Thursday, 28 April 2011

Bolton 2 - 1 Arsenal: Match Report

As I've been on the missing list for a while I thought I'd give you a match report before I try to resume normal service this weekend.

Tamir Cohen's first goal in 18 months gave Bolton three points and realisticly ended Arsenal's title hopes at the Reebok on Sunday afternoon.

Arsenal's annual springtime collapse continued as they lost to a team they had beaten on the previous eight occasions. It looked to be heading for a draw as the home side stood strong against the Gunners international attackers for much of the second half.

Bolton took the lead in the 38th minute when on-loan Chelsea striker, Daniel Sturridge, scored from a header to take his tally to seven goals in nine games. Woijiech Szczesny parried Gary Cahill's header following a corner before Man of the Match Sturridge, snuck in at the far post.

Arsene Wenger's men appeared to have an air of malaise about them for most of the first half as the home team showed there was no ill-effects from their Wembley hammering by Stoke City. Zat Knight won everything in the air and Trotters captain, Kevin Davies, played with the look of a man determined to prove his point. It was only a surprise he didn't receive a booking until the 88th minute, when he got a card for a foul on Laurent Koscielny.

Davies could have given the home side the lead 30 seconds into the second half after another questionable decision by the referee. Sturridge made the most of a faint touch from Johan Djourou to win a penalty. Having scored his last five the odds were in his favour but Davies' weak effort was kept out by the young Pole much to the away fans' pleasure.

The let-off seemed to galvanise the Gunners as they went straight up the other end to score. Robin Van Persie - Arsenal's best player - played a neat one-two with Cesc Fabregas before smashing the ball into the bottom right corner.

Although the goal precceeded the away sides' best spell of possession they seemed unable to get the winning goal. Samir Nasri missed several good chances which was symbolic of a disappointing second half of the season for the Frenchman.

As the North London team continued to search for the 'perfect' goal, Owen Coyle's men stood strong to all that came their way. Cahill in particular looked strong and assured and it again raises questions about Wenger's decision not to buy the defender - or any defender for that matter - in the summer.

It was another set piece that was the ruin of Arsenal in the dying minutes. Alex Song again went missing to allow late substitute Cohen, an easy header. The emotion of the player who recently lost his father, Avi, was clear for all to see. Surrounded by his teammates, he removed his shirt to show a picture of the former Liverpool player who died in a motorbike accident. He received a yellow card for the celebration but the booking was of no consequence to the young man.

Arsenal on the other hand are now suffering for the choices that were made in the summer. A sixth season without a trophy is becoming not only unacceptable but increasingly embarrassing. Many commend Wenger's 'raise, educate and play' mantra but the void of a mature mind on the pitch becomes more evident with each trophy-less season.

There is no doubt Wenger will be there at the start of the next season but in 12 months time, there may well be a seven-year-itch.

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