Friday 22nd January 2010
Bolton at home is not the most inspiring fixture, without of course meaning to be derogatory in any way towards our friends from the north west. After all, us fans wouldn't want to be accused of being unsporting...
A combination of the bad weather, Bolton's new manager, Sunday's game still fresh in the minds of both players and supporters and that chance of ending the night on top of the league meant come kick-off time on Wednesday the game really seemed to have an 'edge' to it.
A comfortable 2-0 victory would have been just downright boring! Giving our visitors a two goal start and still ending the night at the very summit of English football made it a far more enjoyable experience.
Like on Sunday, the evidence was there as to why teams with Bolton's 'style' of play cause problems for opponents whenever they play. By hitting areas in and around the box before fighting for every ball they achieve success and can often cause chaotic defending as players do their utmost to clear their lines while under extreme pressure.
Our visitors' opener was a classic Bolton goal, graced with oodles of everything mentioned above. Deni's trip and the resulting penalty that Manuel was so close to saving had us all scratching our heads.
I can remember many many occasions down the years where opposing players have celebrated their goal with vigour, the kind of reaction in fact that totally sets them up for a fall. I also felt our passing game looked comfortably sharp enough to see us get back into the game.
Saying that I think we all know it was crucial to get one back before the break. In probably his most influential game since coming back from his lengthy injury Tommy's venomous strike gave us just that and half time chat seemed to lack any doubts that we would turn it around.
Our equaliser was laced with a degree of controversy and I can only give my opinion as a fan.
I thought at the time it was a foul by Billy. He stretched in a genuine attempt to get the ball and got there a split second after the ball had gone. Having seen the TV coverage, in real time it didn't look like anything other than a 50:50 challenge. We have to remember here that the referee also sees it in real time.
Don't get me wrong, having watched the slow motion replays, we can see it should have been given as a foul and if the shoe was on the other foot we too wouldn't be happy but fouls not being given happen all over the pitch in every single game. Referees make mistakes, it's as simple as that.
I would love to sit down with some Bolton fans and watch videos of our encounters over the last ten years or so!
Should we have kicked the ball out? Again it's so easy to accuse with the benefit of hindsight. Players go down after tackles in every single match of every single week. We all know the directive is to play on and if a referee feels there is an injury that is serious enough to stop the game he will do just that. Within seconds of the incident the ball was in the back of the net. Is it me or since right back when I played kiddies football in the eighties were we not always taught to 'play to the whistle'?
For me it is yet another one of those football debates with everyone having their own opinion. Although we sincerely hope not, the nature of the game dictates we will have something go against us at some stage between now and the end of the season.
The long and short of it is Cesc got us level with plenty of time left on the clock and we poured forward in search of that winning goal.
Our third was graced with a certain degree of irony. A high ball in the box, Abou wins a 50:50 header and as the ball dropped inside the box, Tommy V smashed it into the net. A goal totally out of the Bolton instruction manual! And didn't we just love it, our still relatively new stadium was rocking.
Without our visitors seriously threatening I would be wrong if the period until our fourth goal wasn't a tad nerve-wracking. Another intricate move in the final third however, Andre whacked it home and a marvellous chorus of 'We are toppa the league' echoed out into the night sky.
All in all an action packed and thoroughly enjoyable evening to take home before our minds turn to the world's greatest cup competition and this Sunday's trip to Stoke.
For me I expect it to be a match that continues this week's theme. Stoke and their noisy home fans lose very few games at the Britannia as after last season we know only too well.
Our extra FA Cup away allocation of tickets means we can very much help add to that special atmosphere accompanied with big cup matches.
And of course... we go there top of the league!
Now there's a fine feeling.
FrankCopyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 22 Jan 2010