t know they’ve introduced an anatomical calibration, as whether it’s a shove in the chest or the head, I was under the misapprehension that if one raises one’s hands against an opponent, it’s an automatic red card.
With the home side having taken the lead, I don’t think it would’ve done us any favours if Dean had reduced them to ten, as it would’ve made for an even more frustrating encounter, with Bolton getting everyone behind the ball, while we tried to tip-toe our way through.
Perhaps previous defeats have occurred at a more significant point in the season, or perhaps we are simply becoming far too used to Bolton rubbing sand in our faces, but we weren’t nearly so depressed on the long schlep back to London, as we have been in the past.
Hopefully we’re unlikely to witness a repeat of Kolo Touré’s torrid performance, where three lapses in concentration proved so costly. He was at fault for failing to track Faye for the first. Admittedly Anelka’s strike was unstoppable, but Kolo should’ve at least attempted to close him down to try and prevent the second and the Ivorian was guilty of letting Anelka get goalside of him for the third.
Nevertheless, considering the way in which we let Bolton get the better of us in the first half, following on from Gilberto’s goal before the break, they reappeared with plenty of fire in their bellies and we took some comfort from a dominant second half performance that was only found wanting for some end product.
Arriving home after midnight and unable to endure more masochism I was tickled by the light-relief of an ironic piece in the matchday programme, entitled “Wanderers to Beat the Bullies”.
It seems the club are involved in an effort to eradicate bullying and I found myself wondering if our players might’ve seen the posters for this campaign in the bowels of the Reebok, as they headed for the dressing room at the break. !
At the end of the day, a mere few millimetres proved to be the decisive factor in this highly charged contest — Arsenal’s three efforts found the wrong side of the woodwork and Bolton’s bounced off it into the back of the net.
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