Thursday, 2 February 2012

Is The Ox going to be our Messi? -Mertesacker and Szczesny save us

Morning Gooners.

Let's start with a positive - we didn't lose. And we must remember this is the Bolton team who ten days ago beat Liverpool (the conquorers of the Manchester clubs, albeit in cup competitions) 3-1 at the Reebok.

Let's have another positive - we kept a clean sheet. The first time we've done that in the league since December 31 against QPR.

And there of course is a negative - we didn't win. And we didn't bring all three points back to north London because we didn't take our chances.

We had 16 attempts at Adam Bogdan's goal but only four were on target. However Robin van Persie did hit the post and the bar. We were inches away from scoring when he had a header cleared off the line following Vermaelen's cross.

In a game where we successfully completed 475 passes out of the 580 we attempted, generally had the game by the scruff of the neck and it was ours for the taking, it's disappointing to come away from the game with nothing but a point and a clean sheet to show for it.

I thought we were the better side in the first half. We fought well to win the ball back quickly when we lost possession, were in control in midfield and in Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had two players who could get in behind the Bolton defence and cause the opposition difficulties.

I was impressed with The Ox, especially in the first half. The way he ran with the ball at the opposition, using tricks as well as his pace and then finding a final ball to a team mate or taking a shot left me feeling like we've got our own version of Messi in our team. I've always hoped that Theo would develop the skills which come so naturally to The Ox, but it's clear already in these very early days that Arsene Wenger has uncovered another gem that he needs to polish to become a star.

The amount of good will fans have got for The Ox is great to see. They want him to do well. It's just a shame their patience has run out with some other members of this squad (the booing of Andrey Arshavin's name at the Grove last weekend when the teams were announce was disgusting).

Bolton were up for this, let's not make any mistakes we were in a game where we could have very easily conceded a goal. I thought Per Mertesacker was excellent. We all know that Laurent Koscielny right now is the best central defender in the Premier League, but it is Mertesacker who saved us on a number of occasions last night - most notably in the final sequence of the game where he got an important interception in with his face.

The big German's game of sweeping up the danger has seen us concede less goals in my opinion. He reads the game so well and as we all know he's not the quickest to cover the ground, that's very important.

It was great to see Bacary Sagna return with an injury free 90 minutes of football. Looking at the statistics this morning, it's clear to see how much we've missed him. He had the third player with the most successful passes in the final third. Only Arteta and Ramsey had more than the Frenchman.

Whilst the manager introduced Theirry Henry for the final 21 minutes, it's clear that the Arsenal Legend is only here as a support player. Neither he nor fellow substitute Tomas Rosicky could provide us with the spark we needed to win the game.

And it might have been the home team who might have taken all three points at the end of the game. Wojciech Szczesny denied Mark Davis a scoring opportunity in the final minutes when it appeared he was clean though. That save can't be underestimated. The big Pole got down to his left and used his left hand to bat away the ball as  Bolton came on strong at the end. It could have wrongly given as a penalty. But it just shows how vital Szczesny's save was to ensure we left with a well deserved point.

Post match Arsene Wenger said:
"We feel we have dropped two points because we had chances to win the game. But we produced a decent game against a difficult opponent who gives you the ball, marks tight and waits for their chance.  
"We took all of the risks and we were a bit unlucky as well because we hit the bar, the post and missed some great chances.  
"In the end we took a gamble to play four strikers and we nearly got caught in the last five minutes from a Bolton chance."
We had to ensure the losing sequence came to an end. One win from our last six league games isn't good form. We are so reliant on Robin van Persie to score because our attacking midfielders in Walcott,  Ramsey and Oxlade Chamberlain can't get the ball in the back of the net. We need those three to start weighing in with goals but we've been hoping for that all season!

The manager also said that "every game in the championship is a cup final now" and whilst I like the target set by that to win every game we play, I think it's unachievable. We have to be realistic. We cannot win every game and I don't believe we are mentally tough enough to be able to do that.

We go into the game against Blackburn on the back of a win and a draw following three defeats. Saturday is a must win game. We can't aim for anything other than three points.

Elsewhere, the manager confirmed Jack Wilshere has had a set back but he's not out for the season as many might suggest. There was good news from the reserves game at Swansea last night where we won 2-0, with new signing Thomas Eisfeld making an impressive debut by the sound of it - including an assist.

The players have a day off to recover today but it's important when they return to London Colney tomorrow, they set about finding their shooting boots. We've got a score to settle with Blackburn.

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