Bolton 1-0 Arsenal


Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Arsenal

Stelios Giannakopolous - 41'

The Gunners: Manuel Almunia -- Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Kolo Abib Toure, Justin Hoyte -- Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Francesc Fabregas Soler (Jose Antonio Reyes 66), Fredrik Ljungberg -- Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie (Dennis Bergkamp 66)

The Trotters: Jussi Jaaskelainen -- Nicky Hunt, Bruno N'Gotty, Tal Ben Haim, Ricardo Gardner -- Ivan Campo -- Kevin Nolan (Fernando Hierro 87), Gary Speed, Jay Jay Okocha (Henrik Pedersen 79), Stelios Giannakopolous -- El-Hadji Diouf

There wasn't really a whole lot in it when it comes to this game, which is fine with me. In a match where it never quite dawned on the Arsenal that more effort and fighting spirit was needed, I can't quite get myself up to write my usual dissertation about today's match. Sorry, won't do it.

Essentially, Bolton used the same strategy that everyone else does against us...flood the midfield play a little rope-a-dope until an opening presents itself. However, they ended up winning the match in an odd fashion. While everyone else who beats us or steals a draw does so by capitalizing on a mistake, Bolton were presented with three or four instances where they really should have scored. But, after throwing all those away, they got their winner on a wonderful bit of teamwork and skill from Diouf and Stelios.

Everyone on the planet is going to want to string Almunia up for his constant poor handling today, and in most respects I wouldn't be able to blame them. But, sometime in the first half, a backpass by Arsenal was all left alone by three defenders, each of whom thought the other was getting it. Whoops. Diouf ended up getting it, and he would have scored if it wasn't for Almunia cutting off the angle wonderfully. He forced Diouf to go wider than he wanted to, and ended up making him miss. Unfortunately for us, Stelios didn't miss on a point-blank header after a truly magnificent run and cross from Diouf.

Normally, Arsenal gets angry when someone breaches our defense...almost like Hulk Hogan used to do in the end of his matches circa 1985 or so. On this occasion, they huffed and puffed and...well...accomplished fuck all, really. A few chances were created, but Jaaskelainen was mostly up to the challenge. Interestingly, he had a bit of a nightmare handling the ball as well...the piss-and-moan Gooner brigade won't mention this, of course, but the field had a LOT to do with it, I believe. To borrow a phrase from the late, great @FC Online Fanzine, the pitch "looked like an allotment after a rave." I've seen better pitches from tiny CONCACAF nations that the USA has to qualify for the World Cup against. When Barbados and Guatemala take care of their fields better than you do, that's just sad.

And, I know this is going to sound a little like sour grapes, but are there a bigger bunch of fucking whingers in the league? Seriously? Every fucking twenty seconds, some douche in a white shirt was waving his arm about over some imagined slight. Diouf in particular should have been yellow-carded about 10 times over.

Now, this is a downer, don't get me wrong. But, almost every season, someone gets handed the title 20-25 matches into the season...and, it doesn't always work out the way the idiot media says it will, now does it? I mean, when Newcastle won the title a few years back...oh...wait...they blew that one, didn't they? I also remember fondly Manchester United's championship in 1997-98...oh...wait...we won that one in the end, right? Anyone who thinks Chelsea is going to stroll the rest of the way is an idiot who shouldn't be let outside without an intelligent handler. They've still got Everton away (though Gravesen leaving them may make that an easier game), Manchester United away, us at home, Bolton away (not an easy game for anyone), and a game at home against Charlton. Shame that the Addicks are their next-to-last opponents of the season...at their current form, Athletic could really give them a game. And, of course, Chelsea are due for a "what the fuck?!" kind of result against them somewhere along the way. It is true, however, to say that we can't slip up too many more times if we're to defend the title. Our next two matches are against Newcastle (who are very beatable) and Manchester United (it's at Highbury, so we better win). We have Liverpool at home towards the end of the season, and a particularly tricky away trip in between to Middlesbrough.

So, let's see where we're at on April 20th when we make our trip to Stamford Bridge. If we're still 8 or 10 points out, then fine. Proclaim doom from the rooftops, as I'm sure most of you are doing now. If it's 5 or 6 and then we beat them that day, trust me...they'll be hearing footsteps.

And, if we don't win the title, oh well. We'll reload in the summer and take it back in 2006. No biggie.


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